Ex­pen­sive cheer­lead­ers

M

The Prince George Citizen - - Opinion -

ayor Lyn Hall is a team player and clearly prefers to gov­ern by com­mit­tee.

First as school board chair and now as Prince Ge­orge’s mayor, Hall builds con­sen­sus with his fel­low elected of­fi­cials. They won’t al­ways agree on ev­ery­thing, of course, but they will al­ways be heard.

That’s in stark con­trast to Shari Green’s one-and-out term as mayor be­fore Hall, where sig­nif­i­cant de­ci­sions were made on the fifth floor of city hall and city coun­cil­lors found out about those de­ci­sions when lo­cal reporters called them for com­ment.

Un­for­tu­nately, Hall has ex­tended that team ef­fort into the bu­reau­cracy and that’s a mis­take.

In the past three years, it has now be­come stan­dard prac­tice at ma­jor an­nounce­ments for at least half a dozen or more city staff to be on hand, from city man­ager Kath­leen Soltis and ex­ter­nal re­la­tions man­ager Rob van Adrichem down to other city man­agers.

The an­nounce­ment last Thurs­day of Prince Ge­orge’s bid to host the 2020 Tim Hortons Brier was just the lat­est in a long line of city an­nounce­ments, from the Courtyard Mar­riott project to the var­i­ous hous­ing projects where the mayor ar­rives with an en­tourage.

Hall, be­ing the team player, al­ways sin­gles them out for recog­ni­tion for the great job they’re do­ing – as he did on Thurs­day at CN Cen­tre – but do­ing a great job is, in fact, do­ing their job.

That’s what they’re sup­posed to do and they’re paid well to do it (more on that in a minute).

Haul­ing se­nior bu­reau­crats out of their of­fices and into the pub­lic eye for recog­ni­tion by their po­lit­i­cal master isn’t com­mon prac­tice and for good rea­son.

When in govern­ment, MLA Shirley Bond and Mike Mor­ris (and Pat Bell be­fore him) did not have the deputy min­is­ter and other top staff on hand at ma­jor an­nounce­ments. Along with their as­sis­tant, a govern­ment com­mu­ni­ca­tions per­son was there to hand out a press re­lease and or­ga­nize a scrum with the min­is­ter. Se­nior staff were thanked pub­licly but they weren’t there to take their bows be­cause they were back at the of­fice, work­ing.

Same thing at the fed­eral level for the area MPs. And that prac­tice con­tin­ues right to the top. The premier and the prime min­is­ter al­ready have more han­dlers – and a se­cu­rity de­tail – but imag­ine how many peo­ple would need to travel with them if the po­lit­i­cal leader wanted to thank them in pub­lic for their hard work.

The op­tics would look ter­ri­ble and that’s how it looks in Prince Ge­orge – and this has hap­pened more than once – when the city staff brought out to join the mayor at an an­nounce­ment make up a quar­ter or more of all of the peo­ple there.

The hands of city em­ploy­ees clap­ping at the end of the mayor’s speech are on the clock and don’t come for free.

At Thurs­day’s bid an­nounce­ment, there were five city em­ploy­ees on hand who make more than $100,000 per year and that’s not in­clud­ing Soltis, who makes more than $200,000 an­nu­ally.

Not one of them needed to be there be­cause the mayor – whose full-time salary is less than any of them – was there to rep­re­sent the City of Prince Ge­orge, which in­cludes both city coun­cil and city staff.

That’s the mayor’s job, to speak for all of them in pub­lic.

The bu­reau­crats should still be thanked in the mayor’s re­marks but they should be back at their desks, run­ning the city.

—Edi­tor-in-chief Neil God­bout

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