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.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Public Meeting” about Public Meetings!

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
of Council.

And that “Questions or comments can be provided in advance of the meeting by contacting
Grace Nayler, Deputy Clerk at gnayler@chatsworth.ca 519-794-3232 ext. 125.

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?


Anonymous said...

Totally agree with you. Have been to your blog in the past and enjoy the read. Keep up the good work and hopefully situation will improve.

Rural said...

Thanks Anon, I and others hope to be having an open conversation with staff and councilors about the "usability" and content of the township website in the near future and this subject touches upon that discussion.