Town hall meeting poor example of democratic process

  • Feb. 15, 2011 7:00 a.m.

To the Editor:

Town Hall Travesty

The residents of Twin Lakes, who are greatly concerned about threats to their small and endangered aquifer, and the Heritage Hills/Lakeshore Highlands Homeowners Association (HHLHHA) who have the monstrously ugly Fortis powerline running through their community, both requested in advance that their communities be put on the agenda for Wednesday’s RDOS Area “D” Town Hall Meeting. Area “D” Director Bill Schwarz refused, saying that they could speak at the “open mike” after the meeting. The town hall began at 7 p.m. and worked through the director’s nine Okanagan Falls agenda items, many of them just updates on motherhood issues.

The last published agenda item was the contentious and important issue of a possible provincial jail and remand centre, and by the time numerous people had spoken for or against a jail it was 9 p.m.

Since Director Schwarz’s advertised agenda items were now completed, a Heritage Hills resident attempted to speak about a dangerous derelict house in that community, but Mr. Schwarz would not let him speak. Another Heritage resident attempted to speak about a large apparently illegal dump 100 metres behind her house, but Director Schwarz rudely interrupted her and said that she would have to wait until his additional unlisted last minute agenda items were dealt with. When the microphone was finally given back to her at 9:20 p.m. and she began to speak again about the dump, about 80 percent of the attendees left en masse. By the time that Deb Thurstan delivered HHLHHA’s formal presentation on the Fortis powerline and rate hikes (written by Harry Levant), she was speaking to a largely empty room.

Coral Brown of Twin Lakes, a tireless activist in defence of their threatened aquifer, rose and said that they had been refused an opportunity to speak last year, had not been allowed to be on the agenda this year, and were now faced with almost no audience. Visibly disappointed, she did not continue. Steve Brown (no relation) then delivered a formal presentation from Twin Lakes. Several other Twin Lakes residents spoke next, and Director Schwarz argued with them.

To their credit, RCMP Inspector Haugli and the three senior RDOS staff present were all obviously embarrassed at the travesty that occurred when Twin Lakes and Heritage Hills/Lakeshore Highlands were refused a proper hearing on two of the most important issues in RDOS Area “D”.

Alan Whitman, Okanagan Falls