Friday, May 12, 2017

Change to Airport Board make-up takes to the letters pages

The theme of the Prince Rupert Airport and how the City is approaching the oversight of the city's transportation link to the rest of the province has been a topic of interest for many in recent weeks.

The issue has been one spurred on by the recent decision to shift the oversight on the workings of the Prince Rupert Airport Authority to a newly revamped board which includes three newly appointed city staff members.

Some of that discussion worked its way into Monday night's City Council Session, as Councillor Joy Thorkelson took note of some of the financial information related to the airport, the figures and observations taken from the Financial Statements that were reviewed on Monday.

With a representative of the firm that handles the city's financial auditing program in attendance, Ms. Thorkelson reviewed the nature of the 7.7 million dollar loan that the city is holding related to the Airport and observed how that financial interest in the airport was one of the key reasons for the recent change in how the Board will operate in the future. 

You can review some of those financial notes related to the airport loan from our City Council Timeline feature here.

The discussion on the Airport and the City's loans related to it is also available from the City's Video Archive, as part of the overall financial review starting at the three minute mark.

During the course of her observations, Councillor Thorkelson also made note of a recent letter to the weekly paper from Mayor Lee Brain, a correspondence which further outlined the city's position regarding the change in the Board make up.

The Mayor's contribution to the letter writing flow at the paper came through the Letters to the Editor page of the Northern View.

The original commentaries related to the changes began shortly after the City announced the decision to replace four Board spots with new members, three of them officials from city staff.

The first letter to the paper came from Judy Fraser, one of the Board members who had been replaced, her opinion piece contribution from May 2nd highlighted some of the concerns that she and others who had been dispatched from their duties held about the city's decision.

That overview was rebutted on May 2nd as well by Scott Farwell, who offered up his praise for the decision and expressed his confidence in the ability of the revised board set up to better align the airport with the city's finances.

The Mayor's review was next, however his follow up explanation appears to this point, to be more of a print only contribution and has not been made available as part of the rest of the editorial page offerings previously posted.

For those that may have already disposed of their May 3rd print copy of the paper, the talking points from the Mayor can be reviewed from the Northern View's e edition feature found on page A7.

The main thrust of his contribution to the reading material on the airport themes, was to take note of the city's desire to improve communications, logistics and achieve greater accountability at the airport.

As to the issue as to whether the city staff members would be paid for their work on the Board, the Mayor observed that "city staff had put forward their names as volunteers in order to contribute to the smooth operation of the airport and will note be paid for their participation on the board at the taxpayer's expense or otherwise."

He concluded his editorial piece by noting that it is no secret that access to the airport remains a challenge and council had determined that the status quo was no longer acceptable, adding that the community needs and deserves an improved experience at the airport, especially given the economic growth projected for Prince Rupert.

While the topic continued to be a topic of note at the newspaper, up until Monday's council session, the city's decision had not made for much of a conversation piece at the public sessions of Prince Rupert City Council

With no previous review of the topic from the members of Council, the majority of the six elected officials appear to be leaving the issue and the City's response to be delivered through the Mayor's social media stream and letter writing ambitions.

Hopefully, Ms. Thorkelson's review of the current conversation will indicate the start of a wider engagement from Council members. With those that have yet to speak to the issue ready to provide more background on why they believe that the replacement of the Board was the proper approach and how they plan to keep the Board accountable to the public in the months to come.

You can review more items related to Air Transportation in the Northwest from our archive page here.

Notes on discussion topics from City Council can be found on our Council archive page here.

1 comment:

  1. It strains belief that the change in directors was made because of the $7 million loan to the airport society. The loan was made in 2013. The more likely explanation is that late last year the society got what appears to have been a $1.5 million bail out from the Legacy Corporation when it ran into "unforeseen circumstances". That money that could have been spent on other civic priorities. That suggests that there were problems at the airport.