Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Agenda oversight? Public comment opportunity excluded at Council for second time in three months

The Public comment period usually
provided as part of  the Committee 
of theWhole process  was 
overlooked on Monday night
The opportunities for members of the public to offer comment to their elected officials seem to be getting less frequent these days, as for the second time since the year began, a public comment period as part of the City Council Committee of the Whole session seems to have been abandoned.

The latest incidence of this reduced opportunity for comment came Monday, when it appears that Mayor Lee Brain forgot to ask for comments from the public on matters other than that night's Budget Consultation.

While there was a call for comments for the Budget Consultation, an opportunity which solicited no participation, once that element of the night had been completed, Mr. Brain did not reopen the floor for comments related to other items of concern for the public.

While the Committee of the Whole session was advertised on the city's website, the element of public engagement somehow got skipped over, with the Mayor taking the Budget consultation period straight into a presentation from the regional conservation officer.

Upon completion of that overview, the Mayor then moved on to the Regular Council Session, the public comment period thus was lost once again.

Earlier this year, the Public comment opportunity which comes with the Council meeting held at the end of each month was also lost, when City Council cancelled their January 23rd session.

That means that so far in 2017, members of the public have had only one opportunity to address their elected representatives in a regular public forum.

What's striking about the most recent meeting is that despite the fact that the Council had a full complement of six Councillors on hand, as well as a significant number of city staff members in the chamber, not one person that made up that congregation seemed to notice that they had not made the comment period available for the public.

Which might leave one to wonder if perhaps someone should not be tasked to to keep a check list to go along with prepared Agenda for council meetings, if only to make sure that the few public comment opportunities  offered to the public are not lost by lack of attention to the process.

We're not sure if anyone in the public gallery had any issues to raise for council on the night, since contributions from the public session are not allowed outside of an invitation from the Mayor to address the Council.

However, the lost opportunity from Monday, now means that anyone that may have had something to contribute this month, will have to wait thirty three days before they can raise them in a public forum.

While the City's published Procedures do not make note of any actual requirement to make time available for the public to speak during a session of the Committee of the Whole, it has been a common feature of Council sessions dating back over the decades, offering up the one regular opportunity for the public to bring their concerns to their elected officials.

If the City follows its schedule the next Committee of the Whole session should be scheduled for April 24th, at which time the public will be called to come forward and approach the Council members, providing of course they remember to invite the public to the microphone.

The Video review from Monday's Council session is available below:

For more items From Monday's City Council Session see our Council Timeline feature.

For further background on City Council issues see our Council Discussion archive.

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