This week, directors with the Regional District Okanagan Similkameen will receive a first draft of a new communications policy. Included is who should be the official media spokesperson for the board.
This new policy will allow the regional directors more freedom to speak on the record rather than having the chair handle these duties.
Karla Kozakevich, who represents Naramata, presently chairs the 19-person board with geographic representation from Princeton to Summerland. Similar to school boards, Kozakevich was elected chair only by her peers.
When the topic is something generic such as a retirement, watering restrictions or decisions which directly affect every citizen in the RDOS, the chair should remain the spokesperson.
Confusion enters the equation because a regional district is unlike a city council. Each area elects their own director and in the case of larger centres that have their own town councils (Penticton, Summerland, Keremeos, Oliver, Osoyoos, Princeton), representatives are appointed.
As much as we appreciate Kozakevich, she lives in Naramata. Residents in Hedley or West Bench, for example, don’t want her speaking on issues exclusive to their own area.
The Okanagan Skaha School District tried this nonsense for years and it didn’t work. “Only the chair speaks for the board,” was the stock reply. This, needless to say, was extremely frustrating for working journalists.
Back to the RDOS. With elected officials, their constituents want to know where they stand on issues.
Last summer, there was a fire near Okanagan Falls that received national media attention. This year, tours of the Sickle Point area were given to a large number of VIPs.
Watching broadcast news, Kozakevich was front and centre at news conferences, but we didn’t see Area D (Okanagan Falls) Director Ron Obirek, nor did we notice Area I (Kaleden, Apex, Skaha West) Director Subrina Monteith.
Were they there? Were Obirek and Monteith even invited?
By contrast, Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki often has his entire council present when there’s a significant announcement.
This new proposal was discussed at length during an RDOS board meeting in February. Directors Riley Gettens and Doug Holmes made by far the most sense.
When something as potentially devastating as a forest fire or as contentious as the sale of Sickle Point, constituents are phoning their elected official, not someone who lives in Naramata.
I encourage the board to adopt this long-overdue policy.
James Miller is editor of The Herald. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org