Apathy + Confusion = Dictatorship

Following is a letter submitted today to the Editor, North Shore News:



    Most dictatorships gain power by creating an atmosphere of fear.  Here in the City of North Vancouver power is being built on the apathy of the majority of citizens and just plain confusion.  If you are unaware of the new rules for public participation in our civic government you can be filed under ‘Public Apathy’.  If you have heard of or have read the new Council Procedure Bylaw and your eyes and brain have glazed over then welcome to the ‘Thoroughly Confused’ file!

    The bylaw does clearly state the city’s position on public involvement when it says:- “Transparency is not an opportunity for the public to participate in the discussions of council, it is meant for the public to watch the proceedings of council.” …… and …..”Opportunities for the public to provide input extend well beyond council’s statutory obligations for public consultation.”  It’s in the small print and the Chair’s interpretation of the bylaw that trouble brews!   For example:-
    Near the end of each council meeting there is an item called Public Clarification Period.  The official description of this is that “The purpose of this clarification period is to permit a member of the public to come forward regarding an item on the agenda and seek clarification of a decision made at the council meeting.” Several months ago those who came forward with questions were told that their questions were inappropriate and were given vague reasons as to why.  Consequently, no questions are being asked in this period because it seems every question  is judged inappropriate.  Confusion ended that one!
    Until just this month, there has been, at 6:00 every Monday, the Public Input Period.  After signing in at 5:30, any citizen could speak for 2 minutes about problems, hopes, joys, ideas and criticisms of their life in our city.  Unless there was a ‘hot’ item coming up, there were rarely more than 5 speakers – 10 minutes per week!  While nothing of consequence came about because of these speakers it was felt that this was an immediate and public finger on the pulse of those who live here.  Letters, emails and calls to the mayor, councillors and city staff are never publicized.
    Now, the new bylaw has many rules about sign-up, what you can and cannot speak about, who you must advise about your topic, when you must advise them —- and to top it all off, you may speak on a specific topic only once every 3 months!  Already 2 speakers have been silenced for just mentioning a council member by name (not allowed) in their preamble and a speaker at a public hearing was told that asking questions was not allowed.
    Confusion?  You bet!
    Even councillors have been harnessed and muzzled by the new bylaw.  If they can’t clarify points in  5 minutes before they take a  vote, Too Bad!
    From a citizen’s point of view there are dark days ahead before November 2018. *
                                                                                                                              Submitted by:  Joan Peters
Comment from Voices: * Nov 2018 is the next scheduled local election

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