Democracy as we know it relies on participation, by all, in civic affairs. Not only that but the participation must be meaningful, transparent and responded to by the rulers. Now ask yourself if we in Cobourg have this. Can we see what the council wants to do and then respond to them before they do it? Most will answer “Yes”, but is “Yes” correct? Under a proposal to formalize and reform certain sections of the procedural bylaw, Deputy Mayor Brocanier polled his staff and fellow councilors and drew up recommendations for change. Incidentally these recommendations look very similar to the changes, but never implemented – because of the public outcry, by the previous Deputy Mayor. After the presentation of the report he also allowed a motion that allows for public comment on this policy of public communication. We have yet to see the details of the public consultation process. One recommendation stands alone in its folly: the five day rule. This rule also illuminates other parts of the Council‟s communication policy that need to be changed. In the report dated ? but presented to Council on Monday 19th March, item 2 of the first paragraph reads: “a requirement of five days written notice for „deputation‟ status is stated in the policy, but in consultation with the Mayor, as his discretion, he has allowed numerous delegations to proceed on notice as late as the day of a Council meeting and intends to do so in the future” So what‟s the problem with this? Under the procedural bylaw one must ask permission to be on the Council agenda five days before the meeting takes place. The Council agenda is published on a Thursday afternoon on the Town‟s website - five days before the Council meeting. But only the agenda is published not the reports attached for the meeting. So the only way to get on the agenda to discuss an item that might be on that agenda is to read the agenda after 2pm (the publication time) run to the Town Hall and ask for the background documentation or the report mentioned in the agenda and then ask to be on the agenda as a delegation, and do this before 4.30pm. A marathon in 90 minutes. Now how many people are able to do this? Not many and this is where we move from the position of entitled citizens to the position of favoured persons. The Mayor has the right and discretion to allow people to be added to the agenda, he also has the same facility to deny the right to be on the agenda, and he has done this on at least one occasion. This discretion should be modified so that nobody can be denied the right to appear and speak on any issue at Council (I do agree that only people with new information to add to an issue should be allowed to speak more than once). So how do we get away from a procedure that allows one to speak before Council but effectively bars people from doing so? First of all we must publish the complete Council package on the website. Secondly we must allow people to read the package and then inform Staff that they wish to considered as a delegation by the end of the week – Friday 4.30pm It should be noted that under the procedural bylaw the publication time for the Executive Meeting agenda is Monday afternoon, the day of the meeting. And that timeline really does show how unworkable the policy is, but hey let‟s sort out one problem at a time!! The answer to the Executive Meeting delegation problem. This problem is immediate for under the procedural bylaw it is impossible for anybody to address the Executive on a matter on the agenda without knowing it is on the agenda. The Executive Meeting agenda, under the procedural bylaw, is published at 2.30pm on the day of the meeting (usually a Monday). Under the five day rule this means that unless a person is absolutely sure that the agenda will contain a matter that they want to discuss it is hit and miss as to whether they really know that the item is on the agenda and they have to ask five days before the meeting for permission to speak. The answer is simple: the public should be allowed to speak as part of the “New Business” portion of the meeting. Just line up and speak, after all the Executive Meeting is supposed to be less formal than a Council Meeting!
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