The following motion highlights again the continued whittling away of what most people would regard as protocols conducive to transparent and open government. No surprises in guessing who moved the motion, nor who seconded. Readers should pay careful attention to the potential consequences of this motion, in that:

  • Since agenda items are only made public from Friday afternoon, and the motion reduces the time for submitting public questions by 24 hours, this really only leaves the weekend for residents to consider agenda items, and submit their questions. We would have no objections if the publication of the agenda also came out several days earlier allowing residents the necessary time to either contact councillors, gather information, or simply to compose their queries.
  • Lipshutz states that 2 questions are the limit and that a question consisting of several parts will be deemed as separate questions. Again, limiting public participation and accountability.
  • No minuting is the equivalent of no accountability.  

Here is what occurred:

Crs Lipshutz/Esakoff 

That the following be referred to the Local Laws Committee for the purpose of amending the Local Law with respect to meeting procedure. That Local Law 232 with respect to Public Questions be amended to provide: 

1. Questions must be received not later than 12 Noon on the preceding business day;

2. Where a public question has been asked and the person having asked the question is present at the Council meeting then that person may read the question;

3. Where a public question has been received but the person asking the question is not present at the Council meeting that question will not be read but will be answered in the mode that it was received (mail or email);

4. Answers to Public Question shall not be minuted;

5. Public Questioners shall be limited to 2 questions per person. Where more than 2 questions are submitted the Chair shall answer the first 2 questions. 

That when the Local Law Committee look at Local Law 232 that they also provide guidance on where Public Questions should appear in the Agenda. 

AMENDMENT 

Crs Okotel/Pilling

That answers to Public Questions be minuted.

The AMENDMENT was put and CARRIED and on becoming the SUBSTANTIVE MOTION (c) was again put and CARRIED. 

LIPSHUTZ: Thought that most people agreed that there should be public questions. Receiving information is important for making decisions and if questions come in on the ‘same day’ it doesn’t give officers much time to compile the requested information and give answers. He agreed that ‘there should be transparency’ but if people aren’t present and they ‘simply ask the question because they want to embarrass’ ‘or someone put them up to it’ they ‘should get the answer’ but in the way it was submitted. It shouldn’t be ‘read out and waste our time’. Some people do want the questions in the minutes but he thought ‘no’ it’s the same as when people write directly to councillors and they get answers but they are ‘not minuted’. Tonight there were 4 questions by the same person and we’re for 2 questions per person and ‘that’s it’. If a question has several parts then that will be regarded as 2 questions. If council wants to encourage people then ‘you don’t have someone hogging questions’.

ESAKOFF: basically said she’d already given her views on the Delahunty motion and didn’t need to repeat herself.

Delahunty asked that the reference to the Local Law committee be considered and both Lipshutz and Esakoff agreed. Delahunty said that her position hadn’t changed and that she opposed the motion.

PILLING: thought there were ‘merits’ in the motion and asked that an amendment that questions be minuted be accepted. Lipshutz refused to accept this as an amendment. Okotel then moved that public questions be minuted. Hyams allowed this as an amendment even though Burke’s view was that since it’s the ‘opposite’ of the motion it can’t be an amendment.

OKOTEL: said that the ‘purpose’ of public questions is that they go ‘on the record’.

HYAMS: supported amendment.

Amendment put and carried. Motion was put and carried.

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