So much for voter accountability, government transparency and the public’s right to know how tax dollars are spent.
Kitchener council last night (Feb.9) approved an economic report from staff that recommended council allow a non-elected board of directors to spend at least $8 million of taxpayers’ money during the next four years. Meeting behind closed doors, the board will be in charge of the proposed Waterloo Regional Economic Corporation.
Spouting the usual twaddle about how grubby elected representatives would clutter up the nobless-oblige board by asking awkward questions, Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic and six councillors voted down my attempt to make that body more accountable. They said that having an elected person on board would result in messy parochial impediments to corporation business.
Yours truly had proposed that Kitchener request there be a single elected person on the corporation board. I suggested a rotation of local mayors and the regional chair through that position but my motion lost in a 7-4 vote. Only Couns. John Gazzola, Yvonne Fernandes and Zyg Janecki supported my effort.
Before proceeding, I would emphasize that I support the aims of this region-wide strategy and corporation which, in part, will focus and coordinate the local efforts of seven municipalities striving to attract industries and resulting jobs to Waterloo Region.
I also have no issue with the corporation receiving a total $3.3 million from Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge during the next four years plus a matching $3.3 million from regional government and additional cash from the townships.
But here’s a few items this gobsmacked councillor just can’t digest:
• Voters in Kitchener and across the Region were clearly told by those running for office in the 2014 municipal election that accountability and transparency would be top priorities for candidates.
• That there will not be a single elected representative answerable to the public on the economic corporation’s board despite the fact that elected people sit on similar boards elsewhere in Canada.
• That neither the media nor the public will be allowed to attend closed corporation meetings.
• That the public paying those corporation bills will not be told the high-priced salary of the corporation’s new chief executive officer. Taxpayers will also not be routinely informed about how many people are hired at the new corporation.
And the final insult?
To save a little time at Kitchener’s Feb 23 final budget meeting, a majority of councillors also approved a proposal from Finance Chair Coun. Scott Davey to speed up that meeting. They voted to change council’s budget meeting plan by removing the economic-corporation topic from the budget agenda.
After all, the best way to deal with this embarrassing debacle is to end discussion, remove the subject from the public eye and quickly bury the issue.