The Comox Valley Old Boys’ Club rides again! This year they’ve named their entry to the wild west show, which is politics as usual in the Comox Valley, the Comox Valley Taxpayers’ Alliance(CVTA).  Just out of the chute, bucking and raring and firing their six irons in all directions at once, comes the latest rendition of the Comox Valley Old Boys Network (CVOBN).

I was going to say that it seems INSCRUTABLE!–at the least–that  the CVOBN which has–in the past–spent so much time fussing about their desire to have more expeditious relations with the city, are now calling themselves the Comox Valley Taxpayers Alliance and taking out full page ads in the CV Record to attack council for hiring the staff to deal with the delays that have, previously, so vexed the old boys!

However, the whole Lilliputian effort by the CVOBN seems a lot more comprehensible if we just look back to the 2011 incarnation of the CVOBN– then called “Common Sense”—which was a bit of a conundrum as they were about anything but common sense.

Common Sense was a secretive group that suddenly appeared on the political scene one month before the 2011 election pushing a neo-conservative program of tax cuts for business and a curtailment of local government’s mandate to deal with environmental and social issues. While they were pushing much the same themes as CVTA, they were much clearer about the desire to slash the mandate of municipal government to near dysfunctional levels. What becomes perfectly clear in comparing the agenda of the CVTA and the Common Sense election campaign is that the CVTA is not seeking more timely and thoroughly thought municipal governance—they, like the 2011 incarnation of the CVOBN, want to go back to the wild west notion of governance where those with the right connections and pockets drooping with cash simply take–or do–whatever they please.

How else can one understand this brutish, frontal attack on city council and staff? They complain about the cost, but the accumulated city surplus would cover the cost of upgrading staff to meet our current municipal needs for the next four years.

While the CVTA launches a broad attack on city finances, it doesn’t seem to have the knowledge—or gumption—to say clearly what they want to cut.  Did they not notice that our water distribution system classification, which is supposed to be reviewed every five years, hasn’t been reclassified since 1997? Did it not occur to them that failure to comply to regulations due to lack of staffing capacity would leave the city open to very expensive liability while adding to the health and safety risks to city residents?

It would be interesting to hear how the CVTA expects the city to handle planning for a city that has grown by 43% with a city staffing level that has grown by 27% over the same period. I guess it is too much to ask that these cowboys jettison the belligerent attack on city council long enough to, at least, ask what would be the consequences to abandoning council’s effort to provide community services in a “socially, economically and environmentally responsible manner that does not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Seems a very reasonable task to me—but then I’m an old man with grandchildren whose future is of pressing-interest to me. Does it just not occur to these vaqueros that it would be simply irresponsible for a modern city to skip through the planning process without seeking an informed understanding of community values, the trade-offs between risks, costs and services or taking the care to adequately evaluate the long-term planning needs of our finances, operations, maintenance, renewal and upgrading needs?

Courtenay is no longer a cow town. Currently we have hundreds of millions of dollars in transportation networks, water distribution (with serious, information hungry decisions to be made soon), storm water and sewage collection systems, flood protection, lands, parks and community facilities. Did the CVTA not notice the pickle we are in due to slap-dash decision making in the past that has saddled us with expensive and socially disruptive decisions to make about correcting a sewer line that should never have been on the ocean foreshore? No one would have allowed a resort on the shore of our drinking water supply if we had had meaningful planning twenty years ago.

One would think the CVTA could, at least, understand the value of acting now to secure the financial assistance for staff training offered by the Government of Canada, the Federation of Canadian municipalities, the Province of BC, the Union of BC Municipalities and the BC Auditor General for Local Government in recognition of our urgent need to upgrade our ability to effectively govern our growing community.

What seems hardest to understand about the CVTA is they represent big bags of money looking to make more money featuring the natural beauty of the Comox Valley, our access to urban amenities, our recreational activities, growing arts, culture and culinary scene. CVTA members wouldn’t get the big return on investment if it were not for the municipal effort—planning—money that has gone into creating such a destination for both tourism and residency. Rather than attacking Courtenay council for planning for a vital, economically sound, beautiful and healthy community you would think they would be in the front row applauding. But/then there is a history in the Comox Valley…

It is one of the great pleasures of my life that I was able to spend a portion of my working life in the saddle following the cows around the open rangeland of the Hat Creek Valley. So as a cowboy, I want to be the first to say that following the cows can actually be a most ingratiating experience and I, most whole heartedly, appreciate the effort of Courtenay Council and staff to plan for a beautiful, engaging, healthy, prosperous, affordable and sustainable Comox Valley.