When the Civil Service is a disservice
Apr 15, 2012 / 12:00 am
Vernon is amazing in so many ways; beaches, lakes, parks, great schools, amenities, and a charming downtown.
But Vernon has had issues, a confusing bureaucracy that has quarrelled endlessly. An ineffectual city council and countless committees have resulted in a very unproductive governance model. One that’s impeded growth, frightened investors and inadvertently shunned families. A city hall, that’s chosen to use the cities unionized workers in positions that weren’t always in the best interests of the community.
Vernon didn’t arrive at dysfunction junction overnight; short sighted leadership, a few pompous councillors with an “old boy’s club” mentality, has left Vernon taxpayer’s footing a huge city payroll, with sometimes questionable results.
It’s a city that has spent a fortune on beautiful bike lanes, while the streets directly beside them continue to crack and erode. A bureaucratic arrogance towards taxpayers, that’s made most capital construction projects overly time consuming, a major inconvenience for citizens and business, and a foray into the twilight zone of bureaucratic mismanagement and project incompetence.
There is one shocking example that stands out, that’s easily comparable, and best demonstrates the disparity between our Okanagan cities.
The operations of the premier multipurpose arena and events centres in our three cities, Prospera Place in Kelowna, Penticton’s SOEC, and the Westbild Centre in Vernon.
The fundamental difference between them? Management and operations; only Vernon’s Westbuild uses City union workers and City administrators.
When built, the multiplex was run satisfactorily by the city, but recognizing the demands of making Vernon competitive, the city acknowledged it needed help and hired Canadian Recreation Excellence to manage and market it.
And as reflective of their name, excellence was the service provided. Each year they strive to bring new, diverse, interesting and unique events to the citizens of Vernon. Concerts, theatre, two CBC-TV hockey series, a Canucks training camp, Stars on Ice, to name just a few, while managing to bring yearly national TV exposure to the North Okanagan. Contrary to Vernon city hall propaganda, most of these events could not be run at the Performing Arts Enter.
Recreation Excellence was invested, they put exceptional time and money into Vernon, recruited the best personnel, and brought high end professionalism to Vernon. They didn’t work on union time, they were genuinely open for business, and open to business, ready to hear, think, and develop something new.
Recreation Excellence did an exceptional job, but cost cutting, and control issues had council terminate their contract, and insert their own uninspired, uninterested, and mediocre administrative staff.
Now with city management, we have very little in cultural and entertainment options, while city workers attempt to keep busy; cleaning, caretaking, and maintaining a very empty multi-million dollar flagship, all at an astronomical cost to taxpayers.
The bureaucrats and politicians, who were instrumental in dissolving an excellent model, may have pandered to the city workers’ demands, but they neglected to answer the very people they were elected and hired to serve.
Fortunately, Vernon has a new Mayor with some extended vision, a reconfigured council, and some new hope. But until Mr. Swarsky and council address this issue, people looking for high end entertainment options will have not be visiting Vernon, or spending, staying and enjoying what we have to offer.
And to make matters even worse for local businesses; Vernonite’s themselves will be leaving to spend our entertainment dollars in other beautiful Okanagan cities, which have had the foresight to be recreationally and culturally comprehensive.
(Editor's note: Jeff Hunkin's wife used to work for Recreational Excellence, he says he wrote his column based on what he has witnessed as a user of the facility and as a taxpayer not because of his family's history with the facility)
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