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Making the right decisions


With Jeremy gone to fulfill his new parent duties last week, coverage of the only municipal meeting fell solely on me. While it is not my style to point fingers, unfortunately, it is blatantly obvious as to which municipality I am referring to.
A new policy was created recently - which you may have read about in some of the recent letters to the editor. In a nutshell, that policy said that delegates should address council as a whole and not any one councillor in particular. Of course, to follow through on this policy, a change had to be made to the rules on the form in which a delegate must complete and sign to be able to voice their opinions to council in a public forum. With that done, this form was brought to the table for approval.
It was then that the wording on the form was questioned by councillor David Minish, who requested clarification on if councillors names needed to be omitted entirely when speaking to council about an issue or if it was just that council as a whole needed to be addressed, even when naming a particular councillor. At the beginning of the discussion, the majority of council was leaning toward the first option, that no councillor should ever be named in public.
Here, I have to admit, I got a little angry on behalf of all ratepayers of the municipality which, for the record, I am not. My anger was directed at how unfair it was to have their voice inside the council chambers taken away when they had concerns about someone who they elected. We've been reminded time and time again by other media of how public officials are fair game for criticism so why could an individual’s concerns be broadcasted on air but not brought to the proper outlet?
While it's true that council acts as a whole, nowhere does it say that the entire council needs to be held accountable for one of its members' actions. In fact, I read repeatedly in many of the municipal government descriptions from across Canada that council members are accountable to the people who elect them. But, how can you hold them accountable if you can't address issues with that very accountability.
Luckily, Minish went on to say that he was not comfortable with his fellow councillors taking the fall for his actions. That he was more than willing to "man up" and be held accountable for the things he has done and said. I think that this just may have got the attention of his fellow councillors.
By the time it was called to question they had changed their tune and the policy went back to allowing delegates to voice their concerns in a way that would respectfully address council as a whole instead of singling out an individual councillor and addressing them individually at the table. This I can understand and respect.
Some might question why that conversation was brought up at the council table and why council even considered going to those extremes or even what the motives behind the discussion was. I will not because, in the end, all that really matters is that council made what, I feel, was a fair decision on a policy that was in the best interest of both the ratepayer and for the protection of council - end of story.