To the Editor,
Under section 5.3 of Port Alberni city council’s 2015-2018 Corporate Strategic Plan, the following is stated:
“We are a community that fosters and encourages civic engagement to support our local democracy. As such, we believe that getting involved and sharing your input should be easy.”
This council’s Strategic Plan has no statement about fostering and encouraging civic engagement, or about making such engagement easy. The new council Procedures Bylaw would act to stifle civic engagement, and will suppress informational correspondence sent to the organization that would normally have appeared in council agendas, where all ratepayers could be informed of a particular issue that was happening in any part of the city.
Additionally, council’s bylaw will restrict ratepayers to only asking questions of the topics listed in council agendas for the current or previous meeting, or to what council may have discussed at either meeting.
Months or years can go by where certain projects or issues are either not discussed by council, or that also don’t appear as agenda items. Despite a question being important to a ratepayer, council is forcing a criteria that would keep that ratepayer from asking the question because council didn’t discuss the issue first, or because the topic wasn’t listed in their agenda package.
There aren’t many people who appear at the podium to ask questions of council during question period. There’s no good reason why council can’t allow ratepayers to choose for themselves which meeting they wish to come forward and ask a question in council chambers, and to ask it on any topic that is relevant to city business.
Council will talk the talk about being a community that fosters and encourages civic engagement when it’s convenient, but by majority vote, appears willing to pass a bylaw that will do the opposite of supporting democratic accountability.