Former committee members question restructuring

NANAIMO – City manager says new committees will help Nanaimo city council work.

Elimination of the city’s environmental committee doesn’t make sense with where the world is going on environmental issues and for a city whose green community attracts residents, says Gail Adrienne, former chairwoman.

The City of Nanaimo struck down committees and merged or created others in a restructuring announced last week. While there are those who are willing to wait to see what happens with the rollout during the next two months, others question how the new committee structure is going to work.

Tracy Samra, city chief administrative officer, said the realignment updates the list of committees and gets rid of committees doing nothing. It’s for council to have the tools it needs to do its work, she said.

One change is the elimination of the Advisory Committee of Environmental Sustainability, which helped establish policy around anti-idling and protection of riparian areas, with members dispersed to other committees.

Samra said the committee turned out great environmental policy, which can now be implemented by staff. She also said environment is a pillar that needs to be integrated into every city committee. An e-mail to committee members shows there will be a staff-level environmental sustainability committee.

Adrienne said the committee had good representation from all sectors of the community, along with staff, and almost everyone had a strong understanding of environmental issues. Putting members on different committees will make them the minority.

“We’d be the token environmentalists. That’s not going to be nearly so effective,” she said. “You can be an advisor, you can speak up, but it’s totally different from having a committee which is all made up of people, coming from different sectors, but all having a strong pro-environment, protect-the-environment kind of view.”

Kim Smythe, chief executive officer of the Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce, said the organization will consider the restructuring during the city’s two-month rollout to let everyone figure out if it’s going to work.

“We don’t know that it’s not going to work, so you shouldn’t be rushing to judgment to say this isn’t a workable system,” he said.

The city also plans to merge the culture and heritage commission with the social planning advisory committee. Smythe doesn’t know how the people recruited with expertise in arts and culture are going to be able to help social planning discussion and vice versa.

He was a part of a merged committee when a new culture division was created in 2013 from the heritage commission and culture committee, which wasn’t 100 per cent successful.

“It’s not like the arts and culture work didn’t get done or the heritage work didn’t get done, [but] just because we’re called that doesn’t endow us with any extra expertise or intelligence about the subject area that we weren’t hired for in the first place,” he said.