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Unchecked bureaucracy grows

Dear Editor: Re: True transparency triggers trust, The Record, July 4.

Dear Editor: Re: True transparency triggers trust, The Record, July 4.

The four city councillors who resisted the temptation to take vacation and allow staff to do a bureaucratic end-run around political authority during the dog days of summer are to be congratulated on exercising sober second thought and tabling the delegation bylaw.

We trust that this prudent step will result in a more disciplined approach by staff to ensure they stay within their existing authority, rather than stretch the limits imposed on them, then try to encode such transgressions as being "best practice."

This is tantamount to increasing the speed limit to reflect the "best practice" of motorists tending to drive 10 per cent above the speed limit in that unwritten and unpunished zone of freedom.

The latter is not a good "best practice" increase for safety reasons, and the former ill advised for transparency reasons.

I was struck by what Jim Dueck identified as the "whipsaw" effect, as regards bureaucracy salaries, by benchmarking salary increases by what is "best practice" in other jurisdictions, as chronicled in his July 5 opinion piece in The Record titled "True transparency triggers trust."

No wonder we have a growing $100,000-plus club at New Westminster City Hall. The same benchmarking, for "salary creep," can be used to justify "power creep" in bureaucracies.

As I have opined before, "Politicians may come and go, but unchecked bureaucracies only grow."

Also embedded in the delegation bylaw was a provision that would allow city hall staff to grant exemptions to contractors and developers regarding hours of work with attendant noise generation at work sites.

I believe that exposing applications in the light of TV cameras in a "before-the-fact" council chamber is far better protection for citizens than having approvals

done in a "chamber of secrets" by an unchecked staff process with a no-recourse, "after-the-fact" review.

I am reminded of a friend telling me how she was awakened last March by a jack-hammer crew exceeding noise bylaw limits outside reasonable hours. It took her until 10 a.m. to get through to the bylaw enforcement office.

Their only response, a day later, was: "Our union brothers and sisters can make all the noise they want."

I don't think taxpayers would get such a callous response from city councillors, so let's keep these variance approvals in the public before the fact because, indeed, "true transparency triggers trust."

E.C. "Ted" Eddy, via email