Controversy surrounding Quesnel’s signature gold pan landed back at city council last week.
Quesnel mayor Bob Simpson and council brought forward a report from staff to fact check comments made against the mayor and council in public by Councillor Ron Paull about their role in the decision to relocate the gold pan sign, during a virtual council meeting on Tuesday, June 25.
Mayor Simpson and Coun. Paull squared off on the issue, with Paull in the end denying the allegations.
Paull had implied in public mayor and council ‘hid’ the decision-making process that led to moving the gold pan and that the mayor was acting like ‘a dictator.’
The mayor kept a tight reign on Paull in the meeting, not allowing him to “go back in history” about the gold pan, something city manager Byron Johnson had already established in his report to council.
The report states the City of Quesnel Re-Branding Initiative which concluded at a public council meeting on Jan. 17, 2017, contained a number of potential “symbolic actions representing brand-driven change in Quesnel.”
The “symbolic actions” suggested in the report included “install new gateway signage with new identity north and south of the City” and “repaint the gold pan (remove Gold Pan City text).”
Johnson says the decision to move the gold pan sign has been in the works for a long time and that it has not been hidden from the public whatsoever.
“This first public discussion and reporting on the gold pan location was three and a half years ago,” said Johnson. “The gold pan is still in place, it reflects that this is a long slow process, not that somethings been hidden it’s just been a long, slow process.”
Regarding the voting record related to the gold pan sign, the report states that in Jan. 2017, Council endorsed the City of Quesnel Branding strategy, which included the discussion of moving the gold pan.
Then during a council meeting on July 24, 2018 the Placemaking and Wayfinding Plan which included more discussion about a new Quesnel entrance sign was voted on by council. The project was then brought before the current council on Nov. 27, 2018 for re-affirmation.
“Because this project is very significant to Quesnel, the same presentation was brought to another open council meeting with the new council, this council sitting around the table – so the same report came twice” said Johnson.
According to the report, in 2019, during an open meeting the executive committee discussed potential new locations for the gold pan sign and on Oct. 9, 2019 made the recommendation to council the gold pan sign be moved from Highway 97 to B.C. Rail lands adjacent to the stationhouse which was carried by council.
On Oct. 22, 2019 the executive committee recommendation to relocate the sign to the train station came to an open council meeting where the idea was endorsed by council, with Coun. Paull noted as being opposed.
In closing, Mayor Simpson reiterated that Coun. Paull is welcome to his own opinion but that he may not misrepresent the council and its deliberations.
“I will deem this closed, the city manager has set the record straight,” said Mayor Simpson.
“You are welcome to your opinion, the one thing you are not welcome to do is to present council’s deliberations as dishonest, to present the city as under a dictatorship. You can have all of the contrary opinions you want but you do have an obligation to respect the democracy and the democratic process of council.”