In politics you’re often damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.
That certainly seemed to be the case on August 19 at the regular meeting of Keremeos council, at least.
A resident of the village sent council a letter requesting them to change policy regarding the mowing of alleyways and boulevards. The resident was primarily concerned about the spread of noxious weeds within the village, noting that poison oak and ivy was proliferating Pine Park.
It was council’s decision to receive the resident’s letter, with assurances from the mayor that council would ask staff to study the matter and report on the feasibility of the request. Council elected not to pursue altering the bylaw.
The frustration of the two residents was evident as the meeting came to a close.
In 2011, council enacted the present bylaw which stipulates that homeowners whose property is adjacent the boulevard are responsible for its maintenance.
Prior to the bylaw, there was no official policy. So it would have been possible, back then, for each complaint to have been handled on an individual basis, rather than a blanket policy that basically says, “no exceptions.”
As a member of the public, viewing proceedings, it seems to me there is validity in both approaches – but in the end, one is more valid than the other.
In municipal matters such as this, it seems to me that few residents pay a lot of attention to the issue of boulevard maintenance in Keremeos. Under the “no policy” scenario, council could make a decision to, say, quietly clean up the neighbourhood around the resident’s property – something that might amount to a compromise, satisfying the resident without taxing municipal workers.
As long as no one else complained, who would be hurt by such practise?
Under the bylaw, however, there was only one answer – to change the bylaw, which as council and CAO Taylor pointed out, would excessively tax municipal maintenance worker’s workloads. It was also pointed out that no other municipalities were known to do such maintenance.
I don’t think there is any question which method is more fair – not having a policy could and probably has lent itself to council playing favourites in the past – but it’s unfortunate, just the same. A firmly defined policy is probably the only way to prevent preferential treatment, and it must be practised.
The citizens who presented themselves at last Monday’s meeting made some valid points, and their arguments made sense. It’s too bad that such citizen involvement should result in someone walking away as dissatisfied with the process as they were, and it’s not the first time that has happened.
The fact that council made the right decision is cold comfort – because at the end of the day, it didn’t appear that anyone was satisfied with the result.