Wednesday, January 28, 2015

City Council Timeline, Monday, January 26, 2015

For the most part Monday's City Council session was your run of the mill gathering of municipal governance, a few bylaws to deal with, a couple of presentations, pretty tame fare, at least until the Mayor took to changing the procedures of the night.

A fair  bit of controversy dogged the last hour of Monday's two hour meeting, as Councillors Thorkelson and Cunningham expressed some concerns over a few procedural matters, particularly over the cancellation of the night's Committee of the Whole session.

For the first hour, Council's business was taken up by a pair of presentations one from the organizers of the Northern Growth Conference and the other from Northern Health.

A request regarding the annual Guns And Hoses Charity Hockey game and a proclamation request from the Chamber of Commerce also made up part of the night's workload.

Council also moved forward the process that will see some Transit Fares increase this May, while holding the line on other proposed fare changes from BC Transit.

Councillor Thorkelson who was out of town, participated in the proceedings by way of Internet telephone link.  The bulk of her contribution for the evening coming towards the end, when she once again raised some issues with the path that events at Council have taken in recent weeks.

For some background on the evening's scheduled items of note see the Council Agenda for January 26th here.

Further information from our overview and permanent placement in the video archive can be found below, with the permanent record of the minutes added as they are posted to the city Website.

In Attendance January 26, 2014

Mayor Lee Brain -- Present  
Councillor Barry Cunningham-- Present
Councillor Councillor Blair Mirau -- Present
Councillor Wade Niesh-- Present 
Councillor Nelson Kinney-- Present
Councillor Gurvinder Randhawa-- Present
Councillor Joy Thorkelson-- Present (participated by telephone)

Video Archive for January 26, 2014

( 0:00- 18:00 ) The Mayor opened up the session by announcing that the Committee of the Whole for the evening was being cancelled, advising that the City is exploring new engagement strategies on how to gain feedback from the public on a more regular basis on a number of issues. Though he did note that one item on the evening's agenda, that of the Fee Setting Bylaw related  to Transit Fees might give members of the public cause for comment. So with that, he advised that when Council reached that part of the evening's work, comments from a delegation from the public would be accepted.

Following those opening remarks, Council then adopted the minutes of past meetings, though the Mayor had one correction for those minutes, that related to the creation of a Small Business Task Force,  which he advised should also be referred to as by a Select Standing Committee.

( 3:00 -- 11:00   )  A Presentation from John Farrell and Paul Venditelli regarding the upcoming  Northern Growth Conference -- Mr. Farrell provided an overview of the upcoming conference which is designed to engage Small Business operators, or would be small business operators in the discussion about opportunities that could be coming to the region in the future for the area.

He offered up a blue print of the conference and some of the topics that they will be focusing on over the two days of the gathering. With the First day dedicated to opportunities that could be coming to the Northwest.

Entrepreneurs will also be taking part in the evening session of the first night, outlining some of the challenges, both the successes and the failures that they faced in starting up their businesses.

The second day features sessions on positioning businesses to fit into the supply chain,  and offering a mini boot camp of sorts, to gain more knowledge on the topic. As well as to offer some suggestions on  how to ensure that local companies get a share of some of the opportunities that will arrive with growth.

In addition to the two days of meetings and get togethers, Mr.Venditelli outlined the nature of the Trade show element that will also be a featured part of the conference.

The City of Prince Rupert is a platinum sponsor for the gathering for this first edition of the Northern Growth Conference set to take place on March 6th and 7th.

( 11:00 -- 34:00 )  A Presentation from Ms. Sheila Gordon-Payne and Jane Boutette from Northern Health -- Providing background on the Healthy Communities program in the region, explaining the focus of Northern Health's program through its Healthy Communities Committee.

The pair stressed the nature of the consultative and innovative approach to address some of the health concerns that the project is trying to take on. Taking a more pro-active approach to health care, to help residents access services and programs that will enhance their health and lifestyles.

Of particular concern for the Prince Rupert approach and among their objectives for this year of the local Healthy Communities Committee, will be a look at youth at risk and Seniors.

They also outlined the need for those in the Community to take advantage of Grant opportunities through Northern Health, noting that they did not have a large number of applicants for the recent Grant period, leaving some grant money that could have been made available to the community behind.

Councillors Cunningham and Thorkelson will be representing the City of Prince Rupert as part of the Committee.

( 34:00 -- 38:00 ) Opportunity for Members of the Public to comment on the Transit Fare increases -- Mr. Charles Justice, representing the Prince Rupert Environmental Society provided his observations on the proposed Transit Fare increases and his suggestions on how to better encourage residents to make use of Transit in the community.

Reports and Recommendations

( 38:00 -- 42:00  ) Report from the City Planner regarding a Development Variation Permit for a property on Immanuel Street. -- City Planner Zeno Krekic provided a review of the work of the City Planners office and what Council might expect in the weeks to come regarding the property on Immanuel Street. He then moved on to the  background of the Permit currently under review by Council.

Council voted to carry the motion

( 42:00-- 44:00  ) Report from the Corporate Administrator regarding the City of Prince Rupert SQCRD voting rights.  -- Mr. Mandryk outlined the nature of the voting procedures at Regional District. Following the explanation that there is a total number of seven Prince Rupert votes at SQCRD, Councillor Kinney recommended that the Mayor take four votes and that he would hold the three remaining votes at Regional District.

Councillor Thorkelson participating by telephone inquired as to some of the procedures of Regional District.

Council passed the motion

( 44:00--45:00 ) Report from the Corporate Administrator regarding the rescheduling of a Regular Council Meeting -- Mr. Mandryk outlined that as the February 9th meeting was falling on Family Day, that it was required reschedule the Regular season of Council to the next day February 10th.

Council passed the Motion.

( 45:00 -- 46:00 )  Report from the Building Inspector regarding a property suffering Fire Damage -- Mr. Mandryk spoke on behalf of the Building Inspector, outlining the nature of the Fire Damage and a request to hold off on any Civic orders while the mortgage holder explores its options.

Council passed the motion

Correspondences for Action

( 46:00--47:00  Request from the Director of the Chamber of Commerce -- The Mayor reviewed the request for a proclamation to declare the week of February 16-20th to be known as Chamber of Commerce Week.

Council approved the proclamation.

( 47:00 -- 49:00 ) Request from the Organizers of the Guns and Hoses Charity Hockey Game
Council reviewed the letter of request to waive the fee on the Civic Centre in benefit of the Annual Charity Hockey Game. After some discussion, and with Councillor Cunningham outlining the nature of the Charity to benefit from the game, Everybody gets to play.

Following the discussion Council voted to approved the motion.

( 49:00 -- 50:30 ) Report from the Corporate Administrator regarding a Road Closure Notification for McCutcheon Road -- Mr. Mandryk reviewed how Council had already given the motion first, second and third readings and this would be the final action to adopt the road closure bylaw.

Council voted to adopt the motion.

( 50:30 -- 1:27:00 )  Report from the Chief Financial Officer Regarding the  Fees and Charges Amendment -- Ms. Bomben provided an overview of the proposed Fees and Charges changes to be considered for BC Transit. From her review she recommended that the proposed fee changes as presented by BC Transit be accepted, all new fares would be in effect as of May 1st.

Council then discussed the issue, with the Mayor leading off outlining his thoughts on the recommended fee Structure, expressing the fear that by increasing fees that the City may find a reduction in the use of the service.

Councillor Cunningham echoed the Mayors concerns over the possibility of a decline in usage and also expressed some thoughts on the impact on Seniors. Councillor Kinney offered up much the same commentary as those of Councillor Cunningham.

Councillor Niesh expressed his observations that the City needs to move more towards user pay concepts to take the burden off of residential taxpayers, he also offered up reminders to Council as to some of the programs available for those in need to access transit pass options. He wasn't very concerned over the suggested increase for Seniors as a major concern.

Councillor Thorkelson's concerns on the topic focused on the daily rates for transit, stating that she disagrees whole heartedly with the increases suggested there, wondering why Council would want to boost them just to match up with other communities in the province. She outlined how she would be willing to work with other members of Council to launch a campaign to urge residents to use Transit more often.

Councillor Cunningham pointed out for Councillor Niesh that a lot of the Seniors own their homes too and it's not a case of taking advantage, he also said he would be willing to try and encourage residents to make better use of transit.

Councillor Randhawa also had concerns over the proposed changes, while Councillor Kinney then pointed out that while there have been a number of increases to recreation fees and other areas, Seniors pensions don't rise.

Councillor Niesh observed that Prince Rupert was the only community to offer its own Senior Pass, if they adopted the BC Transit plan, Seniors could use their passes in other communities served by BC Transit. He also pointed out that those Seniors that had already purchased their passes would be using them for the rest of the year, with the new increase not to take effect until 2016.

Councillor Randhawa recommended a compromise, suggesting that the Seniors Fare be increased to only 24 dollars per year.

Councillor Thorkelson offered up some further comments that the impact of increased daily fares would have on the working poor and the unemployed.

The Mayor at that point then suggested that Council seek further information from Staff regarding the numbers, giving cause for the City Manager to weigh in advising that Council needed to address the proposal under consideration adding amendments if they wish.

Following those observations Councillor Kinney recommended that Council go with the proposal that had been provided by staff, with the exception of changing the Seniors Pass fee to 24 dollars.

The Mayor suggested that he was fine with the fare of 2 dollars for adults, but that the city should keep the same cash fare day rate in place now for Students/Seniors at $1.50, as well as to keep the price of the book of tickets process currently in place of ten tickets for the price of nine at a cost of $13.50.

He was fine with the monthly pass provisions, and would peg the price for Adult Day pass remain at 4 dollars while Seniors/Students would cost $3.76. That amount was later adjusted to round down to $3.75.

Councillor Thorkelson outlined a matter of procedure on the issue, leaving Council to discuss the chain of events that led up to the motion under consideration.

After a recap of the amendments in place from the Corporate Administrator. Council held its vote to adopt the motion, with all in agreement, with the exception of Councillor Thorkelson who recapped her objections to the increased fares.

Council then gave First, Second and Third reading to the Bylaw, with Councillor Thorkelson again reinforcing her opposition to the bylaw.

( 1:27:00  -- 1:31:00 )At this point the Mayor attempted to bring the meeting to a close and take Council to its Special Session for the evening.

However, Council members advised the Mayor that they had not finished the Agenda, with Councillor Thorkelson observing that they had not addressed additional items or Questions and Inquiries from Council Members.

The Mayor stated from his understanding of the process, that since those items had not been stated as they adopted the Agenda at the start of the Council meeting, that there then was no need to address them at this time.

An interpretation that Councillor Thorkelson took issue with, advising that its quite different from past practice, suggesting that it was a topic of concern that Council should have further discussion on.

For this Council session, The Mayor advised that he was willing to accept any issues or comments.

Councillor Thorkelson then asked some more questions regarding the new process the Mayor would like to follow and suggesting that it is different from the past.

Councillor Cunningham also spoke in favour of the past process where Council members had opportunity to recount their contact with the members of the community, suggesting that they shouldn't have to place them on the Agenda at the start of the meeting.

The Mayor then said he would review his interpretation of the procedures and at that point asked if there were any additional comments from Council for the evening.

( 1:31:00 -- 1:54:00 ) Comments or Inquiries from Council

Councillor Cunningham made comment about the success of the CBC Daybreak Food Bank in Prince Rupert, with this community donating more than Prince George.

He also called attention to the recent birthday of Harry Stewart a long time resident of the community and acknowledged his long membership with the Royal Canadian Legion.

Councillor Randhawa had concerns over the high price of gas in Prince Rupert and inquired if there is anything that the City could do to express its concern.

Councillor Thorkelson offered up a remembrance on how the City addressed the issue in the past.

She then had two items for Council, the first making note of a memorial for Chief Bob Hill, highlighting many of his achievements in the Community. She also suggested that the City provide a letter of condolence and acknowledgment of his work on behalf of the community on a number of Boards in the community.

Council voted to approve the motion to compose the letter of condolence.

Her second point was to express her concern over how the decision was made to not hold a Committee of the Whole Meeting for the evening. She observed as to the ongoing review of the Bylaws and the desire to improve communication with the public, tying the Committee of the Whole  meetings as key to communicating with the public.

Stating that while she was open to holding discussions related to the Committee of the Whole process, she was however, quite taken aback by the decisions that have been made to do away with things like the Committee of the Whole. A procedure which has been in place going as far back as 2002, particularly as it offers up the opportunity for the public to engage with Council in a public forum.

She stressed the need for Council to have some input into any such review.

The Mayor then reviewed the events of the evening and some of his thoughts on how to better engage the community, by way of more informal monthly sessions where the community would be more inclined to participate many of their concerns. Suggesting that it would be a good way to solicit the input of the public in a more fun approach, using different facilitation tools to get that feedback.

He explained how tonight he and the Corporate Administrator believed that as no interest from the public had been made  regarding the Council of the Whole,  that the segment could be cancelled, though he added that with the Transit Fare Discussion on the night, they used the approach of allowing for discussion at that point of the Regular Agenda.

He suggested that the effectiveness of the Committee of the Whole sessions could be an issue for further discussion at Council's Strategic planning sessions.

Councillor Cunningham suggested that they could have both, the monthly public sessions as outlined by the Mayor as well as retaining the Committee of the Whole aspect of Council sessions. Reminding council that in the past, some in the community have suggested that Council hasn't been transparent at times.

The Mayor observed that he had no problems with that, however he did offer up the thought that Council should strive to find a mechanism to ensure that Committee of the Whole meetings don't go on for two hours, before Council can approach its regular agenda.

He further outlined that his ultimate goal is to keep the Council meetings focused on business, more concise and find another way to encourage feedback from the public.

Councillor Thorkelson once again reinforced her concerns over how Council was being engaged on these issues, while expressing her support for seeking the feedback of the public, she outlined her determination to make sure that Council is allowed input into any proposed changes to procedures.

Stating that she as a council member doesn't believe that she has been properly consulted on these issues, nor that she has been asked her thoughts on the issues, nor had the opportunity to express her opinions on such proposals.

She made the observation that the Committee of the Whole Structure of the past engaged the residents with a question at the start of the session, issuing the invitation for comment with the statement "Do you have a question of the City that we can answer directly".

She closed her comments by stating that if there is to be a different structure to be put in place, she wants to have a say in how it is approached and to be a part of the conversation.

The Mayor then observed that he may have mixed some of the elements of the procedure bylaws together, and apologized for creating that procedural confusion. And then stressed that any changes would not be able to take place without the approval of Council.

Councillor Thorkelson then said that issues of changing procedures should be addressed in public and that perhaps a review of the Procedural Bylaws could be examined by Council, perhaps setting up a committee of Councillors to make some recommendations as to those potential changes.

The Mayor reviewed how Council had not yet had a chance to get together so as to get on the same page of where they wish to move on issues of procedure.

Councillor Cunningham echoed some of the Mayors' comments about not having had a chance to sort out some of their differing opinions on the topic, he then turned to the public and the need for them to be more engaged with City Council and bring them their concerns and what they want from Council.

The Mayor expressed his eagerness to get towards that process of engagement with the public in the future.

Before the evening's session came to an end Councillor Niesh outlined some details of the most recent meeting with the Airport Authority Board meeting, explaining to the Board that the City wants to be more involved with the airport and work with them.

( 1:54:00 --1:55:00 )With that Council adjourned to a Special Closed session for the night.

You can access the City Council Review page for January 26th here, where a number of items regarding the council session, including links to media coverage of it can be found.

As always, consult with the official minutes from the City, when posted to the website for further review.

Minutes of the Regular Council Session from January 26, 2015 

Council next meets in Regular session on February 10, 2015

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