Why on earth is council in session when Dave is on?
One of the great legacies of former Mayor Art Phillips was that it was his council who chose to make City Hall more accessible to citizens. Most people probably do not know that council meetings until Phillip's TEAM party took power in 1973 were all held during business hours. Phillips even mentions it in his remarkable 15-page inaugural speech. On page five he stated:
Meeting times of the Council should be changed to 2 p.m. on Tuesdays, beginning next Tuesday, with an evening session beginning at 7:30 p.m. at which time delegations will normally be heard and business of particular interest to the public will be discussed.
As the new Mayor said, his goal was "to make City government more accessible and to encourage public interest and involvement".
This practice has continued since the 1970s. But what TEAM's new approach didn't specify was how long the meetings would last, and what time they should end. During the NPA term Mayor Sam Sullivan was adamant that meetings end by 10pm. This did result in meetings taking place over more than one day, but it also gave those who wished to present to council some idea of whether to stay, or come back another day.
Today under Vision Vancouver, we're seeing meetings extend past ten o'clock, lasting until midnight on at least a few occasions. The meeting of the Hornby bike lane decision last Tuesday had its final vote around 11:45pm. As speakers' names were called out, many had already gone. Video of the meeting shows a very tired looking group of spectators slumped on the benches, and staff and members of council appear to be physically drained.
I followed the proceedings online in the comfort of my home, and I too could barely keep my eyes open. I cannot imagine keeping it together in the council chamber that late.
The tradition of late night meetings is not an accident. Robertson & co. know that the later the proceedings, the less likely people will stick around. Mayor Gregor, it has been noted by Frances Bula and others, is a night owl. His tweets often come at 2am or later. The Mayor may or may not have insomnia (his "sleepless" nights over the Olympic Village debt notwithstanding), but why should citizens and staff have to oblige Gregor Robertson or Penny Ballem's sleep(less) schedule?
We don't know what the cost of overtime is for staff, but this is less of a consideration as the fact that people do not want to participate in the public process past their bedtimes. Believe it or not one of the meetings that kept Vision up until after midnight was the vote on chicken coops. We're not talking about the War Measures Act – we're staying up late for backyard fowl!
For media, they're not going to bother staying up that late either. Camera people and reporters cost money. By staying up to midnight it means that Vision's policies will conveniently miss the evening or morning newscasts. This is done on purpose.
One of the most annoying aspects of this Vision/COPE council is the fact that they all feel that they need to hear their own voices at the end of the meeting. Given the egos in the room it's not a surprise, but on Tuesday Deal, Meggs, Louie, Reimer, Robertson, Anton, Jang, Stevenson and Woodsworth all ran out their five minutes at the end of the meeting (Chow was chair) to say what they felt about bike lanes. Thank god Cadman was (again) on leave. That puffery added another half-hour to the meeting!
Councillors should just shut up unless they absolutely can add to the proceedings. Go listen to the video archive if you're having trouble sleeping. It's boring, pointless rhetoric to make councillors feel like they were involved.
Art Phillips might have a few things to say about how Vision have turned his good idea into a way to prevent public input, and ram through their policies without consultation. As it's been said many times before, Vision Vancouver are not interested in what the public have to say. They've got social change (or whatever you want to call it) on their brain and no one will stop them.
Read 24 Hours today!
Catch my 24 Hours column today – see page four of the paper's e-edition from today (Oct. 7th). It's titled "A Vision of Arrogance" and it discusses how on council, park and school board Vision Vancouver are getting a well-earned reputation as bullies.
I've been asked to let our readers know that there is an NPA pub night tonight (Thurs. Oct. 7th) in the West End, starting at 5:30pm. Drop in at the Bayside Lounge 1755 Davie Street (@ Best Western Sands Hotel, corner of Davie & Denman) to meet NPA supporters, "NPA curious" types and just others who want to share a pint to talk city politics.
- post by Mike