Three members of the City of White Rock’s ‘Dogs on the Promenade Task Force’ have independently resigned, leaving the committee dominated by members who are in support of the Oct. 1 bylaw change.
Ron Kistritz, Beverly O’Malley and Thomas White – who were the only task force members opposed to allowing dogs on the popular waterfront walkway– each pulled out of the committee last month.
However, the chairman of the committee Coun. Scott Kristjanson said the parting members’ concerns will still be considered going forward.
“With the three opposed people gone, I mentioned to everybody that it’s our responsibility, and our duty, to continue to address their concerns. There’s a huge misconception that this thing is biased. I just want to point out that we are still proceeding as if they are still there, addressing their concerns,” Kristjanson said.
The former task force members contacted Peace Arch News this week to explain their reasons for leaving, because they’re “really concerned that our story is going to be spread on Facebook through rumour rather than get the real story out.”
They signed off on a press release that highlights their concerns. The members also provided PAN with their resignation letters.
“The city led initiative to allow dogs on the promenade is nothing more than a misguided, political partisan process, pandering to an entitled group of dog owners who are determined to get their way, with little regard to the public health and safety, and the environment,” the news release states.
Earlier this year, the city approved a “trial” project to allow dogs on the promenade from Oct. 1 2019 to March 31, 2020. Dogs will still be prohibited from the beach.
One of the major issues for O’Malley, which was echoed by other former task force members, was that they thought they were signing up to the task force to help design measurements for a trial – not to run a pilot project.
“If you look at all the literature and all of the motions, it was supposed to be a trial run to see if dogs on the promenade would work,” O’Malley said, who has experience with vaccine trials.
“We went in thinking that’s what it would be. We would do a trial, we would put the dogs on the promenade, we would design measures… and then we would recommend those measures to council. We would look at them and there would be a decision about the success or failure of having dogs on the promenade.
“As it turns out, that was not the plan.”
Kristjanson said it’s unfortunate that the three left, and “I think they felt frustrated that they weren’t being heard.”
“We used the term trial from the start but really, it was a pilot. (O’Malley) was frustrated that we weren’t going to be doing a trial, we were going to be doing a pilot project,” he said.
Kristjanson, and O’Malley agreed that there was a miscommunication.
In his resignation letter, Kistritz says he takes “great umbrage to such flippant comments” made by Kristjanson during the task force meetings.
Kistritz wrote that when he tried to share his risk-benefit assessment experience, his attempts to do so were disrespectfully interrupted, and his comments were repeatedly misconstrued as being off-topic, untimely and irrelevant.
“On several occasions, the chair would sarcastically refer to my study approach as the ‘million dollar clinical trial that no-one can afford,’” he wrote.
Kristjanson told PAN that during one of the task force meetings, “I think I shut down Ron too much.”
“I could have been more diplomatic. I was like ‘Ron, you’re not on task, lets stay on task’. I had to cut him off a couple of times and I think he took exception to that,” Kristjanson said.
Kristjanson said any allegation of him being biased towards allowing dogs on the promenade “couldn’t be further from the truth.”
Although he owns a dog, he said he has no desire to bring his pet to the waterfront.
One of the key issues for White, which he says made him come to realization that the task force was “greatly distorted and misdirected,” was when the group didn’t allow Semiahmoo First Nation a voting position on the task force.
SFN’s official policy on the matter, confirmed to PAN this week, is that no dogs should be allowed anywhere on the foreshore.
Kristjanson, who as chairman doesn’t get a vote on task force motions, said that he volunteered for the position. His goal, he said, was for each side of the discussion to be heard.
“I feel like I failed the no-dogs side because they didn’t feel heard.
“That’s unfortunate, because I was embracing everything they had to say,” he said.