Next week Chatswoth Council is scheduled to “discuss” a by-law that lays out when and how the public should be notified about upcoming “public meetings”. Below is my letter to council on this matter. The full proposed document may be viewed here (thanks to Mr Falks ongoing efforts to make information more accessible) or in the 5Mb July 6th agenda package on the Township web site.
I see that the Public Meeting to discuss By-law 2016-32,
Being a By-law to Establish a
Provision of Notice Policy, has been rescheduled to the July
20, 2016 regular meeting
And that “Questions or comments can be provided in advance of
the meeting by contacting
Grace Nayler, Deputy Clerk at firstname.lastname@example.org 519-794-3232
This then is my comments upon this bylaw as included in the 159
page July 6th “Agenda package”.
I realize that in most cases the criteria for public
meetings may be set by the municipal act and that this document sets
minimum standards for notification of those “public” meeting not
covered by such rules. In my opinion said standards as now written
are far too low a standard to be put in a formal policy document. The
following three clauses are particularly troubling.
Whilst I am sure it is not the intention of this council to keep
the public in the dark this document as written gives them and future
councils the leeway to do so, they may waive the requirements of this
policy and thus not even follow the very low standards set (for
meetings not covered by the municipal act) and thus hold a “Public
Meeting” without notifying the public at all. This is obviously
unacceptable in a democracy. Please consider increasing the minimum
standards for notification and deleting the “escape” clause #7
entirely, clause #12 already gives you the ability to skip the
requirements “in an emergency”. Additionally clause 1f permits
notifications on the website to be hidden in a sub folder and NOT
directly published or mentioned on the front page this should be
updated to at least ensure a mention on the front page.
It is unclear exactly what the difference is between a council
meeting (which already is a public meeting) and a “Public Meeting”
designated as such, whether held separately or at the same time as a
council meeting. Perhaps this needs to be clarified, are the rules
for presenting before council different than those to present at a
“public meeting”. I would assume that during a “Public Meeting”
members of the public may speak to the issue without prior notice and
that anyone wanting to ask questions or add to the discussion would
be encouraged to do so. I assume that regular council meeting may
have different rules.
Such criteria need to be clearly spelt out for both types of
meetings (and readily available on the website) so that the pubic
knows the routine should they wish to speak to any issue before
council. Perhaps the definition of what constitutes a “Public
Meeting” and the criteria for public participation need to be
defined in the document?
A longtime rural resident, I use my 60 plus years of life learning to opinionate here and elsewhere on the “interweb” on everything from politics to environmental issues. A believer in reasonable discourse rather than unhelpful attacks I try to give positive input to the blogesphere, so feel free to comment upon rural issues or anything else posted here. But don’t be surprised if you comments get zapped if you are not polite in your replys.