Back in the bad old days, when the thoroughly anti-democratic Vision party ruled Vancouver, they forced through a motion that required public hearings which could not be completed in a single session to be held during the working day, rather than in the evenings. The motion was introduced partly because daytime meetings are more convenient for both City staff and Councilors. But the primary motive was to reduce the ability of Vancouver electors to have their say on matters of importance to them because most electors work during the day and cannot take time off to speak.
It has to be remembered that Vision had been so bad at public consultation that late-stage public hearings were often the only chance you and I had to voice our opinions – and voice them we did, to the chagrin of Vision and their staff — and even then we were almost inevitably ignored.
Once Vision were unceremoniously booted from office in the 2018 civic election it became possible to revisit this by-law and, in October 2020, a very slim majority (6-5) of the new Council voted to restore evening hearings for reconvened public hearings. Strike one for the people!
However, like Dracula, the monster was only sleeping and has now woken to attack us once again.
Next Tuesday, 21 September, City Council will debate a procedure by-law change establishing a schedule of meetings for 2022. A close examination of the memo reveals that reconvened public hearings (listed as “Public Hearing Reserved”) will generally begin at 3:00pm and some will start as early as 9:30am. If approved, we will be back in the same situation we were with Vision, in which, for example, developers and their supporters can come and speak to Council about a proposal because it is part of their work day, while Jane Doe and Joe Blow who have employment and childcare commitments at that time will miss out.
Who is bringing forward this by-law change? It appears to be the City Clerk’s office; leaned on, no doubt, by the City Manager. And why are we re-visiting a decision made less than one year ago?
And what will the Greens do this time? In the vote last October all three Greens voted against the democratic option, and I asked at that time:
“what were the Vancouver Greens thinking? I know that recently they have been happily leaning on the Vision-esque Americanized City staff for many of their thoughts and actions, but I could not believe they would be so publicly scornful of the public’s right to be part of the debate. It shows their fundamentally un-progressive position on so many issues outside of, perhaps, the environment.”
As CityHallWatch has written about next Tuesday’s vote:
“The changes to allow for reconvened Public Hearings to start as early as 9:30 am will only be debated by Council (there will be no public speakers allowed), so the only way for concerned citizens to take action on this matter is to directly contact members of Council (by phone, e-mail, social media, or other means). A simple message that these changes are not welcome could make a difference in the Council vote on the topic.”
I encourage everyone to write and complain about this proposed change.