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Back Opinion Opinion/Editorial Editorial TAP Gate - Who's to blame for botched Tsawwassen Area Plan?

TAP Gate - Who's to blame for botched Tsawwassen Area Plan?

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TAP Gate

Will Anyone Lose Their Job Over Failed TAP Bylaw?

It's pretty rare that I wait so long to jump on a story as juicy as the failed Tsawwassen Area Plan debacle. It's taken me this long for the ramifications of “TAP Gate” to sink in and I really wanted to see the media reaction and political spin before weighing in.

The bombshell announcement by Delta Mayor Lois Jackson to end the public hearing was like watching bugs scramble as the rock was lifted exposing them to the elements. Of course in this analogy the bugs are Delta's mayor, councilors, chief administrative officer, and planning staff. I freely admit that I have been quite critical of the planning process from the onset. Having attended almost every meeting open to the public I have watched this train wreck unfold into this complete failure that concluded with the mayor conceding defeat and stopping the bylaw dead in its tracks. But now that it’s over the question that is on everyone's minds is whether or not anyone will lose their job for this waste of taxpayer time and money.

 

Let's examine the people involved:

Councilor Bruce McDonald, TAP Chairman?

Watching Councilor Bruce McDonald chair the TAP committee was every bit as entertaining as watching 'Mutiny on the Bounty'. His committee didn't really come to a consensus in the end and there were even threats of minority reports by factions with the committee. McDonald's Captain Bligh character played perfectly as he took every opportunity to push through Delta's agenda, even though there were definite concerns expressed by the committee and alarm bells raised by residents. It became very clear (to me) early on that this plan was being conceived in a vacuum without any semblance of public input. If I were a member of the TAP committee I would be calling for his resignation from council (or at least a promise not to run again) for allowing this to happen. Defiant to the bitter end, McDonald chastised "crusading citizen groups" for hi-jacking his committee by seeking nothing more than some public input in their community's area plan. I don't know how the man who fancied himself mayor is going to survive TAP-Gate unscathed. My prediction is this will be the end of McDonald's tenure. If it isn't then my faith in the electorate teeming with” crusading citizen groups” will hit an all time low.

Mayor Lois Jackson?

The Mayor espoused her epiphany and called an end to the public hearing curiously right before her former mayoral adversary Krista Englland was scheduled to speak. The real question is how did this bylaw get this far in the first place? Is the Mayor not familiar with a plan that has been almost two years in the making. How many terms does it take to gauge public sentiment? Perhaps the Mayor was more interested in selling softwood lumber to the tropics than dealing with an area plan in the city she's supposed to serve. Listening to the Mayor applaud herself for killing the flawed bylaw borders on the ridiculous. Perhaps the better question is, how many terms does it take before you become completely out of touch with your constituency? Terminating the public hearing robbed the public of finally giving this Mayor proper public input in a legal forum. Praising yourself for suppressing the public is a political skill-set that can only be honed over time. To then say publicly that the area plan is committee work and not council work just goes to show that this council doesn’t work. Jackson’s apparent lack of interest and leadership on this issue signals to me that it’s time for her to have a serious soul search before penning her name on any future nomination papers.

CAO George Harvie and Delta City Planning Staff?

Since it seems that Jackson has abdicated her responsibility as mayor because she's been too busy playing the head of Metro and it's far easier to just let the bureaucracy run the city, we need to examine what George Harvie’s role is in TAP Gate. What influence did Harvie have in hiring city planners Tom Leathem and Barry Konkin? They were brought in to Delta with a background of doing large development projects. It is no secret that there aren’t many spots that would be remotely suitable for Surrey type of developments. With the fight for the Southlands lost, they were really only left with the town center and the area under the power lines.

In fact, Leathem and Konkin are both on the record as saying that the plan was a staff driven document and all they wanted was some resident input. The problem for them, in retrospect, is they didn't know what to do once the citizens actually took over the process because that wasn't supposed to happen. For that fact alone the City of Delta needs to re-examine what our land use policy should look like and hire staff that reflects this vision.

Council?

I recently read a retraction in the Vancouver Province that read, "The Municipality of Delta has not endorsed a plan for multi-family properties under the controversial power lines." It may be true that the municipality didn't endorse the idea, but I don't believe the same can be said for Council. This area plan was almost two years in the making followed by first and second reading and still this council voted to send the bylaw to public hearing. That is an endorsement in my view. When ,during the first two readings, did someone speak up and denounce the bylaw for even suggesting the idea of building under the power lines? I heard Councilor Anne Pedersen make an attempt at discussing it but nothing with vigour and stature. No desk pounding, filibustering, or finger wagging. Pedersen and King were either powerless or unwilling to take on Mayor Jackson and her council of DIVA’s. They have the numbers and they run council with an iron fist. I will exclude newly anointed DIVA councilor Ian Paton Jr. from blame as he has just had the good fortune of joining council, but fellow DIVA members Robert Campbell and Scott Hamilton have run roughshod over this council with the help of McDonald.

I believe a good case could be made to get rid of any number of politicians and bureaucrats involved in TAP Gate. To see such an expensive process take so long and come up with a solution so far removed from the will of the people that the entire exercise is destroyed must not be allowed to go unpunished. Will TAP Gate be the rallying point for the electorate to demand drastic change with their municipal politicians? If the electorate decides to vote against wasteful spending and shutting out the public from civic process, then I believe Delta will follow the nationwide trend and demand change.

The only question now is who, besides the taxpayers of Delta, will pay?

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