Friday, February 12, 2016

City Council Timeline, Tuesday, February 9, 2016

What looked like a short night on paper, turned into a ninety review of some past issues of Council, with tempers between some Council members at times coming to a boil, with much of the frustration coming on the issue of Recreation Centre fee increases.

And while the issues from the Recreation Centre dominated Tuesday's session, Council did take care of a few other items on the night, discussing a property variance issue and appointing required staff to host a required School District by-election.

The Mayor also provided another update on the Housing Committee's progress while Councillor Mirau introduced his second version of a proposed Small Business Committee.

For some background on the evening's scheduled items of note, see the Regular Council Agenda for February 9, 2016.

Council held a Special Closed Session which took place earlier in the day at 5:00 PM.

Further information from our overview and 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 February 9, 2016

Mayor Lee Brain-- Present
Councillor Barry Cunningham-- Present 
Councillor Blair Mirau -- Present
Councillor Wade Niesh -- Present
Councillor Nelson Kinney-- Present
Councillor Gurvinder Randhawa--  Present
Councillor Joy Thorkelson -- Present

Video Archive for February 9 2016

( 0:00 -- 1:00 ) Regular Council Session -- The Mayor outlined the past minutes and Agenda for the Monday evening session, which were accepted by council.


( 1:00 -- 20:00  ) Report to Council from the Junior City Planner  on a request for a development variance permit for a property on Conrad Street -- After a review of the application including a look at one letter of concern related to the proposed work on the property in question, Council then focused its discussion on the topic of what form of small business operations are allowed in residential areas and how the City controls them.

Councillor Niesh noted that in this instance all Council is considering is whether the owner can change his roof, noting that he didn't believe that imposing restrictions on the property is required at this time. Councillor Cunningham also noted that there are already bylaws in place to address issues such as home business operations.

The City Manger outlined a number of provisions in place when it comes to home based businesses and noted that staff would research the issue further for Council. Councillor Cunningham suggested that Council needs to look into the issue further with the prospect of potential growth in the community. As for the request for the variance permit, Council voted to approve the motion.

( 20:00 --  22:30 ) Report from the Deputy Corporate Administrator on the General Election Bylaw -- Antonio Vera the City's Deputy Corporate Administrator provided background to the issue and noted that the School District required a by-election to fill a vacancy on the local school district board.

As part of that process City Council approved the appointment of Joe Zelweitro as Chief Election Officer, while also appointing the City's Administration Assistant, Robin Beattie as the Deputy Chief Election Officer. Mayor Brain then provided his view of the timeline of events and the requirement of a contract to conduct the School District election.  Council voted to approve the motion of appointments.

( 22:30 -- 56:00    ) Report from the Recreation Coordinator on Recreation Fee Increases -- The City's Recreation Director returned to Council to provide a final review of the proposed increase to fees for use at the City's Recreation facilities.  Following her presentation, Councillors Thorkelson and Randhawa raised their concerns over how the increase to fees might impact on those of limited financial means in the community. Councillors Cunningham and Thorkelson also asked for clarification on how the City makes use of programs designed to assist those of limited income, noting that she had no problem with raising taxes to ensure access to the facilities for all.

Councillor Thorkelson provided some statistical review for council members, noting Prince Rupert's standing when it comes to the socio economic index and human hardship in the province. Further into the discussion on the theme of the proposed fee increases for the Civic Centre, a heated exchange took place between the Mayor and Councillor Thorkelson as to how to best approach financing issues related to Civic Centre facilities and the need to provide for a five year program to address those financial issues.  The Mayor brought the discussion to an end by stating that the approach that the City is taking makes provides perfect logical sense, noting that council members had beat the topic to death, calling for a vote on the issue.

Council voted to give final approval to the bylaw by a margin of 5 votes to 2, with Councillors Thorkelson and Randhawa dissenting. The new rates will see increases of 5 percent each year for five years, starting on July 1st of 2016.

( 56:00 -- 59:30 )  Correspondence from the Prince Rupert Skating Club seeking a reduction in ice rental fees -- The Mayor outlined the nature of a letter from the Prince Rupert Skating Club seeking a reduction in the ice rental fee for their end of the year performance in March. Noting that it is becoming increasingly hard in the community find success from fund raising efforts. When Mayor Brain called for someone to introduce the motion for consideration, no member of Council spoke to the topic, leaving the Mayor to speak to the issue and raising it as a motion.

Councillor Thorkelson raised a concern with the Mayor's interpretation of the request and asked as to the nature of the financial impact of the request, which was not known at the time of the Council session. Council in the end voted to defer the issue until the next council meeting while further background was assembled regarding the fee reduction request.

59:30 -- 1:00:30  Report on the Housing Committee -- The Mayor noted that the Housing proposal noted from last Council session is still being put together, but that the Special Committee for Major Projects, OCP and Affordable Housing Development had met last Tuesday to review the city's options on policies to address potential impacts of proposed development.

( 1:00:30 -- )  Terms of Reference for the Community Services/Small Business Advisory Committee -- Councillor Mirau brought his proposal for a Small Business Advisory Committee back to Council chambers, having revised his previous proposal from two weeks ago. Outlining the new language and purpose of the proposed Advisory Committee, noting that the consensus he believes Council has indicated to him, is to continue to encourage development within our current urban footprint, something that the Advisory Council would have to subscribe to as well.

Councillor Cunningham inquired as to how the process of appointment would be made, with Councillor Mirau suggesting an open resume approach to selection, adding that seats could be reserved for those groups and institutions that Council might wish to see as part of the Committee.

However, despite his revisions, Councillor Thorkelson still had many of her concerns from the previous council session related to the concept of the business community having input on some of the city's policies and projects.

She had a particular concern over the what she believed was the concept of providing the Chamber of Commerce or the business community an inside door to Council.

Noting that if she had suggested the concept of a Prince Rupert Labour Advisory Committee having that same kind of access, council most likely wouldn't have much to do with that.

Councillor Mirau offered up some clarification related to how Councillor Thorkelson views the proposed committee and how much input Small Business would have on the City's day to day responsibilities.

Councillor Cunningham provided some of his thoughts on what the Small Business community is looking for from City Council and what kind of contribution that they might make and some of the concerns that they have such as bureaucracy, red tape and bylaw issues in the community.

Councillor Thorkelson's observations on the theme also provided for the second heated exchange of the night between herself and the Mayor, as Mayor Brain offered comment related to her interpretation of Councillor Mirau's plans, stating that he didn't see any problems with the wording at all.

Adding that the City needs to solicit support from all areas of the community.

Councillor Thorkelson then returned to her thoughts when it comes to which groups the City chooses to solicit advice from, wondering if the city is willing to include labour groups such as CUPE and others as part of their plans.

The Mayor noted that she and any council member was free to form a committee to address issues of concern to them, noting that Councillor Mirau has a passion for small business issues.

He followed up his theme noting that other communities have programs such as this and observed as to how progress can be found by working collaboratively with the people around you, a comment that Councillor Thorkelson did not take kindly too, noting that she has been working collaboratively with people in the community for years.

She then reinforced her concerns over how she sees the proposal as setting up a process where the Business community has inside access to a range of civic issues, some of which wouldn't be discussed in public, something that she notes past councils had worked to try to prevent.

The Mayor's final comment on the issue was to note that as can be seen in the downtown core, the approach of the last ten years hasn't been a strategy that has been working.

To try and break the impasse on how to best deliver the proposed committee, Councillor Randhawa recommended that the concept be reviewed at a City workshop in the near future, with Council members looking to find a way to settle some of the concerns that the committee proposal has provided for.

1:26:30 --1:29:00 ) Reports, Questions and Inquires from Council

Councillor Cunningham followed up on the discussion related to Councillor Mirau's Small Business Committee plans, suggesting that Council members give some consideration to Councillor Thorkelson's observations.

Suggesting that as part of the planned workshop associated to Councillor Mirau's proposal, that Council members should examine the idea of forming a Labour Advisory Committee, noting that such a project could seek out the point of view and hear guidance from Labour on social and employment issues in the community.

Those made for the final comments on the night, bringing the three hour session to an end

You can access the City Council Review for February 9th , where a number of items regarding the council session, including links to media coverage of it can be found.

As always, our Council Timeline is only a reflection of our observations from the Council session of the night. Be sure to consult with the official minutes from the City, when posted to their website for further review.

Official Minutes of the Regular Council Session from February 9th

Council next meets in Regular session on February 22nd  in Council Chambers at City Hall.

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