You’d need several pairs of rose coloured glasses and a strong prescription, legal or otherwise, to believe all is well amongst those owning property and doing business in downtown Belleville.
An annual general meeting of the Belleville Downtown Business Improvement Area turned into a mutiny on the good ship BDIA or perhaps an attempted coup Wednesday night.
Owner of Kate’s Kitchen Kathryn Brown stood up and said the membership has tried and failed to replace what she called a board of directors that weren’t listening to the membership and not producing tangible results.
She made a motion, and received a seconder, to have the entire board removed before the term ended and an immediate general election soon after to elect a new board.
“This board has shown an absence of leadership, an absence of consultation with members, has offered little tangible evidence of any real success in bringing new business to the downtown and increasing business for those that are there now. There have been too many resignations from the board, and too much turnover in the staff. We do not have confidence in this board of directors”.
However, Chair of the BDIA board Dwane Barratt ruled Brown out of order, stating that according to the organization’s constitution, such a vote could not take place at an annual meeting and that the removal of the board could only be considered after the board itself called a special meeting for such a vote. Ten days notice would have to be given to the membership, and two thirds would have to vote in favour of removing a member or the entire board.
There are 180 members of the BDIA eligible to vote. Just 34 of them were present at the annual meeting.
Longtime board member Paul Dinkel expressed his frustration with Brown’s motion, saying it was impossible to please everyone in an organization like the BDIA and invited everyone to help with ideas and activities. “We need all the help we can get. Join us. We will welcome you with open arms”.
In fact, there were four openings on the board of directors because of the recent resignations of Paula Finkle, Mike Malachowski, Edie Haslauer and Catherine McIntyre. But when nominations from the floor were asked for, only business owner Jim Saunders stepped up to be nominated. He was accepted, leaving three vacancies still.
Another business owner got up and described herself as having been on the board and having lots of ideas and energy to start with but ended up resigning because she and others never felt welcome. “Some of these board members sucked the life out of us.”
Coming to the defense of the current board was a longtime downtown businessman who called it “ridiculous” that people were complaining so much and trying to remove the entire board of directors.
“Why don’t you volunteer and do something positive? Our downtown is becoming beautiful again and here we are fighting amongst ourselves and even suggesting wiping out the board and giving them zero dollars to work with. This is crazy! We’ll never get anywhere like this!”
Sitting on the board of directors now are Chair Dwane Barratt, Paul Dinkel, council representative Mitch Panciuk, Ed Kafka, Jamie Troke, Peter Reedyk, Jesus Estevez, and newcomer Jim Saunders.