A new petition gives Nanaimo city council and the chief administrative officer an ultimatum to get along or resign.
The petition on Change.org calls for civic politicians and their municipal employee to decide between agreeing to a ‘to-do’ list of behaviour, such as co-operation, signing a code of conduct and refraining from public outbursts against one another or immediately resign.
The choice has to be shared with the public no later than Monday (Aug. 14) at 8 p.m., or the petition says “further peaceful, law-abiding, political direct action” will be initiated against the mayor, council and CAO.
The petition was posted Monday by community advocate Matthew O’Donnell and had 44 supporters as of Tuesday afternoon.
O’Donnell said a lot of problems have been happening since the last municipal election and it seems every time Nanaimo makes the national news it’s another embarrassing story about infighting among city council. Meanwhile a lot of city councillors, the mayor and CAO continue to point fingers at each other, according to O’Donnell, who said it seems none of them have really paid attention to the effect it’s had on the community.
“We decided we need to say something as a community in a very non-partisan way. It’s not about pointing fingers at any individual councillor or the mayor or the CAO, it’s just about saying we’ve had enough and we’re not going to put up with this until the next election,” he said. “You people are here to represent us and we’re saying that you need to cut all this personal infighting out, that is taxpayer funded by the way … and get back to business.”
O’Donnell said if the “simple” requirements can’t be agreed to and if council and the CAO can’t co-operate and get along for the betterment of the city, then they do have to resign and there are avenues and options the public can take to make that opinion known loud and clear.
The petition has been a long time coming, said Mayor Bill McKay, who told the News Bulletin he’s pleased the community is speaking up and the more who sign, the bigger the message.
“There’s only 40 people that have signed it so far, but it’s heading in the right direction to get us to smarten up,” he said.
“As far as part one of it, I am prepared to do anything and everything possible to stop being distracted by all the interpersonal carrying on and fighting and so on and so forth, get down to work, for crying out loud.”
The mayor said he’s been on the receiving end of a battle for two and a half years, and one of the things a lot of citizens don’t understand is the city operates on a weak mayor system, so he cannot fire or penalize anybody; veto bills or motions and he finds himself with not a lot of tools to turn things around. He said he started initiatives, like the Integrity process – a facilitator hired to help council get along and which was later put on hold by council – and that there are councillors who tell the community there’s nothing wrong in Nanaimo and no dysfunction.
“Well let me tell you, there’s plenty of it,” he said.
The mayor isn’t sure if he’ll run in the next election, something he’ll have to discuss with his family, but said the way he feels now is why would he subject himself to this again?
Coun. Gord Fuller called the ultimatum one without teeth, pointing to an oath of office and the community charter which governs council members, but said it’s great to see a few people get involved in the community.
“I like that. I hope they are involved in the community in more than just this issue because there’s far more going on than just this,” said Fuller, who hopes the same people signing the petition takes part in a city process around community engagement.
As far as his response to the petition’s request, Fuller said he’s not going to make a decision on anything and that he made an oath of office.
Fuller also said council has its problems but that it’s no different from many councils across Canada and pointed out that this council has done what no other council has been able to and that’s accomplish a core review.
“I am looking forward to continuing to 2018 and moving on with the second half of the core review,” he said.
To view the petition, visit goo.gl/Nmr6HG.