One might think that with a voter turnout of about 30% in the November Civic Election, our little City might be working on ways to increase engagement.
North Van City Council last night brought forward a motion regarding a new Council procedure bylaw. Probably the most important change was to cancel the public input period – 2 minutes per speaker allowed at the start of the Council meeting. Considering that this was made public late Friday afternoon, the community responded with 19 speakers, and 16 written submissions in opposition. 18 speakers spoke against the change, 1 speaker was in favour.
After the speakers, Councillor Clark brought forward a motion to hear the discussion immediately rather than waiting until the end of the agenda (it was #12). Mr. Tollstam then spoke that staff and lawyers have been working on this for months. He said that CNV is in line with all other cities except one (he did not specify which one).
Coun. Keating then spoke that he would recommend an amendment “that any member of the public may be prohibited from speaking if it’s determined that in any venue they have targeted city staff by any behaviour that could be seen to constitute bullying and harassment under the City’s policy #203”. He seemed to be referring to conduct in the Council Chamber and on social media.
Coun. Clark made a motion that this be referred to a policy committee meeting for further discussion and input from residents. The motion was defeated by the usual 4-3.
So this leads to many questions that need to be addressed. Some questions and comments sent to us today (Tuesday):
-Is Council going to keep a list of people who they won’t allow to speak?
-Does any other Council do this?
-Will the listed people be informed they are on the list? If so, how? How long does the list last?
-Can they challenge this categorization – and how would they do this? How often? Who would be involved in the hearings?
-What’s the legality of this? Perhaps we will find this either illegal or so much work for the Council that they will back away from this amendment.
-Councillor Bell said last night this is already covered in bylaw procedure (what’s on the books)
-The Chair should be able to manage the proceedings without the need for this amendment
-If this stays on the books, perhaps some guidelines should be created for residents (protesters) re how to phrase suspicions of wrong doing, so it is not considered inappropriate/bullying – make it easy for people who will speak up.
-I wonder how Councillor Craig Keating ended up with so much literature from social media that he objects to. Was it sent to him, or does he search online for this material? Not all sarcastic humour/cartoons are defamatory.
-Who will decide who is ‘persona non grata’?
-What lines divide political criticism from bullying?
-Are emails to a distribution list considered social media for this purpose?
-If the public input at the end of the meeting is now to be public clarification, why were two speakers after the meeting requesting clarification, not allowed?
-Is not Council now being the biggest bully of all by silencing anyone who doesn’t agree with them?
If we say that we find Coun Keating’s explanation ( of his reasons that the amendment is needed) to be inflammatory, intimidating and bullying will we be on the list? Why would he bring up a rude rapper twitter remark referring to Coun Buchanan and imply that he knew who posted it? What does that have to do with Council business?
The Mayor stated that in the future he will not tolerate any disrespect , he will be firmer in the chair, he will rule tighter, he tries to be respectful. Members will not question motives of a Council member, employee or staff member. No rude and offensive conduct. Staff are among the best in the region. He will be as fair and firm as possible. The amended motion passed.
This will come back to Council presumably on May 25th for final adoption. Stay tuned.
Link to Video: http://www.cnv.org/Your-Government/Council-Meetings/Council-Videos/2015-Council-Videos