Courtenay mayor criticized on social media for email reply to citizen

Courtenay Mayor Larry Jangula is unapologetic about an email reply he made to a city resident over transit taxes.

His response to an email from Melanie McCollum has stirred up a bit of a hornets’ nest on social media.

But Jangula doesn’t see why.

McCollum had emailed Jangula expressing her “shock and dismay” at his comments regarding extra funding for transit next year.

Jangula, along with several other regional district board directors, voted against spending more money next year on a “frequent transit” plan. The mayor said taxpayers are just about tapped out.

McCollum had written “as a middle class property owner I would have no issue seeing some of my property tax dollars fund better public transit in this community.

“You are completely correct that this will be an election issue. I will ensure that I speak to as many people as possible about your attitudes towards funding public transit in our region.”

Jangula’s response?

“Thanks for letting me know that you are shocked and concerned that I and others opposed another large tax grab on the backs of our taxpaying public. Seeing that you are willing to pay more taxes I will ask our staff if we can set up a special method of billing in order that you can contribute more for transit if that(’s) what you would like.”

McCollum’s husband posted both her original email and Jangula’s response on Twitter, and she posted it on her Facebook page, where it’s prompted a bit of a storm against Jangula.

The thread has been shared more than 100 times, and there are more than 90 comments on it, mostly opposing Jangula’s comments.

“I don’t understand why this is such a controversial thing,” said Jangula. “The lady sent me an email. She said she was very willing to pay more for transit. I simply replied. That was it.”

Jangula did read McCollum’s email, though, as a bit of a personal attack.

“I’m tired of being beaten up by these people,” he said. “What would be an appropriate answer? It’s like people slapping you on the face. After a while it gets a little tiring.”

McCollum said, though, that her email wasn’t in any way intended to be an attack on Jangula.

She said even though she doesn’t use transit herself, preferring to ride a bicycle to work, she does support trying to make the system better for those who do use it.

“I was amazed at the condescension and sarcasm,” McCollum said of the email reply she received from Jangula.

McCollum said she thought his reply should be shared on social media to illustrate the level and quality of communication from the mayor.

“I have emailed local politicians before and … they have been very respectful and often quite thoughtful,” she said, adding that many people aren’t aware of how the mayor responds to people he doesn’t agree with.

McCollum said she doesn’t have an issue disagreeing on transit, it was the tone of the reply.

“It was like a ‘how dare you’ response. That’s how I interpreted it,” she said.

Courtenay councillor Manno Theos, Comox councillor Ken Grant and Area B director Rod Nichol sided with Jangula on the transit issue at last month’s regional district board meeting.

In the end, the “weighted vote” system saw the transit expenditure pass, 23 to 19.

The new “frequent transit” network will see 15-20 minute frequency between downtown Comox, North Island College, downtown Courtenay and the Driftwood Mall/Anfield Centre.

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