EDITORIAL: Does Kings County need an intervention?

Editor Kings County Advertiser and Register
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After another controversy erupted at Kings County council, is it time for our local elected officials to consider getting help?

With meeting after meeting resulting in some sort of flap leading to hurt feelings, ill will and general discontent around the horseshoe, maybe an independent, outside mediator is needed to help them work through issues as a group.

There has been a lot of lip service paid to putting transgressions, real or perceived, in the past and getting back to working in “a spirit of mutual respect and co-operation.” However, it doesn’t take long for that notion to get lost in the shuffle once council gets together for a debate.

Most recently, at the Feb. 4 session, Coun. Patricia Bishop became frustrated when she felt chairwoman Warden Diana Brothers was not allowing her to speak for her allotted time. Council was debating an advertising funding request from the Annapolis Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Bishop took a seat in the public gallery and, when the Warden called for comments from the public, the councillor approached the mic to finish her statements.

Bishop was ruled out of order for continuing to speak past the two-minute limit and for using the public comment period in this manner.

Her action brings an important issue to light. Bishop said she feels she is being stifled in debate. On the other hand, Brothers is concerned with agenda management. With the recent move to go back to one committee of the whole and one council meeting per month, there is a legitimate concern here.

If all councillors decided to speak to their full time allotment on all matters, depending on the length of an agenda, a meeting could go on for more than a day. Not very practical. But, if a councillor is entitled to speak for a given time, is cut off and feels a questions remain unanswered, that’s a problem.

Perhaps council should consider amendments to shorten the length of time a councillor is entitled to speak. This would at least hold everyone to the same standard and help keep the length of meetings under control.

An editorial in this paper several years ago referred to the council of the day as dysfunctional. Not in the sense that council was not functioning and unable to conduct business: in the sense that they seemed like a dysfunctional family with members unable to interact in a healthy, productive way.

The idea seemed to take on a life of its own in 2010 when an independent consultant was hired to conduct an organizational review. Council was labeled “dysfunctional” and the label stuck in spite of the municipality taking action on a number of recommendations from the review.

Perhaps it’s unfair to describe council in 2014 as “dysfunctional” – some business is getting done – but the current slate does resemble a dysfunctional family at times.

Although the buy-in of all members would be necessary, perhaps it’s time to consider group counselling or independent mediation to help get everyone back on the same page and again make the business of the day the main focus at Kings County council.

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