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Council Follow-up, week of December 5, 2022

Updated: Jan 6

Our biggest concern was the proposal to delete all incomplete items on the staff's Pending List – see below.

General Committee

Most items on the Agenda carried on Consent, including one Item of Discussion put forward by Thomson which gave us a number of concerns, the Pending List Update. From the wording of the Item, all directions given by previous Councils that hadn't been completed yet were to be deleted, with no mention of what those about-to-be-deleted Council directions might be!

We sent a letter addressing these concerns to Council and senior staff, saying:

We are deeply concerned with the proposed motion to delete all items on the Pending List from previous terms of Council.

The Pending List contains dozens, perhaps hundreds of directions from previous Councils, including investigations into matters of Finance, Infrastructure, Public Safety, Transit, Parklands, the Economy, etc. These were created through motions and directions to staff which were publicly published, publicly debated, and publicly voted on by our democratically-elected municipal representatives.

To revoke these items in their entirety – especially without releasing to the public which pending items are about to be removed – is profoundly undemocratic.

While there may be items on that list which have “gone stale” or were otherwise addressed that could and should be removed, there are sure to be other items that include important policy direction on issues that matter to the residents of Barrie. As this motion is worded, items that were put on the Pending List only last month would be revoked. This would be detrimental to the long-term outlook and forward-thinking that is required to govern a municipality.

An action like this could set a precedent that would make it difficult for this or any future Council or City Staff to engage in long-term planning for the city. If the new Council wants to rescind policy direction from previous Councils, it should be done so transparently and openly, with a chance for the public to be aware of, and allowed comment on each policy direction being revoked.

We encourage the Council to vote against this undemocratic proposal, and instead look at ways to clear the backlog more transparently, while being respectful to the public process and long-term planning of recent Councils.

With the result that a copy of the Pending List was made public via the Legistar site before the meeting, but there was not much time for a deep analysis. While we appreciate that the public now has the ability to know which directions will be deleted, on first glance there are still quite a number of recent directions Council that stand to be lost in the process. There are still concerns that residents who believe certain matters have been taken care of will not be aware that the directions may now potentially be revoked, as well as about the precedent set of rescinding the long-term planning. Our accountability team will be working hard to get answers before next week's Council meeting.

The main highlight of this meeting was the presentation on Corporate Asset Management – an overview of the structure of the department, the City's approach and tools, and the City's needs, challenges and management plans. It generated a number of questions and discussion – well worth a watch, if you'd like a fuller understanding of what goes in to the decision-making about roads, fleet, infrastructure, and other City assets!

The motion regarding Procedural Bylaw Changes received the most discussion. Councillor Harvey wisely amended the paragraph about Councillors handing over their phones during in camera portions of meetings, in order to encompass any devices that could be used to record and/or transmit information from the confidential meetings. We were especially heartened to see many Councillors (especially "newcomers" Hamilton & Courser) so determined to increase information accessibility to the public, and working for transparency! This part of the conversation ended with Councillor Thomson adding a third paragraph that all Items for Discussion that are ratified by Council will be listed on the City's website. There seemed to be some overlap (or perhaps confusion) with the Pending List motion in the discussions, so we were again heartened to hear the push for transparency.

And finally, the correspondence from the Allandale Neighbourhood Association regarding Bill 23 was referred to the Affordability Committee (or to another appropriate Reference Committee, once established) for consideration and discussion.

Planning Committee

This was a quick meeting, tucked in before General Committee. Hamilton held the Zoning Bylaw Amendment for Sandy Creek Estates, in order to ask staff some questions about affordable housing targets, the participation of School Boards in the planning of developments such as these, and how densities are managed by the City. All great information for the rest of us to understand, as well.

The Implementation of Bill 109 "More Homes For Everyone Act" staff report was held by Riepma, with an amendment to make the retaining of a strategic advisory firm (without going through the City's usual procurement process) a little more palatable – by asking the CAO to report back on its success, and require an RFP if there was still need for this contract.

During discussion of the motion as amended, there was a comment by Nuttall about how Councillors micro-managing development was a political failure of the past, and a caution against keeping power within political structures – that City staff need to be allowed to do the work without political interference. We're hoping this is another positive sign for transparency and accountability at City Hall.

And Riepma made an amendment to the Zoning Bylaw Amendment for 129 Collier Street as well, to ensure that the plans offered by the developers would be tied in to the zoning, and not negated by changes from Bill 23.

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