City of Powell River council will consider next steps in the possible renaming of Powell River.
At the October 19 committee of the whole meeting, chief administrative officer Russell Brewer outlined initiatives around a possible city renaming process. He said the purpose of his report to the committee was to get council’s direction about a possible name change.
Brewer provided background on the initiative, which sprung from a Tla’amin Nation request at the May 12 community-to-community-to-community (C3) meeting. Brewer said mayor Dave Formosa and council members Cindy Elliott and Maggie Hathaway were appointed to initiate, and staff was directed to provide an overview of procedural and administrative matters that would be required in changing the city’s name.
Brewer said representatives of the city and Tla’amin have been meeting to discuss a shared vision for a renaming process engagement.
“Through those discussions, it provided a vision statement; the shared vision includes a working group to provide oversight, which is consistent with the community accord,” said Brewer. “The vision also includes the need for two appointees of the city, in addition to two members of council and the mayor as ex-officio. Staff is seeking direction to advertise for expressions of interest for two members of the public to sit with that working group. Tla’amin is doing the same, in addition to their council representatives.”
Brewer said the vision document also outlines the need for project initiation funding and the staff recommendation is that the city allocate $20,000 for the purposes of that working group.
He said significant engagement with the community is expected through this process.
The vision document also includes engaging a facilitator consultant to carry out project planning and content development on behalf of the working group, according to Brewer.
The three items before council included: endorsing the vision document; directing staff to advertise for expressions of interest from the public for the two positions; to allocate $20,000 to help advance the project.
Mayor Dave Formosa said he was happy to see the matter at the committee table. He said a decision was reached to have a joint visioning statement, with both parties speaking with one voice.
“I hope council endorses the idea and the plan going forward,” said Formosa.
Councillor Cindy Elliott said she was committed to consensus building in the community.
“The name of our community should be one that is fully embraced by everyone in the community,” said Elliott. “I want to say that it is really important that we take our relationship with Tla’amin very seriously. When they make requests for reasonable reasons, which this is, we need to do our best due diligence to raise community support for those things that are important to Tla’amin. I want the support of council to move forward with this consensus-building process.”
Councillor Maggie Hathaway said she likes the process and thinks it is going to work nicely. She said she supports it and she’s prepared to take the matter to city council.
“I just have one small caveat, for lack of a better word,” said Hathaway. “Attached to our package is a letter from hegus John Hackett dated June 21; in there is concern expressed by Tla’amin around a referendum. That issue hasn’t been addressed in this process. It will need to be addressed, but at this point we’re just moving forward with a process to make people aware.”
Education and communication required, says councillor
Councillor Jim Palm said this process needs to be brought forward slowly and gently to build consensus in the community.
“Education goes a long way and communication goes further; this is a step in that direction,” said Palm. “I really appreciate councillor Hathaway’s comments regarding the referendum still to be determined. I know the mayor’s first response when he heard this at the C3 meeting was we need a referendum so all members of our public can have a voice. I strongly believe that.
“It’s not just city members who need to express themselves. I believe every member of the Tla’amin Nation, and if you want to take it one step further, every member of the regional district, could be involved in this process. It’s that important that everyone has that voice.”
Formosa said he did state originally at the C3 meeting, when the Tla’amin announcement came as a “bit of a shock,” if there was a referendum, he would support it.
“Subsequently, our committee has come to the conclusion that the issue of putting a referendum on the table for this term was definitely off the table,” said Formosa. “We don’t know if there will be a referendum.”
Formosa suggested the renaming could be a decision for city council.
“I know the easy way out would be to have a referendum, but having given it a lot of thought, we do the heavy lifting at this table and if we are going to go out and engage the public strongly, learning what is so hurtful to the Tla’amin people about Israel Powell, we’ve had that talk with our folks and maybe the decision should be made by the council, which is elected to make those kinds of decisions,” said the mayor. “I feel that way quite strongly. The responsibility should be at this table, but let’s just let the process work. Let’s not dwell on a referendum. That would be starting off on the wrong foot.”
Councillor and committee chair Rob Southcott said he is optimistic and proud of the community and he has great confidence in the way the initiative is moving.
Palm said with regard to how a decision is made on the matter, if it’s coming to the council table, he did not want to see council, unless there’s a lengthy period of time, and there is a broad sense of what the community is thinking, to make the same mistake as what qathet Regional District did with its name change.
“They got nothing but backlash,” said Palm.
Council voted to send the matter to city council for approval at the October 21 meeting.