EDITORIAL: Communication goes off the rails

Rather than blame staff, Surrey councillors should look a little higher to explain the latest communication breakdown.

Bureaucrats at Surrey city hall must be out of control.

That can be the only plausible explanation one can draw from Coun. Tom Gill’s comments last week that city staff dropped the ball by hosting a South Surrey rail-safety forum Nov. 26 – at which the idea of rerouting the waterfront train tracks through other parts of the city was pitched – without first running the presentation past his own transportation advisory committee.

It was from this gathering that many received the impression the city is on the verge of taking the far-sighted step to move the tracks, creating an idyllic system of waterfront trails for future generations – shifting perceived dangers of rail traffic elsewhere.

That city staff have that power – to not only authorize such a meeting, but to persuade Mayor Dianne Watts and visiting White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin to be the only scheduled speakers – is bewildering.

But Gill should know. After all, he MC’d the public meeting.

Of course, as Gill explained, he was asked “at the last minute” and only agreed “given that the meeting was set.”

Keep in mind, Gill’s admonishment wasn’t the only fallout.

Last week Coun. Linda Hepner also expressed concern that such a pitch was made publicly without first being discussed with her own agriculture and food security committee, considering most of the four realignment options presented traverse agricultural land.

And, as Coun. Mary Martin explained in an email the week prior to a South Surrey resident critical of Watts: “Mayor Watts’ only concerns are for the safety of the rail shipments, in particular the crossing at Crescent Beach. It was Mayor Baldwin who brought up the idea of realignment.”

Considering this, and that Watts’ entire 13-minute presentation dealt almost exclusively with relocating the tracks, city staff must indeed have some sort of control over our leaders…

Of course, considering that neither Watts nor Baldwin seem prime candidates for bureaucratic bullying, there is one other plausible explanation.

Perhaps, just perhaps, city staff were actually acting on the orders of an elected official. Doing their jobs, in other words.

Of course, that would mean councillors must look elsewhere – perhaps a little higher – to find the root of their communications breakdown.

We only wish this possibility was considered before anybody else was thrown under the, er… train.

 

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