A Delegation To SSI LTC

for presentation at the February 5, 2015 meeting

by A.N.T. Varzeliotis


A Trust Oozing Planners

The Trust is a hive of Planners B for the lack of a better word, let=s call the Trust a APlanner shop@, in parallel to other specialist shops such as ACop shop@. But the Trust should not be that. Because the Trust is a government and in a democracy a government needs to be of all the people for all the people and to do that it needs to have a sweeping view of the social scene. We do not want thieves and other criminals lodged in the Cop shops, we only want Police in them, at least in areas other than the holding cells. We do not want funeral directors in the Doctor shops, nor do we cherish the prospect of them holding positions in the Ambulance shops. But Government is a different story B we want it to be all inclusive.

Planners and Planning

The word Aplanning@, was abhorred during the Cold War. The Communist Block was Abad@, we were told, because of the Aplanning@ of everything in the lives of the people and this, we were also told, was inseparably associated with the Communism. And we were constantly reminded that we were blessed to be Afree@ of them and that.

John Kenneth Galbraith wrote the celebrated tome AThe New Industrial State@ in the wake of AThe Affluent Society@. In the Industrial State he explains the need for planning and exposes the hypocrisy of having embedded disdain for planning in our Aconventional wisdom@, a popular expression which we also owe to him.

Since the demise of the Soviet Union, the word Aplanning@ has been laundered and has become acceptable. APlanners@ popped up everywhere and have become revered, feared and everything in between. In many instances they have become Aoverwhelming@ and detrimental to their professed raison d=etre.

In SSI we are Ablessed@ with plenty of them. But no matter how good Planners may be, let us remind ourselves that too much of a good thing is bad. Look how many defect from Paradise to escape the angelic harp music and go to Hell for some rowdy Rock n=roll.

Planners and the Trust

The North Saanich local government harbours two (2) planners in its midst. As a reminder, Saanich has about the same population, demographics and geographics as SaltSpring and several times the amount of development to be Aplanned@ than SSI.

The city of Victoria, employs twelve (12) planners one of whom is a Heritage-specialist Planner. The latter is to handle heritage buildings by Francis Rattenbury and Samuel Maclure and issues similar to those of Grace Islet. The other eleven Planners handle high-rise buildings, ship terminals, cruise ships facilities and other significant planning matters. Incidentally, in the instance of the Grace Islet, the Trust Planners remained rather cool and detached.

At last count, the Trust had at least 18 Planners. The SSI Trust contingency alone boasts five (5) Planners in its ranks. It is much worse than that really, because all the Trust line managers are Planners. The CEO is a Planner, and so it the Director of Planning Services, the RPMs and their seconds-in-command. The rest of the Trust Staff are auxiliary personnel, supporting and reporting to Planners.

Not long ago, there was a lone non-Planner in the Trust hierarchy. He was a Professional Engineer with an Canadian Forces Officer=s background. Regrettably he was squeezed out of the Planner Shop. Such is the nature of a narrow focused Ateam@.

The Trust is a veritable Planners Shop. I know of no other government as lopsided as that, as averse to diversity as the Trust is.

Single Vision

And that brings us to the issue of balanced perspective. The Trust consists of a APlanning Department@ and its ancillary services. There are no other Adepartments@ in the Trust to input in the decision-making processes. There is not even one other department to counterweight the Planner behemoth. Unlike the Trust, other Local Governments have a multi-furcated organization charts, resulting in a correspondingly multi perspective input to decision making.

This, coupled with the Trust=s renowned adversity to public input, leave the Trust to the hegemony of Planners, who are essentially people trained in a uniform way, in a single discipline.

We are assured that our Planners are hard working which I do not dispute but I lament. For their labours result in us, the people, being grossly over-planned and in need of relief.

Open Government

The above manifest the urgency for introducing open government to the Trust. Since the APlanner Shop@, that the Trust is, cannot be sufficiently quickly restructured into a proper local government, the imbalance of the Planners input into the decision making that affects our lives, must be moderated in other ways. And while there are many ways to skin a cat, in this instance none one may affect relief unless the Trust=s wall of secrecy is crushed out of the way for the light of day to shine in and make it receptive to public input.

That is to say, the above facts and reasons, are one more good and valid cause to reverse the ongoing encapsulation of the Trust into an increasingly hard-to- crack cocoon. Time to shred the Trust curtain of secrecy so we may have a ATwo Way Dialogue@ as a Planner once called it, AOpen Government@ as is commonly known.

In conclusion

Open Government, that is what we, the people, need to survive the Trust and the Trust needs to survive us.

Tom Varzeliotis