Ya got trouble, right here in River City

Plain Rhetoric
By Bill McQuarrie
December 12, 2017 - 5:00am Updated: December 12, 2017 - 9:48am

KAMLOOPS — As I watched last week’s city council meeting, I couldn’t help but think of the old Broadway play, Music Man. It’s a humorous musical about the arrival of a pool hall in conservative small-town America. The innocent and perhaps misguided townspeople are led to believe that this pool hall will be the corrupter of their children. In fact their idyllic town, which is coincidentally called River City, may not survive the resulting sin that is surely to arrive at their doorstep?

“Friend, either you’re closing your eyes

To a situation you do not wish to acknowledge

Or you are not aware of the calibre of disaster indicated

By the presence of a pool table in your community.

Well, ya got trouble my friend, right here,

I say, trouble right here in River City.”

While admittedly corny, this song was called, “Ya Got Trouble” and it is as hokey as one would expect from a musical from the 50s. Yet last week I half expected city council and senior staff to break out in song and dance about the imagined community perils we now face. In fact so bad that it requires raising the non-complying business licence fines from the previous maximum of $200 to an all time high of $10,000. It was their less than imaginative solution to a Sodom and Gomorrah catastrophe awaiting us right here in River City.

“Ya got trouble, folks, right here in River City.

Trouble with a capital “T”

And that rhymes with “P” and that stands for pool!”

Of course in our River City, the custodians of moral decency were fearful of the dire consequences of reefer madness. It would be a special kind of drug-induced frenzy, surely evident to all as we begin the transition from unlicensed pot stores to the legal sale of marijuana. And what better way to put a lid on this excess of moral decay, corruption and ruination than a $10,000 dollar fine for operating a business without a licence. At least so goes the recommendation from staff to city council.

Keep in mind that while the intent of this proposed by-law is to root out the purveyors of our pool hall equivalent of moral degradation, the by-law will actually cover all businesses, cannabis crazed or not. And just to make sure the net is as big as the payoff, they recommended adding a new licence category in the form of landlords who may intentionally or unintentionally rent their premises to a reefer retailer.

After all, why go for just one $10,000 fine when you can also include the landlord and double that city revenue to an amazing $20,000. And that is per day folks, right here in River City.

It seems senior staff feel a by-law covering all businesses from home based mom & pop enterprises, to retailers, manufactures, dentists, lawyers, accountants, day cares, lottery corporations and anyone else needing a business licence is the only solution. I mean, how else are they to prevent our fall into the arms of the devil?

It seems the problem — that starts with a “P” and rhymes with “T” and stands for trouble — is immense, almost insurmountable and swift, if not well-planned action is needed. Needed to stop something that in a matter of months will be legal and likely managed by the province in the same way as liquor sales.

As I listened to earnest city staffers describe a problem so obvious to them and so huge, I couldn’t help but wonder why, despite having over 30 months to figure it out, they only now are coming to grips with the issue?

The barbarian, reefer-smoking hordes are advancing on our City gates and the best anyone could come up with was a last minute draconian, ill-conceived, inclusive of all businesses and laughable licence by-law fine?

When asked what other cities were doing and why we are now playing catch up, our Director of Development and Engineering services gave this head scratching explanation. “Vancouver got ahead of things and they put in the full regime of zoning. They’re allowing them, but they put in their full regime in advance.” Which oddly seems only to confirm their ineptitude and lack of planning for something similar, progressive and as smart. Remember they had examples of other cities and two and a half years to do something constructive.

Why do I get this feeling I can’t shake that for those past two and a half years our council and staff wasted their time trying to find ways to delay, block, punish or legally hinder the inevitable? It’s almost like they sat in private meetings and feeding off of each other’s cannabis anxieties, paid lawyers and consultants for advice in a vain attempt to find ways to stop it.

Other municipalities prepared, worked on intelligent solutions and implemented well thought out strategies. Kamloops on the other hand brings out an eleventh hour $10,000 sledge hammer along with a disjointed interpretation of applying that sledge hammer and wonders why, to paraphrase Rodney Dangerfield, “they don’t get no respect”.

“We've surely got trouble!

Right here in River City!

Oh, we've got trouble.

We're in terrible, terrible trouble.”

NOTE: This is the second draft of Plain Rhetoric this week, published at about 9:50 a.m Tuesday, December 12.