Friday, September 7, 2018

Brevity of Council sessions means lost opportunities for information sharing

Nine minutes of civic governance made for the start of the September Council schedule, as a reduced contingent of City Council members quickly dashed through the 540 seconds that it took to put the September 4th Council session into the books.

At nine minutes, it was the quickest City Council session of the year so far, a period of eight months and bit that have seen this Council keep the workload to under thirty minutes on three occasions, under forty minutes twice and under fifty minutes five times.

Of the fifteen public council sessions held this year, only four have exceeded fifty minutes, the longest one coming on May14th, when Council met for eighty minutes.

For the record, the roll call is as thus:

Jan 15 -- 18 minutes
January 29 -- 42 minutes
February 13 -- 42 minutes
February 26 -- 47 minutes
March 12 -- 41 minutes
March 26 -- 54 minutes
April 9 -- 53 minutes
April 23 --38 minutes
May 14 -- 80 minutes
May 28 --35 minutes
June 11 -- 67 minutes
June 25 -- 48 minutes
July 23 --27 minutes
August 20 -- 27 minutes
September 4 -- 9 minutes

In many instances, the Public sessions have made for little in the way of discussion, given over more to announcements and statements on issues, some of which at times a far removed from the domain of civic governance.

For the most part, the real work of council it seems is taking place as part of the growing list of Closed Sessions (12 so far this year) and the range of workshops and planning sessions that Council members take part in, with much of that work on topics of which we never hear much about.

Tuesday's sprint to the finish line came following what had already been a rather relaxed schedule for Council members, with only one meeting scheduled in both June and July, neither of which broke the thirty minute mark.

However, lost in the frequent rush out the door during the scheduled council sessions, is the opportunity for Council to expand on some of the important issues for the community, or to share more information on ongoing and future projects with the public.

On Tuesday, Councillor Cunningham noted that Council had slipped in its goal to provide for more transparency and opportunity for information sharing when it comes community groups that the City funds.

Councillor Cunningham observing with some disappointment, that his call for presentations for 2018 never seemed to gain much traction.

In reply to that concern, the Mayor suggested that council may have somehow overlooked that dedication to transparency as they worked on the Watson Island file and other un-named projects (none of which ever made for lengthy discussion in public sessions). With the Mayor offering up the promise of Tuesday, that the issue would be addressed in the 2019 Council year.

With the application process for Community Enhancement Grant applicants now underway, perhaps lost on council was the irony, that Tuesday night with what appeared to be a fair bit of time on their hands, might have made for a perfect opportunity for one, two, or even three of those Community Groups to have been invited to make an appearance.

Tuesday also could have provided City Council with an opportunity to expand a bit on some key items of note of recent weeks.

Last month the City announced the return of Redesign Rupert, with the Mayor taking to his social media page to share the news of that project, though little of it has been discussed in the regular council sessions.

The City Council sessions should be a forum where such wide ranging plans such as Redesign, Watson Island and the Legacy Corporation to name a few, should be discussed, providing council members with an opportunity to weigh in on the vision ahead and get themselves on the record.

Far too often, the council members have become more of the background players in the Council dynamic, lost in the flow of Facebook posts, press releases and video presentations, the Council members have offered few questions in the public sessions to explore those themes further for city residents, or to act as a form of oversight on the civic administration's plans.

As this weekend arrives, the Mayor, City Council members and senior staffers will all be preparing to make their way to Whistler and this years UBCM convention.

The annual gathering of municipal and provincial officials, provides municipal officials with an opportunity to share ideas and gain access to provincial officials to push on themes of concern.

Tuesday night offered a perfect opportunity for a preview of what the City hopes to achieve from their one week stay at Whistler.

 Other than a resolution for the convention related to the fishery, Council has not outlined what other issues they hope to raise with provincial officials, or what their focus for the week may be.

On Tuesday night, rather than the appearance of a City Council looking to keep its sleeves rolled up right to the very end of its mandate, instead it was the impression of a tired council playing out the string of the last days of its four years in office for the most part.

Something that perhaps is not the image that they might want to present to the public.

As the election process begins to ramp up, a nine minute council session would seem to suggest that they as a group, or at least some of those that have indicated plans to run again, seem to be turning much of their attention towards the re-election campaign ahead, at the expense of current issues and concerns.

There are only two more Council sessions left until the October 20th election, after that, it will be left up to the voters to decide if they have been getting a good return on their investment of votes from this council.

The video archive of the September 4th Council session was posted to the City video archive on September 11th, you can review all nine minutes and thirty six seconds of it below:

For more items related to the Tuesday Council session see our Council Timeline here.

A wider overview of Council themes can be found on our Council Discussion page.

To return to the most recent blog posting of the day, click here.

1 comment:

  1. As reported in another story they'll 'make sure' that the incoming council will have more participation in the 2019 meetings. The assumption is that they'll be there after the election to make that happen. Those who run probably will be re-elected. The council largely ignores the public other than bare minimum meetings and self-congratulatory posts on social media, and the public loses interest. As a candidate Lee Brain promised a different style of government and as Mayor he has delivered on that.