Sunday, July 11, 2010

Emergency? Not Really, but It Looks Like We're Doing Something

Last Thursday council had a special meeting, which the local newspaper the next day referred to as an emergency council meeting.

Unlike the last term of council, when special meetings were called almost as often as regular meetings, this term has not featured as many of these special occasions, for which I am grateful. Too often special meetings, which only have to have twenty-four hour public notice, have been used to rush through decisions in a forum which doesn't have as much public exposure as our regular meetings.

Not this one, though - all the media were there, for a meeting which lasted five minutes.

It really was a no-brainer decision - council agreed to apply for the emergency funding which has been announced by the provincial government as being available to help with the various storm-related problems that have plagued the province this spring and summer. Of course, Prince Albert has been relatively lucky compared to others - our worst storm was last Friday evening's rain and wind event, during which hundreds of trees and branches came down. But compared to massive flooding in Maple Creek and Yorkton, or the tornado near Raymore, we've gotten off easy - no homes destroyed or uninhabitable, and a week after the storm, most of the damage has been cleaned up. And the loss of trees, while lamentable, will not be eligible for funding from the province.

But I agree that it's worth the effort to apply. Benefits, if any, wouldn't be to help the city recover its costs in dealing with the storm aftermath - our losses weren't eligible. It would be to help individual homeowners deal with uninsurable damages that fit within the province's criteria.

But was agreeing to this funding such an emergency that we had to have a special meeting? No, that was merely for optics; the resolution could have waited until Monday's regular meeting. Calling a special meeting made us look like we weren't wasting any time, but any relief won't come any more quickly. The actual deadline for applying isn't for several months. I worry that residents might get the idea that by applying for this funding, that somehow the city will have quick access to money. We won't - the decision on whether we get funding will rest entirely with the province, according to the province's timetable.

In fact, this five-minute special meeting cost you money - because it was held at noon, it was felt necessary to bring in lunch. As though members of council couldn't survive a five minute meeting without being fed afterward. I did - I went home for lunch.

"What good is speed if the brain is oozed out on the way?" - St. Jerome

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