Corporate culture

Full disclosure as the current buzz phrase is; I live just outside Penticton, but the city is obviously ‘my’ town.

Mr. Eric Sorenson, the new CAO of Penticton, may turn out to be all that council hopes and more; however, I am puzzled by the reasoning behind their choice, which apparently was largely because of his almost exclusively private-sector background. I get a bit queasy when I read stuff  like the mayor’s fulminations ending with: “We really wanted someone with … the ability to create an inclusive environment and corporate culture.”

I can see how having experience in private business would be helpful as the latter is obviously critical to the city’s prosperity.  On the other hand, when did municipalities rebrand themselves as corporations with a corporate culture (and inclusive of what/who) to the exclusion of any other nomenclature?  Corporate to me implies an entity that produces widgets to be sold for profit by salesmen of various types? What products for sale and profit do municipalities create?

What I do not hear in the term corporate culture is anything about the relationship of the municipal government to the residents of the municipality – or come to think of it, citizens of the country – whether they be wealthy or poor, educated or illiterate, agreeable or rank nuisances. This relationship is supposedly founded on the paid employees and elected council members being at the, gasp, service of the populace.

Most paid employees in my experience understand their role; it’s their bosses, elected in particular, who too often seem to forget.

I think that many people know only too well when that view of government service to the people (especially at the elected level) seems to have disappeared out the door  – when corporate culture oozed in and took up residence in far too many council chambers and government caucus rooms.

Penticton as “fertile ground” doesn’t comfort me either especially followed by anodyne phrases such as ‘engagement’ and ‘pursuing the vision of the community’ followed by “But … you need to have the courage to make the right decisions for the community.”  Even if the community expresses objections to your right decisions in the case of, say, selling off part of Skaha Lake Park to a private business or putting a BMX track on land which the public long ago said should be a multi-use park?

I’ll end my carping by noting that it would be nice also if the new CAO were to live in this ‘fertile ground’ a.k.a. Penticton.

Ah well, there have been enough non-resident mayors to set the precedent for of course in the corporate world, any place is home.

Eva Durance

Penticton