City Hall loses a top manager on climate
The city’s manager of environmental sustainability has departed from her job just as council has declared a climate emergency — and it was unclear on Friday whether she’ll be replaced.
Melanie Kawalec was still working for the city when council declared a climate emergency at a meeting on Sept. 23. But on Friday her voicemail message at City Hall stated she no longer works there.
It’s unclear whether she quit or was fired.
Kawalec didn’t want to comment for this story and city communications manager Brendan Wedley said the city doesn’t comment publicly on personnel issues.
Guy Hanchet, an activist who was in frequent contact with Kawalec over community sustainability projects, alleges she was dismissed.
Hanchet, a member of the environmentalist group For Our Grandchildren, called it “a giant
Kawalec’s dismissal indicates to him the city “isn’t serious” about backing up that climate-emergency declaration with action, he wrote in an email.
“I’d really like to see how they intend to fill this void,” Hanchet wrote.
The city’s sustainability projects have switched departments at city hall, Wedley wrote in an email to The Examiner on Friday.
Although previously managed by the community services department, they’re now the purview of infrastructure and planning services, which also oversees areas such as transit and water.
Wedley wrote that sustainability work “more directly aligns” to planning decisions (the department was recently asked by a resident to consider buying electric buses, for example).
But he added that it’s “too soon to say” whether the job vacancy left by Kawalec will be filled.
“The city will review the responsibilities and adjust as necessary to ensure that it is wellpositioned to continue to support sustainability work in a way that reflects the priorities of council,” Wedley wrote.
Sheldon Laidman, the city’s new commissioner of community services, said this week the city will carry on with its sustainability projects through a different department.
When asked whether it the lack of a sustainability manager could stall or nix those projects, he said “absolutely not.”
Still, Hanchet wrote that he’s concerned.
He expects council “to set direction” and city staff to ensure the city moves “in that direction.”
“This move indicates a serious lack of commitment on the part of staff to follow the directions implied by the declaration of a climate emergency,” he wrote.
“I fear it shows that politicians have no influence on staff actions. Is City Hall broken?”