Monthly Archives: March 2016

Missing Person – Trail

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File Number: 16-1307
Missing Person- Darrell UNGER

Police are requesting the public’s assistance in locating 49 year old Darrell UNGER of Trail BC who has been missing since this morning about 1100 hours (March 29). Darrell UNGER was last seen driving his burgundy 2014 Ford F150 bearing BC Licence number 0311LP away from his residence in Sunningdale.

Darrell is described as 5’11” 190 lbs with very short white hair and a moustache and goatee.

If Darrell or his vehicle are located please contact the police immediately at 250-364-2566.

My Last Council Meeting

As I pointed out in a previous post I’ve resigned from broadcasting council meetings.

The meetings of Mar 14, 2016 were the last ones I did as council’s broadcast technician. They can be seen below.


Grand Forks City Council Committee Of The Whole Meeting Mar 14 2016 9AM Recorded Live


Grand Forks Regular City Council Meeting of Mar 14 – Recorded Live

 

Some things to note:

In the question period you can see a member of the gallery, Mrs. Tripp (35:14), and a supporter press council even more for a ‘restorative justice’ process to help hammer home the idea that council is ‘bad’ for ‘victimizing’ councilor Butler by taking her to court. You can also hear my advice to council (40:51) that they should not follow that route as well as my reasoning to get to that position.

Also in the question period you can hear me say a number things before I say goodbye to council and (at 42:45) give them my ‘gift’: A Laser tag game with my skeptical mug overlaid on the printed target.

I post the question / suggestion: If we’re so in need of another Veterinarian maybe we should look into the pool of Syrian Refugees to see if there’s any vets in there. It could be a win-win situation for some refugee (and family) and all of us. And unlike many other possibilities this person would not be competing for a job with a bunch of other people would they? I mean look at us – it’s not as if there are veterinarians clambering over each other to come and live here are there?

Speaking of animal welfare, Gene Koch had kind words for the City in a timely response to helping the Owls living / nesting in the Vienna Woods area. It’s nice to hear the community and city communicating with each other and working together toward a positive outcome for everyone.

In the Bylaws section (22:38) you can see one Councilor, Ross, take a stand on principle against a rezoning application and explain why she believes she should do that. And then you can watch (26:41) another councilor, Butler, tell her that she agrees with her so much on nearly everything she says … but she’s still voting For the rezoning application in spite of those principles she’s so impressed with. A word of advice councilor Butler: If you crow about the High Standards you hold in high esteem and then walk away from them the very next instant it doesn’t play all that well. It sounds more like you’re apologizing for compromising your standards instead of standing by them.

Maybe I’m just old fashioned in my belief that taking a stand means taking a stand, not a walk … oh wait: didn’t I just do that? Walk away that is. Why yes I did – But I did it because I found that my behaviour was out of whack and not living up to my Standards so rather than carry on compromising my integrity and become a travesty I had to walk away from it. Because it’s not about me, is it?

There’s a difference.

I may not have agreed with everything every councilor espoused in front of my cameras but I have watched them grow and learn and do respect a number of those I’ve disagreed with in the past. The best I can hope for is that those we choose are there for the right reasons and take their responsibilities seriously enough to justify our hopes and trust.

 

End of an Era

10 years ago I began broadcasting the Grand Forks City Council meetings on cable TV. Over time this has changed from live on cable TV to live / on-demand on the Internet and watchable later on Cable TV.

Well all that comes to and end with the next council meetings, which will be my last.

I have resigned from my position. I quit, no one fired me or pressured me in to quitting (though that has been attempted in the recent past).

The impetus for this decision stems from my most recent video and posting. It was an angry, ill-conceived, single take reaction to anger I felt. After fighting on facebook for most of the week with the vocal supporters of Councilor Butler and being blamed for all of her problems and told I should be paying everyone’s legal bills I reacted badly to the Mayor’s behaviour and portrayal on CBC radio. He didn’t deserve the vitriol and anger … well not so much. He did deserve to have his say and I didn’t give him that and for that I also apologize.

The fact that I reacted so strongly and wrongly gave me pause to reflect on what I am doing, why and how.

I’m a volunteer. Sure they give me an honorarium but I’ve costed it out and I cannot replace the equipment for the amount I get. Effectively speaking it costs me money and time to do the volunteer job I have been performing. I’m a volunteer. I consider it an honour and privilege to to have been able to serve my community in the way for the last 10 years.

Once I came out in from of the camera to take a stand on an issue I became a target. I’ve blissfully existed with only an occasional inkling that there are people out there who wanted me gone from that position. Now I’m hearing it went on for longer than I knew and involved more people than I knew. But I’ve also found out that people have stood up for me without telling me or asking for anything in return. I have Enemies and Champions. All over taking a stand.

When I take a stand and make public statements I face the same scrutiny as anyone else in the public eye. I also have to watch what I say, how I say it and the words I use. If the Mayor or a councilor mis-speak they have our support in the form of tax dollars paying their legal bills. I have no such support – I could face financial ruin for a little mistake.

Well my detractors can now do their happy dance. They have gotten their way and I’m gone from the council chambers. Or am I?

 


Here is the text of my notice of resignation:

It is with mixed emotions that I tender my resignation from the position I hold of broadcasting the City Council meetings.

After 10 years I’ve come to a point where I can’t stop my feelings from interfering and I know it’s time to step back. My recent video should serve as an example. The anger outshone the humour. By a large margin.

That doesn’t do anybody any good.

I’ve felt honoured to serve my community in this capacity. In the last decade I’ve watched and listened as our elected officials governed our community. They’ve been a mix of humans. And humans are complex creatures – there’s things to like and things to dislike in all of them.

For years I stood behind the camera saying nothing about what was going on except to try and get council and the public to pay more attention to each other. Then I offered humour and a bit of a conscience. It was good. Then the water meter issue became the major distraction. I had my wish – a sector of the population had come down and virtually camped out in the gallery. All over a single issue.

I still managed to remain neutral until the idiots and idiotic ideas began crowding out reason. Then the paranoid beliefs crept in and with the last election it looked like partisan politics had come to our town in the guise of grass roots push back. So I stepped out in front of the camera. At first to try to introduce some reason and balance into the process, later to try and stop what I saw as a process of self-destructiveness. I was so naïve … the community picked sides and one of them picked me and I found myself on a side group which has become reviled for taking a stand. And since I’m the only self identified member of that group I get to wear the hair shirt that political attack dogs drape over me. I’ve been the subject of behind the scenes and public campaigns to have me removed from the position of council webcaster. Orchestrated by a member of council I’m told.

Last summer I did some costing and found that every meeting costs me nearly $40 more than the $50 I get as an honorarium. By that I mean that I don’t make enough to cover the cost of replacing the equipment I use to do the job I do. Which, since 2011, has been all my own equipment. Many of you have seen the mass of things I have to bring, set up, and take down for every meeting. (The last council meeting took less time than my setup time) Well if any of the expensive stuff breaks I cannot afford to replace it unless I go into debt.

Last weekend I put together a small video where I called on the Mayor to resign his seat. It even surprised me with it’s angry content. And it’s a warning indicator on the dash board saying I’m over heating and I should do something about it. No one should take it as license to bring weapons down to city hall and attack anyone. Use your words please.

One of the things I find disconcerting about our current Mayor is his tendency to shoot from the hip when his emotions get the better of him. It’s something I’m prone to myself. When the Mayor does it we all backstop his words – if he says something wrong that brings legal eagles down on our necks we all pay for it. I have no backstop. If I say the wrong thing, turn a phrase the wrong way, I could lose my house. I’m a pensioner with part time work and now I have enemies in the community who’ve showed a penchant for going after people’s jobs. Try finding a job in your 60s.

Back when I began this position there was an argument between my employer and city hall. It ultimately cost me my job and the incumbent mayor re-election. But even back then I realized that 10 or 15 years later we’ll still have to live and work together so making enemies would be counter productive. I can proudly say that I can chat and joke with the mayor and council members from that time.

Now … it’s not the same at all. The political arena in this town has taken on nasty overtones and whether it’s just me or others I’m afraid I cannot make the same statement. I worry that a decade from now something I’m involved in might suffer because somebody holds animosity to me.

I’ve been involved in a number of things in the community – some I initiated and others I’m just a part of. I’ve tried to be a community booster. I won’t stop that but I won’t see any of it blunted and frustrated by small minded people with vendettas. So it’s time to go.

To the members of council – I wish you luck. I have respect for most of you for taking on a tough job for the right reasons. I hope you do your jobs well – I’m still a taxpayer here so I have a vested interest in that. Even if I wasn’t I have friends here and I wish the community a functional council.

To the community at large – You’re just going to miss me when I’m gone. For a while and then you’ll move on with your lives. Please, please don’t turn your backs on council. An informed and aware populace is a requirement of a functioning community. When you ignore them until they’re doing something you don’t like we get fiascos like the recent one.

To those who would consider themselves my enemy – I’m not going anywhere.

Some can take this as sour grapes – that’s their choice. I just think it’s my time to go.

There is a native story about two wolves struggling inside of all us, the good and the bad. When the child asks its elder which one wins the answer is ‘the one you feed the most’. In this last year I feel that the community and me have been feeding the wrong one too much. It’s time for balance …

Best of luck to all of you / us.

  • Les Johnson
  • Mar 9, 2016

Is It Time Mr Mayor?

UPDATED (see below)

Upon reflection and conversations with the Mayor, Councillors and Staff at city hall I’ve come to revise my opinion of the status of affairs related to the matters below.

I would like to apologize to the Mayor for the very angry tone of the piece below and the video associated with it. I should have talked to the Mayor first, I should not have reacted the way I did.

Over the past year the Mayor has grown and learned and is not the same person he was in his first few months. His behaviour has demonstrated that he has learned to take advice from those around him. He has and I will admit this.

I’ve been given to understand that the Contractor for the Water Meter program was contacted with regard to how and what transpired in the very beginning of the Mayor’s tenure and have no intention of going to court with us.

When I made the video at the bottom of this piece I’d had a very tiring and trying week. by the end of the week I was sick and tired of fighting accusations in social from some of the more angry and vocal supporters of Councillor Butler. The Mayor’s portrayal on CBC did nothing to help that mood.

As part of the fall out from this I’m resigning from my position broadcasting city council. To be clear, this is my decision and mine alone.

Also I would ask that the readers and viewers notice that I use the implements in my video as Props for the purpose of my art. I in no way endorse or advise anyone to take up arms or use violence to deal with anyone, especially associated with the city.

The Mayor deserves an apology from me and with respect Mayor Konrad You Have My Deepest Apology for the harsh words. I would also like to extend an apology to the Staff and citizens of the City of Grand Forks for losing my cool this way and subjecting them to the spectacle.


 

The original posting follows:

This past week has seen legal issues swirling around city hall like the water sluicing crap down the toilet. Except the crap isn’t going away – nope it’s sitting there. And with the attention of the CBC it’s getting more stinky by the day.

The week began with the Supreme Court’s ruling on the City’s petition to have Councilor Butler turfed from her seat on council. While it decided she actually was in a Conflict Of Interest (COI) when the city was warned of it the court didn’t see it as grievous enough to force her out of office. In fact the court felt it was an innocent mistake, the kind that might well be expected to happen when a person finds themselves in a new position with a set of rules and proscriptions they’ve never had to deal with before. And the court also found that by May 4th she was no longer COI. The final nail in the coffin of the city’s petition was how long it took for the city to get around to taking the petition to court. There was a window of time within which the filing had to be made and the city waited too long to get around to it. Now they have to pay her legal costs … oops, I mean we taxpayers have to pay all the legal costs.

This all goes back a year (or more depending on your take) to when council was still new and Councillor Butler still had a lawn care business.

Now, a year later on, the whole story has taken a sad twist: The Mayor was likely in COI from his very first day in office. A COI likely to be more grievous than the one at the root of Councillor Butler’s case. And one that opens the door to Neptune, the contract winner, possibly seeking damages from the City.

But wait – there’s more … At some time in the past a Freedom Of Information (FOI) request was made to the city regarding an event that happened on the Mayor’s first day on the job. CBC Daybreak South saw the original FOI which told a story of the Mayor requesting the Contract of the winner in the Megabuck Water Meter Program. He was informed by the acting CAO that he would possibly be COI if he did that. Because his company had filed an Expression Of Interest (EOI) on that contract the winner of the Bid was his competitor. A portion of the Contract contained proprietary information Neptune wanted kept secret. The city staffer had 5 years experience on the job and the Mayor was in his first day. Yet he decided his opinion held more weight than her advice.

This COI was not disclosed to the public and the Mayor did not recuse himself from any deliberations on the topic. Why not?

So CBC filed a FOI request of their own for a copy of that FOI’s answer. They mentioned it by number so they would get the same FOI response. When they went through both and compared them they found that they were not identical. Whoa! That’s not supposed to happen!
To answer an FOI request can take a lot of time and work, depending on the scope. And a record of the response needs to be kept around. So to respond to a request for the identical FOI the city would just have to reproduce a copy. Except the copy in this case is not identical and that’s a whole other kettle of stinky fish.

What was different?

On the page titled “Confidential Notes on meetings with Mayor Konrad” the second paragraph ends differently. In one it says “Diane said she would provide the contract for him to review.” The other has that sentence carry on so:“…provide the contract for him to review and she left the meeting to get the contract.” And that is followed by another line missing from the first: “She returned with Neptunes contract and handed it to the Mayor, who took it, keeping it in his position for the next few days while he read it.

So one version talks about what was said but not what happened and the other adds in what happened. That might be important if you needed details like that.

Why was it changed? Who instigated that change? UPDATE (Mar 7, 7PM): That last phrase appears to be negated by the city’s latest press release on this. Their explanation of how the process in place could produce “… a filing mistake at the time.” makes sense to me and, absence of evidence otherwise, I’ll accept the explanation.

In their investigation into this the CBC interviewed Mayor Konrad. And his answers to their questions leave some wondering if he always tells the truth.

They had a shaky start in 2015 – they were distracted with continuing a fight over a program that had already been mostly completed. Morale at city hall had hit rock bottom. Progress on regular business was grinding very slowly. After the CAO position was filled, with the previous CAO, council appeared to begin sailing smoothly. But the controversy that grew from hiring the same person that had just been let go began to grow. Then they lost one of their members to a legal issue. Then they took another member to court. In late summer we all wondered if the town would be burned to the ground. Then in the Fall they got into an argument with CUPE over positions being cancelled and people losing their jobs.

With this new year it was finally looking like council had found their way to some sort of stability and was making forward progress. Now this.

Councillor Butler has stated she’d like to see the coming by-election for a single seat turned into a full slate election – a complete do over of the election of fall 2014. The ex-mayor has stated he agrees with her on that. A number of other voices are adding theirs to the chorus.

Will that happen?

Those who have been paying attention know there’s no love lost between the Mayor and myself. When I broadcast council I get to watch them all a lot. And there have been times when I wondered if the mayor was going to blow a gasket and die right there in council chambers on camera – the strain has been that evident. Right now I cannot imagine how he feels … but it can’t be good. So how far can this go before he decides this foray into public life is taking too great a toll and retreats for his own good?