Putting public in penalty box

Dear Editor:

Mayor Jakubeit has opened himself up to devastating criticism by saying, in effect, that anyone taking legal action against a City forfeits their right to participate in a civic process designed to address the root cause of the claim.

That is the antithesis of democracy and arguably designed to skew the committee’s deliberations toward the conventional wisdom that led to the legal action. This is therefore both anti-democratic and prejudicial to the outcome. How can citizens have confidence in the result, and therefore trust in their leaders?

To be clear, here’s how it reads: The City wants to turn a significant portion of a natural park into a commercial water park. A large group of citizens disagree and protest the decision. The City believes it has the authority to proceed and ignores the protest. The citizens believe that the City has exceeded its authority and ask the Courts to decide.

There is nothing treacherous or emotional about this action, which is, in fact, entirely open and rational. Both parties are acting in what they believe to be the best interest of the citizens; we just disagree on what that is. The City then belatedly decides to update a seriously outdated Parks Master Plan that could have given policy guidance to the City in deciding on a water park, had it been in place. Proponents of preservation of natural parkland who have challenged the City’s water park decision applied for but were denied membership on the Master Plan Select Committee.

The mayor is quoted in the media as saying: “If you sue the City you sort of negate your right to sit on one of their committees. It makes it sort of an awkward situation.” Astonishing!

This is not a game, wherein those who hold the power can put their opposition in the penalty box for the duration of the game. On the contrary, the court action is an exercise of one of the core pillars of a democracy. How, then, can it justifiably lead to a curtailment of the claimant’s rights to assist the City in establishing better policy?

Of course it’s awkward! So are many things in life that we nonetheless do because we know it’s right. This behaviour is immature, if not downright juvenile and a slap in the face to to democracy.

Dr. Gerry Karr

Penticton