Sidewinder: In business of representing Ridge

If the mayor and council members don’t represent residents, who does?

According to Jim Rule, chief administrative officer for Maple Ridge, the problem of hospital parking is not a municipal issue because, “We are not in the hospital business.”

This might possibly be the most insulting and biggest nonsense ever uttered by a municipal official in the history of Maple Ridge.

Of course the municipality is not in the hospital business. But it should be in the business of properly representing the interests of Maple Ridge residents before regional boards and other jurisdictions, something that has been woefully inadequate for several years.

Hospital parking is just the most current example of poor representation on regional issues.

People being paid more than $250,000 yearly out of the public purse probably have a difficult time identifying with others who are struggling to make ends meet.

And when it comes to pay parking at the hospital, they don’t recognize the impact on pensioners and others on low incomes of having to cope with the illness of loved ones and the unjustifiably high parking rates.

The municipality’s own structured underground parking facility apparently produces a profit or breaks even with free parking for the first hour and 75 cents for the second hour.

And it is obvious that the structured parking facility is more costly to construct and maintain, but can and does operate with such low rates.

If the mayor and council members don’t represent the interests of local residents, who does?

Coun. Judy Dueck was recently upset because Coun. Corisa Bell raised the issue of hospital parking without advance notice, even though the topic has been high profile for weeks, or months.

It almost seems that Ms. Dueck and others can’t discuss anything at public council meetings without staff reports and investigations, which in turn provide sufficient time to deny whatever request is before council.

Although Ridge Meadows Hospital is located in Maple Ridge and purports to serve the medical needs of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows residents, in reality, the ridiculously high parking rates serve only the needs of the contracted parking patrol company.

It would seem that Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows have no direct input into the policies of the Fraser Regional Health Authority, the decision making board which sets the parking rates.

While Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows councils can’t change the parking rates, collectively, council and senior staff members have a moral obligation to represent the best interests of all local residents, and that should include consideration for affordable parking rates for hospital volunteers and visitors, many of whom are already enduring heartache and agony over illness and injuries of their loved ones and family members.

It’s high time that someone stood up and let their voice be heard in opposition to the tyranny of uncaring, unfeeling bureaucracies whose only apparent interest is their own sphere of activity.

Ms. Bell is leading the way on Maple Ridge council in opposing the high parking fees at Ridge Meadows Hospital.

And, if quoted accurately, Coun. Al Hogarth is the only other council member willing to step forward.

Other council members and senior staff are showing shameful neglect of their moral obligations to local residents.

Sandy Macdougall is a retired journalist and former district councillor.

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