What participation?

This is the second of a series of articles printed in the Mud Creek News. Here David Daniels exposes the hypocrisy of the administration in the matter of openness and willingness to hear (let alone respond to) input from residents.

PUBLIC PARTICIPATION AND COMMUNICATION?

At the May 19th, 2009 Council meeting, Council was asked about the status of the “new” public participation policy.  CAO Roy Brideau responded that preliminary research was being done.
In response to a similar question at the June 15th Council meeting, Mr. Brideau responded that  “once the budget has passed, he and the Town Solicitor will make this a priority.”
The Corporate Strategic Plan approved on November 16, 2009 lists as one of the five core principles of governance and service provisions: Transparency and Participatory Government.
Over nine months have passed since May 2009 and still no policy.
In early October 2009 it was announced that the Town had hired two consultants to help devise a participation and communication policy.  A “task force” was formed to draft the policy.
Perhaps ironically, I could find nothing on the Town’s website’s Home page communicating to the townsfolk information about the status of the public participation and communication policy.

“QUESTION PERIOD” AND ACCURACY IN MINUTES
At the January 4th Committee of Council meeting Mayor Stead, apparently on his own initiative, but without objection from Councilors, decided that the only questions which could be asked at Question Period were those that would “be helpful and representative of a builder, a builder, somebody who is interested in advancing the interests of the Town in a constructive kind of way at these meetings.”
The approved minutes of the January 4th meeting simply state under “Question Period”:  “There were no questions from the table or gallery.”
Is accuracy less important than making sure comments which may not reflect well upon the Mayor are not included in minutes?
Yes, there were “no questions,” but to be accurate and honest, there were “no questions” because the Mayor restricted what kinds of questions could be asked.
David A. Daniels

You have to listen to the tapes to get the full flavour of these sittings with the mayor’s incredibly undemocratic statements and the Councillors not even squirming in embarassment unwilling to protest that the Gallery has been utterly silenced. We wish that Scott Brison, so concerned with grass roots democracy, would sit and listen to just a few of these sessions.

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4 responses to “What participation?

  1. This is surprising; I wonder what drove the mayor to suggest a limit like this though.

    Is it possible he and the council members were so overwhelmed with stupid questions that they only wanted worthwhile relevant issues to be discussed? If so, is that really so unbelievable?

    It is undemocratic to limit the comments the way the town often seems to, but in the interest of moving forward with something, I wonder if some guidelines should be laid down to save time wasted on Mrs Jones complaining about the neighbors cat peeing in her garden when council is discussing a particular development project or initiative. Granted, if the cat has something to do with the proposed project, then ask the question, but I’ve seen tax payer’s time and money be spent on completely unrelated issues that someone has mixed up amongst appropriate problems.

    I don’t think it’s too big of a deal to request that public comments stay focused.

    -Max

  2. The questions haven’t been about cats, or even students peeing in gardens (a not uncommon occurrence here in Wolfville). The questions have been about how the Town is collecting tax money hand over fist only to spend it on expensive and questionable projects, while our streets go unpaved (for example) . One big issue is an extremely generous rewriting of the CAO’s contract which appears never to have been approved in open Council but was, by all appearances, decided “in camera” which would be, if true, in contravention of the Municipal Government Act. Questions concerning this contract have not been answered properly even with attempts via Freedom of Information applications. Given this context stifling questions from the gallery is not felt to be just to keep nuisance queries of the sort you mean to a minimum.

  3. I understand that there are issues and there are questions we want answered but I think there’s a time and place for those questions to be asked. Perhaps we don’t have enough of these opportunities.

    If Wolfville Watch perceives certain projects to be questionable, that’s an opinion that should be brought up when discussing those types of projects, ideally whenever they were being initiated. And written about on a blog like this!

    If the CAO makes more money than you and I, that’s something we can look into, but I’m just not sure it’s appropriate to bring it up during a session pertaining to something entirely removed from his salary.

    If we want clear government, we the public have a responsibility to stay on track too. We’re not going to public meetings just to complain about everything the town is doing wrong, we’re there to ensure the town becomes the best place it can be! I think this is most easily achieved if everyone stays focused.

  4. Too right I’m not “going to public meetings just to complain everything the town is doing wrong”. The public have been shut out. The only thing that is “clear” about governance in Wolfville is that an elite group of Mayoral sycophants run the show.

    Council has contracted out their communications so that they can better ignore inconvenient citizens. Yet another “service” that we pay for.

    Yes, we can still attend Council meetings. But by attending, and not being able to contribute, I feel as though my presence might be construed as tacit support for the pure nonsense that seems so common at those proceedings.

    Wolfville, “the best place it can be”, surely you jest? The Mayor has us pinned to the ropes. Watch out, the next budget might be the knockout blow.