Tuesday, December 13, 2011

“We have the potential to become the most transparent Council in the region.” – Councillor Zeb King

Last night saw the hottest item of the recent election campaign, transparency, arrive at the Council table in the form of two motions. One motion was based on a staff recommendation to reinstate the voting record so that citizens can tell how Councillors are voting and the other, put forward by Councillor King, proposed that the item “Delegations and Petitions” be restored to its rightful place near the beginning of the agenda.

Unfortunately, it was another evening of mixed results with those in the gallery left unsatisfied by the explanations given and the votes taken. Councillor Jensen made a valiant effort to cut through the baloney and have all votes recorded for all motions. Staff and some council members felt that it was necessary to differentiate between “substantive” motions and procedural motions such as approval of the agendas and minutes of council and committees.

This writer and others are well aware that procedural motions can be just as contentious as any other motion when used to curtail discussion and debate, but most councillors (except King and Jensen) were content with the assurance that any councillor opposed to these motions  would have their names recorded. It’s worth noting that the debate was going rather well until non-resident Councillor Garrison did his mumble-jumble which always begins with “from my perspective.” In the end the hide-as-much-as-we-can councillors stated that any name not listed as opposed must have been in favour. So save this bit of information, it will be useful later on no doubt when they start claiming they were not in favour and the chair/mayor/recorder did not see their hand up.

The next motion, intended to restore respect for the citizens who foot the bills by putting “Delegations and Petitions” near the beginning of the agenda, failed. This section was relegated to the back of the agenda by former Councillor Kubek and friends and it means that citizens may have to wait until 9, 10 or 11 o’clock to be heard. Working people, seniors, youngsters and those with children all find this a difficulty. Being near the beginning of the agenda ensures that you are heard nearer to 7:30 or 8 pm and can then get home as needed.  Kudos to Councillor King for trying, it would have gone a long way toward clearing the uncivil atmosphere created by the last Council.

Finally the proposal for the densification workshops came to the table. The proposal suggested two workshops, one for the public and one for the developers to be held in a single day. When the gallery queried the rationale for the workshops Councillor Siklenka did a good job of explaining that there was a need to clarify what was meant by densification and what it would mean to different neighbourhoods in Central Saanich “so that we have clear guidelines to help us assess the suitability of developments as they come forward.” So far so good except that the first step must be to ascertain if the community wants densification at all!

His Worship, Mayor Bryson, clarified that he had not asked for a separate closed workshop for developers which the wording of the proposal suggested and which was creating a frisson throughout the gallery as people wondered what information developers would be giving and getting that would not be for all ears to hear. In fact the gallery was pretty much unanimous in thinking that developers don’t need a workshop at all since they are simply to make their proposals based on the expectations of the citizenry. These expectations would be outlined in several workshops that would be held in the various neighbourhoods to give optimum opportunity for input.

Cathie Ounsted asked for some clarification of the timeline, but got more of a history of the thought process than a clear answer as to why these workshops needed to be organized in such a hasty fashion.  

In the end it was decided that a second look was needed, that the gallery’s concern about the small number of workshops needed to be re-examined (and I would suggest heeded, I can’t see how fewer than three will achieve the desired consensus). For more on this item we’ll have to wait for the January 9th Council meeting by which time it is to be hoped councillors have a more realistic idea of what citizens expect from these workshops. We are after all footing the bill for the contractor.

Please also mark your calendars for the Strategic Planning Session to be held February 8th (evening) and February 9th (daylong). This planning session is open to the public and sets the table for the coming year.

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