EDITORIAL: Homeless shelter issue splits Courtenay council

While philosophical divides among the members of Comox and Cumberland councils have been more visible, Courtenay council has done its business without much apparent acrimony.
Until last week.

While philosophical divides among the members of Comox and Cumberland councils have been more visible, Courtenay council has done its business without much apparent acrimony.Until last week.In an open disagreement involving the contentious downtown location of a proposed homeless shelter in Courtenay, Coun. Murray Presley walked out of a council meeting, followed by Couns. Larry Jangula and Manno Theos.They were protesting a decision by Mayor Greg Phelps to proceed with a vote on Presley’s motion to ask the Comox Valley Regional District to reopen the property search “for a more suitable site for the homeless shelter.”In other words, a site that didn’t offend downtown business owners.The vote had already been postponed until a mix of Comox Valley politicians, businesspeople and other parties had returned from a tour of shelters in Nanaimo and Duncan.Coun. Jon Ambler, who went on the tour, was absent from last week’s meeting, and Presley thought all councillors should be present to discuss and vote on the motion.Phelps countered that such a precedent could lead to paralysis due to the seven council members unavoidably having to be periodically absent.The votes of Phelps and Couns. Ronna-Rae Leonard and Doug Hillian to allow a vote to proceed thwarted Presley, Jangula and Theos.Their decision to withdraw left council without a quorum, which itself creates a dangerous precedent. Whether the walkout was premeditated or not, it could leave hard feelings.Regardless of how Ambler casts his swing vote when the motion eventually is decided, there seems to be a clean split between the business-sympathetic Presley, Jangula and Theos and the more socially focused Leonard, Hillian and Phelps.Could this precede a challenge to the mayor in the municipal election this November?The next round in council’s shelter debate happens Aug. 2 at 4 p.m. at Courtenay City Hall.editor@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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