Cleanup

Contract crews work along a section of the Mission Creek Greenway near Mission Creek Regional Park on Tuesday, removing hazardous trees, pruning and performing vegetation maintenance. The work is being performed until Thursday along the trail on the north side of Mission Creek between Lakeshore Road upstream to Mission Creek Regional Park, and along the south creekside trail between Lakeshore Road upstream to Casorso Road. Trail visitors are asked to, where possible, use the south trail to bypass possible closures along the north side of the creek, or they may wish to use other areas of the Greenway while the work is underway. The Regional District of Central Okanagan asks that Greenway users obey any barricades, signs and flag people, and stay out of any closed areas.

Their meeting set for today has been cancelled, but Regional District of Central Okanagan directors will still get paid anyway.

There was nothing — literally, nothing — for them to discuss. Nothing going on, apparently, across the Central Okanagan that warranted their attention.

But their salaries are set on an annual basis, rather than reflecting the number of meetings they attend.

So that'll be the easiest cheque they've earned this year.

Almost as easy as the cheques they received last year for the work, if you can call it that, they did on Jan. 23, Feb. 9, and Nov. 9.

At each of those meetings, proceedings lasted exactly seven minutes. Seven!

The amazing brevity of Regional District board meetings makes you wonder about the relevance and purpose of this level of government, and why local politicians appointed to it make so much money for doing so little.

Here's a frightening stat: Given the infrequency and short duration of Regional District board meetings, most of the Kelowna city councillors who served on the board last year earned the equivalent of $750 an hour for their labours.

Nice work if you can get it. And if you're a City of Kelowna councillor, you almost certainly can.

Because of its dominant population in the Central Okanagan, Kelowna has seven of the 13 Regional District board slots.

So in addition to the $31,000 salary they got for being a councillor, one third of which was tax free, seven of the nine councillors also got $15,242, one-third of which was also tax free, as a regional director.

With the tax-free component, their regional salary is closer to $18,000. The 21 regional board meetings that were held in 2017 lasted an average of 67 minutes, or about 24 hours in total.

So Colin Basran, Maxine DeHart, Tracy Gray, Brad Sieben and Luke Stack effectively were paid $750 an hour for their Regional District duties.

Coun. Gail Given, who is the regional board chairwoman, drew a regional salary of $39,362, one-third of which was tax free, so her hourly wage was about $1,900.

And for what? A few quick and routine decisions on dog control, park maintenance, 911, waste management and recycling?

When West Kelowna incorporated in 2007, the Regional District, which had provided basic local government services to the Westside, lost most of its reason for being.

But who ever heard of a bureaucracy folding up its tent and going away? A perfunctory study on the regional district's future was conducted and — surprise! — the bureaucrats and politicians concluded it was still indispensable.

Those douple-dip salaries certainly were, anyway.

The truth is nothing the Regional District does couldn't be done by the City of Kelowna with chargebacks to the municipalities of West Kelowna, Lake Country and Peachland.

I don't think West Kelowna, Peachland or Lake Country should even exist as separate municipalities.

With less than 200,000 people, the Central Okanagan is ridiculously over-governed, with four municipalities plus the regional district plus the Okanagan Water Board plus various water purveyors plus the Central Okanagan hospital board plus the school board.

Amalgamation is probably never going to happen, however—at least not at the municipal level.

But the half-century old Regional District sticks out as an anachronism that trundles on because, well, it's a half-century old and local politicians enjoy the dollop of extra gravy it provides them.

As far as promoting valuable inter-region dialogue, have phones ceased to exist?

If Kelowna councillors really feel the need to chat with their Lake Country colleagues or their cousins way down in Peachland, they could hold a big meeting a few times a year and natter away to their hearts' content.

Of course, no one should be paid extra for attending such an amity-promoting gathering. It would just be part of their municipal duties.

But absent a $750 an hour paycheque, or any paycheque at all, I bet local politicians wouldn't regard that meeting as particularly valuable.

Probably not even worth seven minutes of their time.

Ron Seymour is a Daily Courier reporter. Phone: 250-470-0750. Email: ron.seymour@ok.bc.ca