Like a Thief in the Night: Quesnel Mayor Simpson Removes Controversial Gold Pan City Sign on Stormy Night

City News Desk

Like a Thief in the Night:

Quesnel City Mayor Bob Simpson

Removes Controversial Gold Pan City Sign on a Stormy Night 

July 23, 2020

Updated July 24, 2020

 

By Arthur Topham

Editor & Publisher,

Quesnel Cariboo Sentinel

"They called it stormy Monday, but Tuesday was just as bad."

- T-Bone Walker, Stormy Monday Blues

In the midst of one of the more dramatic lightning and thunder storms to pass over the City of Quesnel this year, Mayor Bob Simpson, on Tuesday, July 21st, 2020 sent out a city work crew who, in the late afternoon, like a thief in the night, furtively removed the controversial Quesnel Gold Pan City sign from its original location at the intersection of Hwy 97 and the Barkerville Hwy and set it up next to the train station downtown. Such audacity on the part of the city, given all the recent public discussions, petitions, heated arguments, poll results, intimidation toward city councillors opposed to the move, letters to the editor and even a public Protest Rally to boot begs the question as to what Quesnel's Mayor and Council were thinking when they pulled off this sly stunt. 

Word reached this news site late Tuesday evening when the editor was on the local Quesnel Facebook Group "What the Hell Quesnel" and saw that some members had posted the news of the sign's removal at that time. As I was living out in Cottonwood 26 km east of where the historic sign once stood there wasn't time to drive in while the dark deed was underway.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/718362208897527/

The following Wednesday I drove into town and stopped at the intersection to take photos of the crime scene before going downtown. The first photo was taken prior to the removal of the iconic sign.

The original site of the Quesnel Gold Pan City sign since 1987 

In days gone by the iconic gold pan would have stood out like a sore thumb against the backdrop of greenery

Note the natural setting where sign originally stood

The thought crossed my mind as I carried on down 2 Mile Flat into the city, "I wonder where they took it? Hmmm... llkely to the maintenance yard so they could repaint it." 

While heading up the hill south to do some shopping I was surprised to see the sign already set up in its proposed new location at the train station. I stopped again to take photos. 

Earlier on when this tempest in a pan had overflowed into the fires of indignation and controvery I had created a simulated image taken from of an actual group photo at the original location and transposed it to the proposed site next to the railroad station where the sign was slated to appear. That image appears directly below and shows what a stark contrast there is to the beautiful setting along Hwy #97 when juxtaposed with the unsightly viewscape one sees along the tracks.

Simulation of a group photo taken at the Quesnel train station

Why the Mayor and Council had the city crew set the sign up immediately is not known but it couldn't have been for publicity purposes in terms of attracting the notice of any tourists who might have stopped across the highway at the Quesnel Visitor's Centre. The sign was filthy dirty with rust showing around the edges and the accompanying shovel and pick were left laying next to it on the pavement also in disrepair and in dire need of refurbishing as was the sign itself. One can easily see this from the photos below.

A sign of the times or a sign of poor judgement?

The Quesnel Gold Pan City sign has been in the news and on the minds of local citizens since last year when residents first became aware of it's proposed fate. Not being all that impressed with the concept of removing one of Quesnel's main tourism landmarks that had been standing in it's original location without any problem since 1987 initiatives were taken to try and rectify the anticipated move on the part of city council.t

Spearheading the efforts for greater transparency local Quesnel resident Debra Cann McKelvie, upon hearing of the proposed move in the Fall of 2019 filed a Freedom of Information request with the city to determine how the decision to relocate the sign came about. 

 

Strange as it may appear McKelvie, on the very same day that the sign was removed, had earlier sent an Open Letter to the Mayor and Council of Quesnel contained the findings of the FOI file as well as additional information pertaining to the uncalled for and callous treatment of Councilman Ron Paull by the Mayor and Council and City Manager Byron Johnson at the July 23, 2020 council meeting.

In her letter to the Mayor and Council McKelvie also pointed out that she had hand delivered a petition to city council that contained over 600 signatures of local citizens who were opposed to the proposed relocation of the sign.

On top of all this letters were written to the Quesnel Cariboo Observer after the paper published a poll taken showing that close to 86% of votes were opposed to moving the sign.

There's another side to this story that needs to be told and it appears on another local Facebook group known as "Quesnel in Action" hosted by Debra Cann McKelvie. I will be posting that Open Letter later on the QCS but to read it now on the original source please go to the Quesnel In Action group on FB and read the "facts" as they purport to be. 

https://www.facebook.com/groups/QuesnelInAction/

Concerns continued to grow along with the diminishing responses from the Mayor and Council until finally McKelvie and others decided to organize a public Protest Rally; an event that took place May 31, 2020 at the site of the endangered sign.

Posters such as this one on the entrance to Granville's Coffee alerted citizens to the upcoming Rally

That occasion finally proved to be most efficacious in terms of getting the attention of the public, the media and the Mayor and Council. The local Observer was in attendance and gave the story a front page photo but, unfortunately along with it, a lop-sided news story mainly devoted to the Mayor's interpretation of the event which he snidely dismissed as nothing but a "knee-jerk reaction to change".

Having attended the event I videotaped the keynote address to the crowd by long-time city councillor Ron Paull. 

Elder Councilman Ron Paull speaking to attendants at the May 31, 2020 "Save Our Sign" Protest Rally

Later I posted the video on Facebook. Some protestors had created posters to bring along and this woman had a special message for the mayor:

 

"If it ain't broken don't fix it"

During his keynote address Councilman Ron Paull told the audience that about a week prior to the event he had received a letter from the Mayor stating he had been relieved of all his Civic Duties and was not to speak on behalf of the city of Quesnel. If he did he was told, in no uncertain terms, that he must preface all his remarks with the words, "In my opinion". Such autocratic, dictatorial behaviour on the part of Mayor brought forth further reactions, both at the Rally and later on social media where we saw new caricature cartoons being produced and much commentary that reflected the revealing words of the beleagured elder Councilman, Ron Paull.

Even Boxcar Willie provided fodder for the folly of Mayor Simpson

The fall-out from Councilman Paull's address was soon to occur and at the next city council meeting held on July 23, 2020 the fecal matter finally hit the proverbial fan. Mayor Simpson, reacting to the videotape of the event and all that was said by those in attendance, including Councillor Paul's address, then used the pretext of a hastily prepared "fact check" Report written by City Manager Byron Johnson to go on the offensive in order to reclaim and assert his power over what he likely perceived to be dissention within the ranks of council members. See that 14 minute portion of the council meeting here.  

Mayor Simpson's outrageous and demeaning behaviour toward elder city Councilman Ron Paull was likely unprecedented. At one point in his harangue he attempted to chastize Paull for not standing up for the Mayor's office when Simpson overheard one of the protestors state on video that he, Simpson, was behaving like a "dictator" with respect to the whole Gold Pan sign issue and his stubborn refusal to leave it where it was. Given that he was behaving more like a totalitarian dictator similar to the Soviet Union's infamous Joseph Stalin only added further to the number of meme's appearing that tended to justify the Mayor's bolshevik-style behaviour toward Councilman Paull.

Mayor Simpson or Kommissar Simpson?

This latest move (of the Gold Pan City sign) on the part of Mayor Simpson and those on council who condone his actions will undoubtedly do little to resolve the issue. Like the Mayor's previous flippant remark dismissing local citizen's genuine concerns as merely "knee-jerk reactions to change" such reactionary behaviour is more in keeping with a desperado than a distinquished Statesman.

Meanwhile we will be keeping a close eye on the movements of the Mayor and Council as this sad saga continues to unwind.

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P.S. News tips are always welcome. If you have information to add to this story feel free to contact the editor at info@quesnelcariboosentinel.com