EDITORIAL: Communication is key

For the second time in a month, Alberni Valley residents are up in arms…

For the second time in a month, Alberni Valley residents are up in arms over an unpopular action by the City of Port Alberni.

At the beginning of September, it was the sudden ticketing of dozens of people accused of breaking the garbage pickup bylaw. Last week, the city lowered permissive tax exemptions for certain non-profit organizations—especially those that use liquor sales to help raise money.

At a Sept. 3 council meeting Jake van Kooten complained about the city’s bylaw department’s so-called ‘tough love’ approach to those who put their garbage cans out earlier than the bylaw calls for. On one night along van Kooten’s pickup route, 75 tickets of $100 apiece were apparently handed out, with no warning.

Van Kooten acknowledged that he knowingly contravened the bylaw by putting his trash out too early (and that he had paid his fine), but said the city was too heavy-handed because they didn’t hand out warnings first. City officials responded by saying that they had spread the word about the bylaw and it was time people started obeying it.

As one Alberni Valley News reader pointed out, if that many tickets are being handed out, especially on the same pickup route on the same night, then clearly the city’s message has not been relayed adequately.

We agree with the reader that to go ahead with all the fines either shows a lack of understanding on the part of the ticketer that the message isn’t getting through, or that what residents think doesn’t matter.

One would have thought after the reaction to the garbage bylaw tickets, that the city would tread carefully when it came to getting its message out. However, the clawing back of the permissive tax exemptions—and the outcry from arts organizations who say they weren’t aware a decision was going to be made at the most recent council meeting—says otherwise.

Arts and other non-profit organizations are always searching for funding, and because of this they are forced to plan a year in advance. Having a tax exemption cut when they didn’t expect it is a big deal.

Those who cast their votes during the last municipal election did so with the intent of electing a council that gets ‘er done. Now that council appears to be doing just that, their methods are called into question. It’s a conundrum.

The city has a responsibility to residents to communicate effectively. At some point, residents must also take responsibility to know what is going on with their city.

— Alberni Valley News

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