COMMENT: A straight shootin cowgirl, yes ma'am!

Andrew Bennett
By Andrew Bennett
February 1st, 2013

In response to the acrimony at the end of Monday’s council meeting, one reader called Coun. Moore a “straight shooter.” Too true.

In my reports, I cannot convey the subtext, the subtle looks, the postures, the energy, and the feeling in people’s statements without colouring them with my biased interpretation of the emotional story. So I try to keep it clean: quotes and he-said-she-said. Maintaining objectivity is the balancing art and literary science of journalism, and I do aim for the elusive goal.

But the acrimonious exchange had verve, so permit me now to give it colour.

What I saw around the table seemed like arrogance from Coun. Fisher, defensiveness from Coun. Spearn, and lack of awareness from Coun. Blomme.

I’m quite sure these councillors disagree with my assessment, no argument there. But I think I’ve watched this circus long enough to paint my opinions here.

Unlike Coun. Blomme, I sensed the unity around six council seats as Coun. Moore was rebuked for making a clear statement about an important democratic issue—namely, council’s current culture of resenting dissent.

I think the “acrimony” was a product of Coun. Fisher’s retorts, not Coun. Moore’s original complaint, which was apt.

Coun. Moore came on more strongly than she normally would, but was calm nonetheless, particularly given the angry words of Coun. Fisher and the anti-Moore energy it created in the room.

I find it deeply ironic that Coun. Moore’s comments ring with truth to the public—at least, to everyone I’ve talked to—while the rest of council sounds discordant. But Moore’s alarm rings like discord to the rest of council while they hear each other in harmony!

Take it or leave it:


  • Coun. Fisher’s response was rude (crass, name calling, ad hominem), aimed to seed derision and distrust, and lacked empathy,
  • Coun. Spearn felt slighted—no doubt, since her email to a resident clearly illustrates council’s problem of limited perspective and excessive faith,
  • Coun. Blomme seems to think that council’s behaviour has been just peachy and is chugging along fine,
  • And council as a whole internally reinforced each of these points-of-view, finding synergy in six seats against one.

More than one year ago, councillors did not listen to a lone dissenter with important information to share. The implications were too big, perhaps, the breach of trust too great, so collective amnesia took hold: see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.

They act now as if this was new information, not something they chose to ignore a year ago. They cry foul when they are reminded of the foul way Coun. Moore has been treated by Mayor Granstrom, CAO Victor Kumar, and council as a whole on several occasions in the past.

And now they don’t have the grace to apologize to Coun. Moore, to the public, or to anyone.

(Remember the mayor’s apology for botching that four season pool scheme? Same thing: he’ll agree to generic errors, but real men don’t say “sorry,” apparently, with a sincere intention to get to the root of the problem.)

Coun. Moore says she touched a tender nerve at an inopportune time. The more I ponder it, the more it seems the only better time would have been seven months ago. It is the truth, after all: council has done a disservice to the public, and a great disrespect to Coun. Moore.

Can you imagine what these bullies said to her during the in camera sessions? Disgraceful. But seven months ago, Coun. Moore couldn’t say boo.

The auditor’s support for her story was sealed away until the BC information commissioner had to “convince” the city to release the letter to us in December. In the meantime, Laurie Charlton had sniffed out the story himself.

To Coun. Blomme:

Coun. Blomme, you absolutely had the information, the power, and the responsibility to have supported Coun. Moore one year ago, or at least seven months ago when the auditor’s letter came back.

Coun. Blomme, this story is only an issue because the public got on board and made it an issue two months ago, and then the mayor called a meeting and agreed to CBC interviews in which he completely dropped the ball and frustrated the public even more.

But you didn’t do anything before Jan. 8 this year—except get in a flap that somehow the wool’s only now been pulled off your eyes—and that is why I was very pleased to see you voted in favour of an apology to Rosslanders for the way council handled this issue.

Coun. Fisher is another matter:

Coun. Fisher, you pride yourself on your fiscal vigilance, but all I’ve seen you take aim at are community and social institutions. When far greater sums might have been defrauded, why didn’t you act?

You were fully aware of this issue in the summer, but decided it was better to move on without looking into it. You weren’t bothered that this information had actually been known by the mayor and CAO since September the year before, and kept from you. You weren’t bothered by the way the mayor, CAO, and general council “teamwork” prevented you from seeing the plain truth that Coun. Moore tried to show you in January, 2012. Nor were you bothered that the same guy who breached his contract and city rules was now the “owner representative” on our city’s largest-ever project!

And then you (like the mayor) seem to think it’s enough to say “mistakes were made,” but are unable to say, “I’m sorry that I decided to ignore this problem for so long that the public had to force the issue.”

And then you puff your chest and bark at one of Rossland’s most remarkable citizens? Shame.

And finally, Coun. Spearn:

Coun Spearn, I really appreciate how you helped explain to others on council the importance of a third party investigation, supporting that motion “for peace,” as you said.

Indeed. Just like many a marriage has been saved by a counsellor, the relationship between the public, council, and staff has been breached by this news and could use some therapy.

People generally think you should have done something about this about seven months ago (and the mayor should have done something 15 months ago), but there’s no time like the present. Bring on the AGLG and council’s bylaw reviews.

Nevertheless, you also voted against an apology to Rosslanders, and you even went so far as to say you were ‘blindsided,’ when that was clearly not the case.

No, no, Coun. Spearn. You’ve known for a long time.

You are partly responsible for council’s decision to do nothing. Part of your decision to do nothing was based in an unquestioning faith in Victor Kumar and—at least in the case of the arena issue—the groupthink mentality he inspired instead of sharp shootin’ individual reasoning.

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