The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods has written to Mayor Gregor Robertson about the scheduling of important public hearings:
The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods is writing to ask that you urgently reconsider the City’s recent decision to schedule vitally important public hearings during inconvenient daytime work hours. These scheduled hearings include significant and controversial rezonings for the Oakridge Centre Mall project, for Casa Mia in Southlands, as well as contested spot rezoning proposals in Kitsilano and other neighbourhoods.
The Coalition notes that public hearings held during traditional working hours severely limit the ability of most citizens to attend, imposing barriers to public access to City decision-making that are inconsistent with the recent publication of the Mayor’s Engaged City Task Force Report. In particular, these hearings fail to meet any of the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2)’s core values that were included in the Task Force’s recommendations.
The Core Values define the expectations and aspirations of the public participation process as follows:
1. Public participation is based on the belief that those who are affected by a decision have a right to be involved in the decision-making process.
2. Public participation includes the promise that the public’s contribution will influence the decision.
3. Public participation promotes sustainable decisions by recognizing and communicating the needs and interests of all participants, including decision makers.
4. Public participation seeks out and facilitates the involvement of those potentially affected by or interested in a decision.
5. Public participation seeks input from participants in designing how they participate.
6. Public participation provides participants with the information they need to participate in a meaningful way.
7. Public participation communicates to participants how their input affected the decision.
However, these ideals appear to have been ignored almost entirely by the actions of Council in scheduling these hearings. Public access, input, and influence are priorities officially accepted by Council. These should be honoured and fulfilled.
Mayor Robertson, you stated on January 30 this year that “I’ve heard the concerns people have raised over how City Hall engages with residents. There’s no question we can do better.” We ask you to confirm those fine words with concrete action.
The Coalition understands that evening and weekend hearings are inconvenient for Councillors and City staff but notes that this is the people’s business and the people’s convenience too.
In another development, yesterday the City issued a 400+ page report on the DTES Community Plan which contains, I understand, substantial changes from the previous documents. Residents are being given less than two weeks to analyze this massive document, and will have just five minutes to speak to Council about it.
This is a Council that claims to be interested in community engagement! What an undemocratic farce.