Friday, February 19, 2016

Why I'm Backing Off on My Call to Boycott March 1 Maley Public Input Meeting

In my blogpost of February 17, 2016 ("Process and Legitimacy: Why Rules Matter," Sudbury Steve May, February 17, 2016), I referred to a public input session scheduled to take place in Council Chambers on March 1, 2016 as a "fraud being perpetuated on the public and members of Greater Sudbury municipal Council who have been implicated by the Chair of Operations Committee as having provided their consent to direct the Clerk to call the meeting in the first place when no direction was ever given by them."  I called for a boycott of the public input meeting by both citizens and members of Council.

Today, I'm retracting that statement, and I'm retracting my call for a boycott.

New information was provided to me yesterday by the City Clerk's office with regards to how the public input meeting was called.  The City Clerk advised that the March 1st public input meeting was actually called by the Mayor as a "special meeting of Council in the format of a Public Input Meeting in order to receive comments from the public regarding Maley Drive."

While I have my concerns about the Mayor using this relatively obscure part of the Procedure by-law to convene a special meeting of Council, as well as concerns that this part of the by-law was ever intended for the use of holding public input sessions (I'll probably write about those concerns in an upcoming blogpost), today I want to focus on the reasons that I'm retracting my earlier statement and call for a boycott of the meeting.  

As I had indicated in my earlier blogpost, I had been in touch with a number of municipal representatives in order to ascertain how the March 1st meeting came about.  I was eventually given a very clear explanation as to how the Clerk came to schedule the meeting by Ward 5 Councillor Robert Kirwan, who also chairs the City's Operations Committee.  This explanation was provided to me in a public setting - via a post made by Councillor Kirwan on the Valley East Facebook group.

It was with Councillor Kirwan's explanation in mind that I wrote the blogpost in which I called for a boycott of the March 1st meeting, due to my considerable concerns with the legitimacy of the process used to call the meeting.  Well, it turns out that the explanation given to me by Councillor Kirwan on the Valley East Facebook group was not actually correct.

In the evening of February 17, 2016, I received an email from Councillor Kirwan in reply to an email that I had sent to the Clerk earlier that night.  In that email, Councillor Kirwan indicated that the March 1st public input meeting was scheduled as both a special meeting of Council and Operations Committee under relevant sections of the City's Procedure By-law (Sections 7.09 and 7.11, respectively).  Since this explanation completely contradicted the public explanation he had provided me with earlier in the week, and since it seemed very strange to me that the March 1st public input meeting was to be both a meeting of Council and Operations Committee, I wrote back to the Councillor, copying the Clerk, advising that I would await further information from the Clerk's office pertaining to how the meeting came to be scheduled.

It was on Thursday, February 18th that the Clerk advised that it was the Mayor who called the meeting as a special meeting of Council.

So it turns out that the meeting was not scheduled by the Clerk on the direction of the Operations Committee at all, as was originally reported to me by Operations Committee Chair Kirwan.  Given that a significant concern that I raised in my Wednesday blogpost had to do with how "consensus" was achieved by Operations Committee as per Councillor Kirwan's Facebook Post, it seems to me that based on this new information from the Clerk, and my own analysis of the Procedure by-law, my use of language comparing the March 1st meeting to a "fraud" and call for a boycott are inappropriate.

I am still, however, wrestling with whether or not I will appear at the meeting.  While I acknowledge that the Mayor might have the ability to call this sort of public input meeting as per the Procedure By-law, it seems very unusual that he would choose to use these exceptional powers to call a public input meeting.  Further, there remain irregularities with the City's advertisement identifying 10 minutes being set aside for public presentations, versus what Councillor Kirwan indicated in his Facebook post earlier in the week (that at the meeting, Council will have to approve 10 minutes, because the by-law only allows for up to 5 minutes - I admit I am paraphrasing here).  He may be right about that, and if so, that's really problematic for people like Tom Price who are putting together presentations for Council based on the City's meeting advert.

In the meantime, I remain convinced that all of this should have been handled better - but I acknowledge that we're here now, and we can't change the past.

I'm sure I'll have more to say in the near future - but right now, I'm taking the weekend off to spend with my family, whom I am sure are getting frustrated with seeing me hunched over the computer screen at all hours.

(opinions expressed in this blogpost are my own and should not be considered consistent with the policies and/or positions of the Green Parties of Ontario and Canada)

1 comment:

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