This arrived in our inbox from Mr. Daniels just after we posted our last. It contains new material and comment from Mr. Daniels.
In this article I will discuss the Town Council’s refusal to publish draft minutes, its decision to fund a summer soccer coordinator position and respond to Mr. Wrye’s June 5th Grapevine article.
I asked the Town Council to consider posting minutes of its meetings prior to their approval. I suggested that the draft minutes could be labeled “DRAFT” or “SUBJECT TO CHANGE” or “NOT YET APPROVED.”
Mr. Roy Brideau, the Town’s Chief Administrative Officer, replied to my request by an email. He stated that he had conducted a survey of neighbouring municipal units. None of those surveyed post draft minutes. The reasons provided were: minutes are not part of the official record until approved by council and posting draft minutes may create more confusion than clarity.
When did the Town of Wolfville start making decisions based upon what neighbouring municipal units do? I don’t recall such a survey when the Town was considering adopting the ban on smoking in cars with children. Bangor, a city used by the Town as an example of a place where smoking in cars with children was banned, posts its draft minutes.
The reason: “minutes are not part of the official record until approved by council” is a non-reason. Drafts of the proposed Municipal Planning Strategy, Land Use Bylaws and Town budget have all been posted on the Town’s website before they have been approved by Council.
Posting draft minutes will further clarity. It will allow interested town residents who attend meetings to keep up to date with what went on in the previous council meeting they may have missed. Yes, the draft minutes may be altered when officially adopted. But any confusion can be allayed with the proposed WARNINGS.
Did the strong public participation at the recent budget meetings make a difference on how the Council approaches public spending? You be the judge.
At the June 9th Committee of Council meeting, the Council approved funding in the amount of $1,900.00 to pay for a summer soccer coordinator. The request was made because expected funding for the position from the Province (I recall) was not forthcoming. The Town had already budgeted about $600 for the soccer programme.
The discussion on funding the soccer position lasted around 25 minutes. Numerous questions were asked by the Councillors and the president of the soccer league and Mr. Andrew Fry, the Director of the Town’s Recreation Department, were present to answer them. How many participating children live in Wolfville? How much is the fee to participate? What about increasing the charge for adults who participate? Various alternatives were suggested on how the programme might make up its shortfall.
Compare this to the discussion at the February 18th Council meeting when the Councilors approved funding in the amount of $20.000.00 (out of the $70,000.00 needed) for the new Acadia Cinema projector. Deliberations lasted about ten minutes. There were very few questions posed. The minutes show no questions were asked about the proposal itself. There was no representative from Acadia Cinema present to answer questions. Councillor Zimmerman, who is on the Board of Directors of the Acadia Cinema Cooperative, left Council Chambers during the discussion.
Mr. Wrye takes exception to my suggestion that economic factors should play a role in “planning.” He claims that “economic considerations” now and in the proposed MPS play a part in “planning decisions.” In support of this claim he lists a number of what he views as economic considerations that the Town must take into account when deciding whether to approve development agreements.
Perhaps Mr. Wrye and I are like two ships passing in the night. Apparently, he has a more restrictive view of the role to be played by “economic considerations” in the planning process. I would have liked to have seen economic factors, (along with social and cultural dimensions) play a much greater role in writing of and in the content of the new MPS. After all, the Town is drafting a Municipal Planning Strategy” NOT a “Municipal LANDUSE Planning Strategy.”
The new MPS (Draft 3) in its Introduction (p.3), Declaration of Sustainability (p. 4) and Melbourne Principles Adapted for Wolfville (p.72) makes clear that social, cultural and economic factors need to be taken into account when planning for a sustainable community. The Municipal Government Act at section 213 states in part: “The purpose of a municipal planning strategy is to provide statements of policy to guide the development and management of the municipality and, to further this purpose, to establish . . . (b) policies to provide a framework for the environmental, social and economic development within a municipality . . .”
Regrettably, it is one of the shortcomings of the proposed MPS that there is a dearth of policies addressing real-life and specific economic, as well as social and cultural, concerns.
David A. Daniels
June 28, 2008
Our comment: We wish our Council would consider OUR residents, OUR situation, OUR problems instead of looking to Bangor, Maine or Melbourne, or some other jurisdiction for their ideas. Don’t just buy local, think local.
POST SCRIPT: We heard a rumour that The Grapevine is no longer going to print “political” material. Hope this isn’t true.