Friday, September 25, 2015

UBCM delegates hear concerns on how City Council's may be approaching Open government

A fascinating seminar took place at this weeks UBCM convention focusing on the mechanics of City Council's across the province, a conversation which may provide for a number of talking point for all delegates to bring back home with them when the municipal gathering ends today.

Wednesday's Vancouver Sun provided the background of a presentation by Vancouver lawyer Raymond Young, a founding member of the Vancouver law firm of Young Anderson which specializes in municipal law.

In his presentation, Mr. Young outlined for those in attendance that some of the current approaches of City Council members may be breaking the law, particularly those councils which work in a caucus format prior to their regular council duties.

Meetings outside of the normal Council routine appear to be the focus of his attention on the issue, though the main reproach was issued to those communities which seem to have evolved into a political party system for municipal matters.

Still, some of his thoughts might be transferable to other situations in smaller communities, where much of the council business seems to take place more and more in private sessions or informal settings.

In Prince Rupert, Council members in the past have frequently noted that they hold many internal workshops, committee meetings and such other discussion mechanisms as part of their normal range of municipal duties.

Vancouver Lawyer Raymond Young
offered up some interesting notes on
Civic matters to UBCM
delegates this week
It would be interesting to see what Mr. Young might make as to how some of those approaches fit into the concept of more open government, though we do get some glimpses as to his overview on municipal government from his presentation this week.

To the theme of discussions outside of normal council business, Young was noted in the Sun as expanding that sense of what might constitute a meeting outside of the normal routine of Council considerations.

Observations that could change the way many of British Columbia's elected officials think about their day to day engagement on issues.

"even when councillors email, text or call each other serially, or sequentially, they could be considered to be having a meeting. Even informal meetings such as a breakfast at a house can become an illegal meeting if the conversation turns from the weather to a city issue ... Maybe they’re talking about raising taxes a little bit so they can do this or that. It’s a nice breakfast and they go home and think, ‘Well, we accomplished something today, probably bring that up in council one day.’ That was a council meeting"

Mr. Young offered up the recommendation that the province needs to improve legislation when it comes to municipal governance, calling for some thought towards sanctions or enforcement options for those communities that violate Open Meeting laws.

That is a step that the province isn't quite ready to take yet, preferring to educate municipal leaders further on the theme, something that they believe the UBCM is working to address.

The full article is a fascinating look at the issue of Open government in the province and how at the municipal level, much of what takes place seemingly is going on outside of a regular open council session.

You can review the item from the Sun here.

For more items related to this week at UBCM see our Talking Points archive page here.

No comments:

Post a Comment