In a move that seemed intent to prove Will Rogers’ observation that “common sense just ain’t that common,” Sooke municipal hall was moved Friday to sweep down on the Charters Creek Salmon Hatchery with a vigour not seen since the days of Elliot Ness and the prohibition.
They issued a stop work order on the volunteer-driven initiative, causing at least one longtime volunteer to quit, saying he was nauseated by the action of the municipality.
The project, you’ll recall, is completely volunteer driven with locals giving up thousands of hours of labour and hundreds of thousands of dollars to improve the community.
But the volunteers at the hatchery, it seemed, had made the decision to go ahead with the construction of the site in violation of the rules. Seeing the backlog of building permit applications at the Municipal Hall and, knowing that they had very strict timelines to add another half million young salmon into the ecosystem, they had proceeded to build without the necessary permits in place.
That’s not to say that they did it in secret. They had been in regular contact with municipal bureaucrats right up to the day of the stop work order and were trying to accommodate the municipality’s engineering requirements as quickly and as best they could.
But red tape is red tape, it seems.
When the work stopped and the municipality’s action became known in the community, there was an outcry that left politicians and bureaucrats alike scrambling for a way to undo the damage they’d caused.
Phone calls were made and the mayor and council became personally involved to fix the problem, offering support that came far too late.
Of course, rules should be obeyed but Sooke is a small municipality and this problem could have been seen coming months ago.
The situation was a chance for the municipal hall and elected officials to be proactive and demonstrate their vision and their support for the volunteers that are the beating heart of Sooke.
But instead of offering early assistance to the project, Sooke’s politicians and bureaucrats watched as the situation worsened and then overreacted with a heavy-handed response that left many shaking their head with disgust.
Let’s hope that the experience serves to enlighten those who created this chaos and remind them that, 20 years from now, they’ll be remembered more by the things they didn’t do than by their accomplishments.