Loss of Public Forum in the City of North Van

The public input period at Council meetings in the City of North Van has been in effect since February 2005, when Cat Comsia requested the new procedure at Council before Mayor Sharp. Now, after 10 years of the public having the opportunity to speak for 2 minutes at 6.00pm, a new bylaw is being brought forward.

Watching the Council meeting last Monday, and now reading the rationale for the new Council Procedures Bylaw, some thoughts directed to Council members:

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-you want to improve the flow of the meetings? limit agenda items to those that are actually the City’s business, i.e.’Provision of alcohol to minors’ is not-

-to the new majority: don’t rehearse how you’ll deal with each item ahead of time, obvious; you should be listening and discussing – not pontificating

-we recognize that your jobs may be easier if you didn’t have to deal with the public, but we pay your salaries and you are working for us
-your job is to consider the well being and interests of the municipality and community

We have emailed the City Clerk (who previously advised that a notice would be in the newspaper), and believe that under the Community Charter section 124 (3) the required public notice has not been given.

 

The public is becoming increasingly aware that decisions are being made out of the Council Chamber. Is this the message the City wants to send to residents?  We would like to remind some Council members that you’re not working for the people who paid for your election.

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To Our Readers:

Coming up Monday at Council is a new Council Procedures Bylaw. The most significant change is that public input will be cancelled. Rationale is that meetings open to the public are for the public to ‘listen, watch and hear Council discuss issues’. This will ‘improve the flow of meetings’.

The significance is that unless a Council member speaks about concerns of residents, this is the only opportunity for an individual to speak publicly about an issue of concern to them. A person could be delegation once a year, or write a letter. Unlike other Municipalities, correspondence from an individual is never publicized.

Apparently ‘information received at public input is often off-topic, accusatory, repetitive, untrue, promotes goods and services and is at times electioneering’. The same could be said of some Council members at times. There will now be a ‘public clarification period’ after the meeting, replacing the ‘public question period’. Detail is all in the Agenda, starting at page 145 of the agenda package:
http://www.cnv.org/Your-Government/Council-Meetings/Council-Meeting-Agenda

This is a huge step backwards in terms of openness and transparency, not to mention the loss of free speech and democracy in the Council chamber in the CNV. We urge you to show up Monday night, sign up to speak (probably your last chance) before 6.00pm. If you’re not able to do that, please attend to watch it pass (likely 4-3) and feel free to boo when it passes. It’s scheduled to come up late in the agenda (unless it’s brought forward earlier).

White Rock had previously changed their public period to the end of meetings, and in February cancelled that as well. Kathryn Marshall ably covered that here:
http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2015/02/18/white-rock-ends-question-period and quoting in part: But that is not how democracy works. In a democracy, politicians must be held accountable, and the public must be able to openly question them in public forums.

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