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Post-Mortem: Prince George City Council 2011-2014

Posted on 6 November 2014

I’ve been remiss in mentioning that we had the final council meeting prior to the election last week. Let me remedy that by highlighting a couple of post-mortems that came out this week.

Over at the Prince George Citizen, editor Neil Godbout notes the speeches, applause and tears that closed the meeting,  opining:

“Nobody does tributes as well as politicians, particularly when the tributes not only allow them to be gracious but come with the added bonus of patting themselves on the back.”

He also notes that amidst the speeches, there was a deliberate glossing over of the very real conflicts in the council chambers. For example, Brian Skakun:

“‘It’s been an interesting three years with ups and downs,’ he said, summarizing a three years that included him appealing his conviction for violating the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act for leaking a personnel report to the local media, demanding council follow him on his wild goose chase through the city’s expense accounts and the uproar over snow removal and Haldi Road.”

There’s another post-mortem in the form of a podcast featuring Ben Meisner and Elaine MacDonald of 250 News, their sometime contributor Peter Ewart, and Prince George Free Press editor Bill Phillips.  At nearly two hours it might seem long, but it’s an excellent overview whether you’ve been following along the whole time or have only occasionally tuned into council news.

Like Godbout, this group makes note of less than harmonious moments among council. They also spend a good amount of time at the twenty-ish minute mark talking about the disconnect between council and city staff. Peter Ewart compared the dynamic between staff and council to the classic BBC comedy Yes Minister

“Basically what it showed is how administration was always outfoxing the elected representatives and the administration was always getting its way. And there was truth to that.”

For my own take, I’ll simply note that my full-time work in media started shortly before this current council was elected, so the past three years have felt like Introduction to Prince George Politics 101. It’s been interesting to observe the dynamics and attitudes around the council table change, and learn the nuances of city hall over the course of the past three years.

When we head into the next four years, I’ll be following along with more perspective, having one solid term under my belt. It’s been observed that it can take politicians a few years to grow into and understand their role, and I’d wager that holds for the journalists who cover them, too.

I’ll also throw out there that local politics is, no question, a grind. I would like everybody to watch one full council meeting, just to get a sense of what these people are signing up to do every two weeks- and then some, once you throw in budget meetings, committees, and the like. The fact that you’re willing to do the hard work doesn’t give you a free pass, by any means, but it should definitely be noted once in a while.

So there we are, three years down, four more coming up. Who will be talking about in 2018? You decide, November 15 is voting day.

Filed under: Prince George

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