What'd I miss?
A whole lotta school district stuff, it seems
Hello! I’m back from a trip to New York City, which was great. One thing that always strikes me about visiting megacities is how if we built like one or two blocks of apartments like what they have in places with much larger populations, we’d be able to add a sizable chunk to our population without any additional sprawl.
And it’s not like they don’t have parks around — they’re all over the place. The real barrier is probably the fact that people want to have someplace to park their cars, which is not so much a thing there because driving in that sort of densitiy is far worse than taking transit. Anyways, this isn’t a newsletter about New York, it’s one about Prince George so… what’d I miss?
The school board chair now a self-declared arbiter of who can write the truth
After ignoring interview requests for months, school board chair Rachel Weber finally spoke to the Prince George Post’s Jack Moulton about why she’s not been speaking to media:
Speaking on her sparse appearances in the media since becoming the board chair, Weber says that it is simply not a requirement of her position and that she prefers her engagement to be directly with members of the district and community.
She adds that the board has kept the public updated through statements and letters, and that the larger community can track what SD 57 is doing through its website, through district parent advisory council meetings, and at its public board meetings.
The media has skewed toward negative headlines and sensationalized writing over positive developments within the district she says, and it overshadows the “extremely valuable” faculty that do hard work day and night.
“I was put here to do a job, not to be a media person, and to answer to every single media call that I get,” she explains. “It is a respect that I will give to those who have shown me that they can write the truth, and can be honest, and cannot guide a narrative that isn’t there.”
Reading between the lines, she’s basically saying that she hasn’t spoken to CKPG, the Prince George Citizen, My Prince George Now or CBC because she doesn’t think they cannot write the truth or be honest. The last time I can remember a local government official in Prince George boycotting a media outlet was when mayor Shari Green refused to speak to the website Opinion 250 for similar reasons. She was not reelected.
Putting all of that aside, I’m more interested in the first two paragraphs where Weber says she would rather engage directly with the community. Remember this: Weber represents and lives in Mackenzies but is chair of a school board where the vast majority of people (more than 95 per cent) live in Prince George. Of course, that doesn’t matter since, as I’ve pointed out before, all she’s had to do so far is get a handful of votes in Mackenzie:
Weber has received a total of 76 votes, in the January 2022 by-election, and is now the board chair.
Mackenzie and the Robson Valley combined are in the vicinity of 4,000 people. Prince George is closer to 90,000. That means two people on a board of eight get 25 per cent of the decision-making power while representing about three per cent of the population.
Put it another way: The person to get the least votes in the race for school board in Prince George was Taylor Martin. They got 2,912. That’s almost as many people as who live in Mackenzie total. It’s more than twice the number of people who live in Valemount. There’s something to be said for geographic representation — which I think most people in Prince George would agree on, when it comes to the north vs. Vancouver/Victoria debates — but it does mean there is less scrutiny on people who are just as responsible for decision-making as those who are running in Prince George.
The fact that Weber, on top of not having to go through the same level of scrutiny or competition in order to get elected as the trustees elected in Prince George is now saying she has no obligation to explain her or her board’s decision-making is… something. And it’s also interesting to me that the remaining school board trustees who do represent Prince George are, for now, apparently willing to go along with her on this point, deferring all media requests to Weber. While it’s often the policy of local governments to defer to mayors/school board chairs to speak about their policies the fact of the matter is they are not obligatedto do this — and, one could argue, they should be speaking on their own. They weren’t elected as part of a party with Weber as leader. They were elected as individual representatives, and it as individuals that they are choosing to not speak to the community about these things. It’s just about four years until the next election and I guess we’ll see if this holds and/or if the voters of Prince George are happy with the way things are being handled.
Also the school district wants to charge journalists more than $8,000 to get information about the departure of the previous superintendent
Since Weber won’t talk to him, Caden Fanshaw at CKPG has filed a freedom of information request for documentation and emails related to the departure of the previous superintendent and was told it would cost him $8,140. Transparency!
Daycare delays as the city and school district fail to reach a lease agreement
There are many stories of people desperate for childcare in this city so the fact that a new facility built for this purpose is sitting empty is, not surprising, frustrating many. Here’s the story from Hanna Petersen at the Citizen:
However, the new building, completed in January, has been sitting empty as the City of Prince George and School District No. 57 (SD57) negotiated a leasing agreement, which SD57 has now declined.
“There's a lease agreement that we don't think is going to be feasible for us moving forward,” said acting superintendent Pam Spooner.
Spooner said the district’s priority is its current childcare programs.
The district has six community-run childcare programs providing145 spaces for children from zero to five and 14 community-run programs providing 400 before-and-after-school care spaces for children five to 13, as well as early learning Strong Start programming.
“We stress that we totally understand the importance of helping our community with respect to childcare and we and we look forward to positive relationships moving forward with the city and with any partner groups with respect to childcare,” added Spooner.
She noted that SD57 is also working on a number of its own grant applications to expand its childcare services.
Jean Petrovic, administrator with Kool Cats Kid Care, says the city wanted SD57 to lease the facility, and then have Kool Cats sublet it from them.
The city did not respond to the Citizen’s request for comment.
Now to check in on encampments
The regional district is concerned that an encampment has moved onto the front lawn and figuring out its legal options. RCMP seem to think that Prince George’s bylaws supercede the province’s policy on decriminalization. And city council is ‘satisfied’ the province understands these issues after meeting with David Eby.
I wrote here recently about the lack of EV infrastructure from Prince George north toward Mackenzie and the Peace. FOI documents from PostMedia show just how bad it is:
A July 2021 email between two staffers in the Ministry of Transportation acknowledged that EV charging stations aren’t monitored regularly and there is no way to update the public about charging stations that aren’t working. EV drivers instead rely on the PlugShare map, which provides up-to-date information on EV charging stations around the world.
Staff also confirmed in the email correspondence that faulty EV stations typically take at least 48 hours to repair. Often, EV drivers who call a maintenance number listed on the charging station are answered by staff unsure who to call to fix the problem.
South, east and west of Prince George are all fine, but this route north needs to be prioritized, many people quoted in this piece say.
I need this mug
They were sold out tho :(
The city’s fact-checking page has fact-checked whether its fact-checks are accurate, so that’s cleared up.
A Prince George woman has filed a lawsuit against the provincial government in which she alleges the Ministry of Children and Family Services failed to come to her aid when she was coerced into prostitution as a 15-year-old girl.
The HUB Collective is once again asking the city to not have to fulfill its promise to build student housing, blaming COVID and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (?)
The Prince George Cougars management is happy with the way the season finished — a four game sweep in the second round of playoffs wasn’t great, but there’s a sense the team is moving in the right direction and apparently there was a league-leading surge in ticket sales.
The cheapest house in Prince George. I’ll note it’s more expensive than what was pretty much average back when I bought twelve years ago.
Nice to read an article about a downtown business that likes being downtown (I’m sure most do, we just don’t hear from them as much).
Cyclists start petition for better bike lanes. Yes, please.
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