Committees restructured at Nanaimo city hall

NANAIMO – Council votes to reduce number of committees from 14 to six.

Six new city committees have been struck and 12 eliminated in what one Nanaimo city politician called a “full-blown dismantling.”

Nanaimo city council agreed in a 6-2 vote to rejig its committee structure by shuffling committee appointees to different seats, terminating groups, and approving a draft terms of reference.

The change is part of 18 different motions presented publicly for the first time Monday and which has cost the city $6,500 in legal and consultant work.

The new structure comes five months after the city temporarily suspended eight committees and commissions to make way for its core services review and as staff members reviewed committees as part of a governance report review.

Of 14 committees and commissions listed in a presentation by city manager Tracy Samra, 12 will be eliminated with some of those rolled into new committees. Four, such as the city manager selection committee and core services committee, completed mandates, a red-green tape committee established last year has never met, and an economic development commission doesn’t appear to be functioning and running, according to Samra.

There are also other committees on the chopping block that are making way for mergers. The Nanaimo Culture and Heritage Commission and Social Planning Advisory Committee will be eliminated to create a new Culture, Heritage and Social Planning committee.

The Advisory on Environmental Sustainability was eliminated and its members dispersed among committees to offer their environmental perspectives.

New committees include public safety and public works and engineering and one on finance and audit for council to talk about policies and long-term debt financing.

Three politicians expressed concern with the new plan, from the structure and abiding by the Community Charter to whether social planning, culture and heritage is a good fit. Coun. Diane Brennan, who called the structure a full-blown dismantling, wanted to see community discussion on the change and pointed out a “couple of serious flaws” that she wants to see remedied. She wanted to see a stand-alone environmental committee to ensure a draft environmental framework is completed.

She and Coun. Wendy Pratt also took issue with combining social planning with culture and heritage.

“That should be a separate committee,” said Pratt. “It’s a huge issue in our community when we have the poverty rates that we have, when we have the homeless issues that we have, when we have people who are not housed properly, single parents who are trying to raise children with very, very little money and having to use food banks.”

Pratt, however, was prepared to see the plan move forward. Other councillors were also supportive. Coun. Bill Bestwick called it a strategic reorganization that’s been long awaited.

Coun. Jim Kipp said moving the 18 recommendations is “moving us forward on committees, on council’s committees and getting the public back at the table with us to give us advice on policy” while Coun. Jerry Hong said he’s fine with how the six committees are organized.

“Somebody that’s really into social planning might get a good concept and a good grasp of culture and heritage of Nanaimo,” he said. “A person of culture and heritage that has no idea because they’ve had a silver spoon in their mouth or whatever, has no idea about social planning, might get a good insight on that.”

A staff report is expected in September about final adoption of committee terms of reference.