Diplomacy has disappeared at the top

city_scope_logo-cmykFriday afternoon we received a copy of a release from the Holiday Fantasy of Lights committee advising it is pulling the plug on the popular Pinafore Park winter festival.
“For 21 years, Fantasy of Lights has made Pinafore Park a beautiful winter wonderland of lights and display, with many families and people coming to the park to enjoy,” the release notes.
“With the retirement of our chairman and many senior committee members two years ago, we had to fold for a year. With a lot of effort over the last few months, we got a new chairman and some committee members, and had great ideas for the upcoming year.
“We have worked hard to get up and running for this season, but with all of the challenges that have been handed to us from the City and Parks Department, we have decided to fold the Fantasy of Lights for good.”
According to the committee, the final straw was the $14,000 tab demanded by the city for rental of the Pinafore Park pavilions for this year’s event and confusion over insurance coverage.STTJ FANTASY
“It is hard to believe that since our mandate has always been to put money back into the park, that the city would want so much money from our group. In the past we were not charged for rental of the pavilions and we do not bring in enough money from donations to facilitate such a large fee.”
In her response to the committee, Mayor Heather Jackson says she is disappointed “the committee has decided to fold without coming to council and asking for a grant to offset the cost of using the park and assistance with securing the necessary insurance.
“I understand that when the committee booked Pinafore they were told that the cost for using the park for the month was $14,000 and that they should approach council for a grant to offset the cost,” Jackson continues. “At no time did council say we wouldn’t give a grant, it was a matter of timing and the request should be submitted for the 2016 budget.”
Following that email from the mayor, comes a testy retort advising the city is not to blame whatsoever for the Fantasy of Lights failings.
“After speaking with Catharine (Catharine Spratley, city supervisor of parks and forestry), I understand that even if council were to approve a grant for the use of the park, they (Fantasy of Lights committee) still wouldn’t be in a position to move forward.
“They don’t have enough volunteers to get it off the ground which is unfortunate as there was such a public outcry when it was cancelled last year. I am disappointed they are blaming the city when that really isn’t the reason the committee is folding.”
What a sad commentary the winter festival that attracted thousands to the park each year — and no doubt deposited dollars into the tills of local retailers and gas outlets — has now degenerated into a blame deflection, finger-pointing travesty.
Is the city doing that well we can kiss these tourism dollars and donations goodbye?
A little diplomacy from the top would go a long way in matters like this, the demolition by neglect on Kains St. and buck-passing on the courthouse parking policy.

Last week we briefly revisited the case of ‘Dave’, a city employee who has received nothing in the way of satisfaction from the city’s human resources manager Graham Dart, regarding his complaints of harassment involving fellow employees and managers.
In a letter sent our way, Dave responds to Dart’s comments “on the great strides the HR department has made.
“So why have occurrences been on the rise,” questions Dave.
“There is one manager in particular who has been reported for harassment, bullying and violence so many times he jokes that the meeting room that we meet in with HR for these complaints is his office.
“Joking about harassment, bullying and violence . . . I wonder why this repeat offender is not worried about discipline. If there have been great strides done on this, I would like to know what they are.”
Dave says he has had a conversation with Dart away from city hall in which the manager advised there is nothing he can do to address the problem.
To be fair, Dart is away from his desk on holiday but upon his return we will put to him Dave’s accusation “we have an HR department that is either not willing or has no power to fix these issues.”

Reader Dave Mathers checked in this week with a couple of comments.KAINS3jpg
His first is in response to a meeting held recently with city staff and homeowner Pauline Wimbush in an effort to resolve her concerns about the derelict home next door on Kains St.
“I found it very curious that the mayor was not at the meeting with Pauline Wimbush. Wow.”
Well Dave, plain and simple, Pauline’s situation is not even on the mayor’s radar. No good photo opportunity here so move along.
On a related note, Dave wonders why any of the city’s real estate agents haven’t “taken the initiative to attend at city hall and get the name and address of the property owner (I’m sure the city would love to give them that info). That person could then offer to list the property for sale.”
A good thought Dave until you walk around to the back of the house and take in what remains of the once-pretty cottage-style house. This structure is no fixer-upper, as one city staffer would have you believe.
It’s a crumbling, vermin-infested disaster.
The average person wouldn’t get out of their car for a closer inspection let along wish to go inside for a tour in order to plan renovations and decide on a paint scheme.

“We’ve had more progress in the last week than we’ve had in months. You don’t get anything done by sticking your head in the sand.”

Lori Lackey, general manager at Metcalfe Gardens, following a meeting last Monday at the retirement home to discuss parking regulations in the courthouse neighbourhood.

City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to ian.mccallum@sunmedia.ca.

One thought on “Diplomacy has disappeared at the top

  1. Why would the city charge volunteers that are going to help the city bring in money? That’s just asinine. If the volunteers for the Holiday Fantasy of Lights were going to make a profit, I could understand, but charging them a rental fee is just stupid. Making them pay a rental fee and then having to apply for a grant they are not guaranteed just makes it much more difficult and I don’t blame them for folding and not giving in to the bureaucratic BS.


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