Friday, October 4, 2013

Emotions run high at City Council session

Monday's City Council session featured a fair amount of emotion during the public comment phase of the evening's events, with two presentations to Council's Committee of the Whole that provided for two very different reactions from the City's Mayor and Council.

The first presentation was from a delegation of property owners on the West side of town, clearly unhappy with the prospect of a condo development proposed for their side of the city in the area bordering on the site of the old Westview school.

The delegation spent twenty minutes expressing their concern and disappointment in the approach that the City has taken on the issue, taking the City to task over the proposal and outlining their displeasure at the process that the city had taken regarding it.

Council perhaps a little surprised over the backlash to their plans, offered up a respectful posture to the group, seeking perhaps to diffuse some of their anger.

The Mayor and the city's councillors then one after another, took time to thank the delegation for their presentation, the information they offered and the questions that they had raised.

Expressing their hopes that the Westview delegation would take their concerns to the public forum on October 22nd that the city has planned to discuss the issue further.

The deferential mood of council would soon change however, when Larry Golden, a frequent visitor to the Council chambers took to the microphone and inquired as to the cost of the Council's recent trip to the UBCM convention in Vancouver.

That request was greeted initially with a measured response from the Mayor, but a follow up observation from Mr. Golden regarding some of his perceptions of the value of UBCM seemed to strike a nerve with not only the Mayor, but a string of Councillors, all of whom rose one after the other to take issue with Mr. Golden's line of questioning.

Some of the council members were visibly angry over his commentary and is some cases, called into question whether his frequent appearances and questions do not take up too much of the time of City Staff.

With the emotions of each reply aired, the Mayor returned the discussion to the original question, that of the cost of UBCM attendance, suggesting that a Freedom of Information request be filed with Staff.

A few follow up comments from Mr. Golden seemed to exacerbate the Mayors patience, as the Mayor sternly lectured him about the tone of his commentary and his observations of how Council conducts its business.

You can review the two very different streams of response from Council through the Video Archive for the session, the public contribution to the session runs from the 1 minute mark to the 40 minute mark of the September 30th video feed.

While Council clearly had problems with the line of questioning, the theme of more accountability and transparency of Council business is perhaps something they should consider.

The broad brush approach that Mr. Golden employed was clearly wrong, his impressions of what happens at such gatherings as UBCM was clearly one that justifiably did not sit well with Council.

In a way, it took away from the larger issue that he apparently was trying to relay to Council, that of the need for better public access to Civic expenses.

To that point, Council may wish to review how it delivers such kind of information to the public.

Providing access to the expenses incurred by Council should not require the need of a Freedom of Information request. Rather, towards that much heralded goal of Council of transparency and accountability, such documentation should be readily accessible through the City's website and in the minutes of their regular Council meetings.

That would seem to be the best approach to providing required information to the public in a timely manner and could very well help to engage the community in a more pro-active approach to the affairs of Council.

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