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