Pesticide bylaw fails to launch
Despite strong public support for a bylaw to ban the cosmetic use of pesticides in Rossland — and the fact that most city councillors have spoken in favour of the idea — a tragicomedy of errors led to the bylaw’s quick demise at first reading on Monday.
Before the regular city council meeting, it seemed a given that the first reading of the bylaw should pass: Four of the seven on council — Coun. Kathy Moore, Coun. Hanne Smith, Coun. Andy Stradling, and Coun. Jill Spearn — strongly support taking a stand against residential pesticides.
“I was very pleased with the way staff created this,” Moore began. She then mentioned a small issue and suggested a simple deletion to remove a confusing redundancy.
Mayor Greg Granstrom responded. “With respect, I think the first item we should deal with is if first reading passes. Then perhaps we can have another motion to amend.”
Moore quickly agreed to postpone her amendment and continued with her comments that “there has been enough evidence that pesticides are creating problems. [The bylaw] may just be symbolic, but it gives a message to the province. We’re showing leadership in this issue.”
When the discussion reached Coun. Laurie Charlton, he made it known that he thought the bylaw was “meaningless because it is unenforceable and is likely to be unenforced,” but then tried to make an amendment despite Granstrom’s polite request.
“If this bylaw is going to go ahead,” Charlton said, “and I sense that there is a desire to do that, let’s add a little meaning to the bylaw, so I will move that …”
Granstrom interjected at this point and tried to stop Charlton. “Councillor, we’ll get back to that,” he said, but Charlton forged ahead, talking over the mayor.
Granstrom repeated that he wanted to find consensus about proceeding with the bylaw before working on amendments.
Charlton would not oblige, so Granstrom tried again: “I know procedurally you can [move amendments] but I’m asking your condolence.”
Charlton pushed on despite the request. Granstrom resigned and put the amendment to the floor where it failed for lack of a second.
Twenty minutes later, after hearing the opinions of the rest of council — much the same as they were on Feb. 22, 2010, when council was hung 3-3 on a decision to even draft this bylaw — Spearn, who would likely have voted in favour, was absent from the meeting. Charlton returned to his amendment.
“Excuse me, I have to interupt,” Granstrom said, “Let’s get through this. How about I call the question right now.”
“No,” Charlton complained, “I’m proposing an amendment, which I’m entitled to do.”
“I understand that, I asked politely …” Granstrom started,
“Well, if you understand that, don’t interupt,” Charlton said. “I’m making a motion to amend the bylaw to [ban pesticides from Rossland’s watershed.]”
Granstrom conceded and Moore seconded the motion this time.
Charlton went on to pontificate on the dangers we faced as a community by pesticides used in places that could enter our water supply.
“If we believe this bylaw is going to serve a useful purpose, let’s make sure we ban the use of pesticides in our watershed.”
Coun. Smith was the first to raise concerns. “I’m wondering if Coun. Charlton’s concept, which I agree with, actually, is outside [the bylaw’s] scope? Does it work, or is it just confounding the way it’s written?”
Mayor Granstrom replied, “I can’t answer that question, but what I can say is that I’ve tried to get us to the point where we can do that kind of thing in an orderly fashion. But just to throw amendments out right now is, quite frankly, confusing the issue.”
Spearn added, “I’m a little frustrated. I’m not prepared to think about the watershed right now, it’s a totally different area, defined in different ways [with] many activities going on. I’m not going to vote on that tonight until I’ve had an opportunity [to get informed].”
Nevertheless, the amendment was carried despite the legal and jurisdictional concerns raised; on its surface, the change appeared to make the bylaw more powerful.
Coun. Wallace was shocked. “I just want to get caught up here: I’m pretty sure that amendment just passed, and that amendment [contradicts the bylaw.] The amendment is pretty much null-and-voided [by another section in the law]. It doesn’t make any sense.”
Just three minutes after the amendment passed, Granstrom put the question to council and the bylaw was defeated in first reading, 4-3.
There was no surprise that Granstrom voted against, as he is firmly against a ban. Wallace had stated her willingness to see the bylaw through first reading, but was now turned off by Charlton’s amendment.
Spearn, who was initially in favour of the bylaw, now voted against it, appearing visibly annoyed by the changes Charlton had made.