When Yorkton Council recently changed the make-up of the Yorkton Airport Authority (YAA) it was a dramatic change in direction.
The YAA had always been appointed at the discretion of the Mayor, with the usual rubber stamping of Council, as is the case with all boards, and committees of Council.
The purpose of such boards and committees, whether for economic development, recreation, protective services, or the YAA, is primarily to make recommendations to Council. They are bodies made up of members of the public, people with some expertise, or interest in a particular body. They are much like a conscience for Council, meeting to make suggestions based on community need, free of the constraints of political realities and budget constraints.
The suggestions are presented to Council who then have a better understanding of what the public thinks, and they can go from there, overlaying elements such as affordability, and how one project rates compared to another.
Some boards, the YAA among them, are afforded greater power. They actually make decisions which carry greater weight in terms of spending some City dollars, and how the facility is operated on a day-to-day basis.
So when Council approved the recommendation of Mayor Bob Maloney to install the members of Council itself as the sole representatives sitting on the YAA it was a big change.
It was also a change carried out with no fanfare and little opportunity for the public to raise concerns.
And there are concerns.
To start with not one of the current Council is a pilot, and beyond the occasional municipal official function, are not regular airport users.
Asked about the level of expertise Maloney said, “we’ve got experienced staff that has learned a lot about airports the last while,” he said, adding they will still be listening to airport users.
“We have a pretty good record of listening to people bringing concerns to us,” he offered.
But the change at the YAA suggests Council no longer wants to listen to airport users.
“As a Council we felt we needed to have more control over what was going on,” he said.
Maloney did take the time to thank members of the volunteer committee for their past efforts, but reiterated “Council wants to be more directly involved” to ensure “we move in the direction we’d like to see.”
The suggestion the YAA was moving in the wrong direction is a little surprising considering the Mayor picks members. One would expect he would be selecting people he had sat down with and found to be like-minded to the direction Council sees for the airport.
That hand-picked YAA members were straying so far they needed to be replaced by Council en masse suggests there was a breakdown in communication between what the two sides saw for the future of the airport, and suggests a rift between those with a vested interest in the airport, and the major funder the City of Yorkton.
Taking over control of the YAA might give Council its way, but is not likely the best path to have taken.
A blended YAA would have been a better approach.
Assign a majority of the YAA seats to Council members to ensure they have the ultimate hammer come vote time, then round out the Authority with people from the public who can offer user insight and expertise. Such a blend would accomplish Council’s desire for control, but keep communication at the YAA table which would help facilitate repair to a rift which has quite obviously occurred.