Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Same Mindset That Gave Us Colliery Dam

Blind Faith That 'Staff' Is The Final Word

At last nights City Council Meeting Mr. Dan Appell, an engaged member of our community appeared before city council and presented a very credible option that could greatly improve the intersection of Northfield Rd. and the Island Highway.

His presentation was complete with graphics that offered a visual aid to his presentation which to several city councilors seemed to present an option worthy of more consideration. Before Mr. Appells' presentation Councilor Kipp had voiced his concerns that the design as presented by staff still had room for improvement.

Councilor Kipp brought a motion that would have asked city staff to give an evaluation of Mr. Appells design and he and Councilors Bestwick and Pattje supported his motion. However the balance of council did not with Councilor Brennan being the strongest advocate against asking staff to evaluate the alternative design plan. Councillor Greves and Anderson pretty much echoed Brennan's reason for opposition although they did not advocate as strongly.

Her argument was a familiar one which seems to be based on the notion that it would be a waste of city staffs time to evaluate a plan put forward by someone who doesn't have the 'pedigree' that says their ideas have merit. A similar argument was made sometime back to discredit Mr. Gales' professional opinions as they related to the Colliery Dams. 20/20 hindsight tells us we could have saved ourselves a whole lot of expense and grief had we listened to him.

This argument would seem to mean that our Strategic Plan is worthless as it is based solely on the opinion of a few hundred people, none of whom had to present credentials to give credit to their opinion.

There are several parallels between last nights Council decision and the decision made which set off the whole Colliery Dam Debacle complete with $2.5 million spent and still no solution to the perhaps non-existent problem. Of note is the fact that basically the same three councilors could see the merits of the options being put before them, while the balance of council seem willing to put blind faith in the opinion of city staff. A stand which gives the appearance of a united Council with confidence in their ability to govern well, which in fact does not always lead to good decisions. Colliery Dam is a prime example.

The familiar split at the Council table was obvious once again as only Kipp, Bestwick and Pattje were asking staff to offer an evaluation of Appells' presentation with the balance of council demonstrating their blind faith in staffs' opinion.

An Observation From Years Of Watching

There seems to be this notion, that if our professional staff have worked on some project that their conclusion is in fact the best option, which clearly is sometimes not the case. Colliery Dam is the only example of that I will offer here, but several other decisions of late come easily to mind.

With Colliery Dam our professional staff, armed with supporting professional opinions told City Council that 150 people could die and severe property damage would result when Colliery Dam catastrophically failed as the result of a seismic event. Council and staff were told it could cost as much as $30 million to replace the dams and the city councilors would have the loss of life on their heads if the dams failed. We were told the dams were in such frail condition complete with crumbling concrete evaluations that both dams could fail in a matter of minutes sending a wall of water crashing through Harewood taking out day cares and John Barsby School. Remember?

Turns out Mr. Gales opinions were correct after all even though his pedigree was discredited by both Brennan  and Greves at the time. Their faith in staffs' professional opinion does not always lead to the best decisions.

Did this council just make a similar error and brush aside what could provide a vastly superior intersection, which could even save some tax dollars? One of Mr. Appells comments was the fact, that safety could be greatly improved by simply doing some re-painting at this intersection.

Councillor Pattje made the point he was not looking for a full blown evalution of Appells' option but rather a brief critique of what he presented to Council. Bestwick noted that this plan is on hold for more than a year pending funding options, and he couldn't see what we had to lose by taking a look at Appells option.

This is not how good decisions get made.



  1. Agree, sometimes the self proclaimed "experts" are wrong. What have they got to lose? Are they so afraid of being found to be wrong? Have they really been brainwashed into believing that "staffs" agenda is the only one to pursue?

  2. Why is it that the Council is willing to spend millions of dollars for the future like Linley Valley park, Wellcox property, theater annex to mention just a few but will not spend on safer intersections? The 4 intersections with the most accidents in 2013 had 220 accidents or more than 1 accident per week per intersection. If the Council had put even taken $3 million dollars from any of the above approved projects we could have 10 safer intersections and hundreds of less accident in Nanaimo! Why is this not a priority with the Council and City staff?

  3. Okay.... two questionable decision makers are gone by not running. Now, the question is, how do we replace three more "bad decision makers". There must be a way. If the Fireman's Union would withhold their $16,000 in campaign support money maybe one more would be gone. Bring up the Leadercast ,May 5th fiasco as often as possible. This may help !

  4. I have not seen what is currently being proposed by the city, I would imagine it must be over complex if it is going to cost $2.9 million, however, I don't think the addition of a round(triangle?)-about is a good idea. There is plenty of scrap land between National Car rental and the School grounds, to make extra lanes to enable much better flow in all directions, there is already enough space if people who are turning move over to the side of the lane, rather than sitting in the centre as they tend to do.


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