Wednesday, May 30, 2012

More Open Local Government?

 Latest Change Good Policy
Or Attempt to Limit Public Input?

At the last city council meeting a simple item under the Mayors report seems to have pretty much gone unnoticed. Under the heading of procedural changes to council agendas there is one change that should raise alarm bells with the defenders of democracy.

I doubt if the local fourth estate will give the change any attention as they pretty much fall into line and agree with whatever city hall tells them is good.  Much like the $16 million shiny new staff office meeting with their approval. They also think it is good that city hall sends them $10,000 a month or so in ad revenue.

Delegations (for items not on the agenda)  
Will Only Be Heard At An FPCOW Meeting

In April of this year city hall management came up with 17 changes to the way city council will be conducting the business of the city. One of those recommendations includes not allowing delegations at regular city council meetings if the delegation wishes to speak on a matter not on the agenda. They can only get their hearing before council at a FPCOW meeting which is not the same as a regular council meeting for several reasons.

Firstly, FPCOW meetings start at 4:30 PM which means any person who is working 'regular' hours would have to take time away from work in order to appear, secondly these meetings are not televised and often poorly covered by the local reporters who often report on the meetings I presume, based on information provided by city staff.

This would appear to be another example of the arrogance and contempt for the public once again being demonstrated by this city council with the support of city staff. Again, it also would appear that the defenders of democracy are sound asleep.

Meaningful Public Input Discouraged

Under the current rules if you are one of the few citizens who feel it is your civic duty to participate in the process and not leave the burden of running the city to overworked councilors and sometimes less than perfect staff you have very little time to prepare and participate.

You can only be allowed a delegation to council based on an agenda you will see by close of business on Thursday for the following Monday council meeting. Considering that many of these agendas are hundreds of pages long, you have to be really dedicated to give up your entire weekend to actually try and digest what is being decided.

Considering this is the same time constraints placed on council might explain why there is so little meaningful discussion amongst councilors at regular council meetings.


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