Council Follow-up, week of January 17
Updated: Feb 1, 2022
Circulation List: https://barrie.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=913877&GUID=87D07B13-D796-4ED0-BB24-59FCDCC50A85&Options=info|&Search=
Engage's Summary: https://www.engagebarrie.org/post/city-council-monday-january-17-7pm
We're sad to report that this meeting was not a good example of democracy in action. There were several issues that bear noting, outside of general reporting.
All Council was present at the meeting, although Councillor McCann arrived late, left the meeting in the middle of Jennifer van Gennip's deputation on the Housing Affordability Task Force, returned for the vote on Section C of the December 7 Planning Committee Report (re: zoning bylaw amendment for 217 Dunlop St. E.), and left permanently after the vote on section D was finished, missing both the December 14 Planning Committee Report and the General Committee Report (and corresponding votes). So the only deputations and votes he was present for were approving a zoning bylaw amendment for a controversial condo project, and agreeing that a zoning bylaw amendment application be deferred to the next day. (Accountability)
There was an emergency deputation request from Cathy Colebatch regarding the Holly Community Centre naming rights. An emergency deputation requires a 2/3 majority vote at Council, which is almost always given unanimously. In this case, however, Councillor Morales voted against Ms. Colebatch giving her deputation – he later denied this, but the video of the meeting at ~6:45 clearly refutes that claim and his description of the vote (and shows his very clear facial expression as well). This was a disappointing and discouraging (but not isolated) incident of hostility from this Councillor towards public engagement in the democratic process, as well as to Ms. Colebatch, in particular. Attempting to silence public discourse goes against everything Engage was built on – and one of the main motivations the community had for creating it in the first place.
Engage members were very disappointed to note the double standard displayed by the Mayor and Council around the Deputation for the zoning bylaw amendment application for 217 Dunlop St. E., in contrast to how Ms. Colebatch was treated this evening, but also in contrast to how strictly other citizen deputants have been expected to hold to the time limits. The planner was allowed to speak uninterrupted for more than double the allowed time. As per the City's deputation guidelines, deputations are to be a maximum of five minutes. Presentations are to be submitted at least 48 hours in advance, and may contain a maximum of 12 slides. The planner's slide deck, however, showed at least 18 pages. Mayor Lehman did chime in, close to the six-minute mark, to remind her that deputations are only five minutes, and tell her she had about a minute left – she was, nevertheless, allowed to continue for over eleven minutes before being asked to wrap up. One of Engage's founding values is Equity "our elected officials should represent all constituents – not just those who already hold power and have their voices heard. We believe in supporting and uplifting underrepresented and unheard people, especially in regards to the issues that affect them the most, such as... systemic barriers to true equity." Tonight's double standard towards private citizens versus planners and developers was a blatant example of just one of those systemic barriers we see at City Hall on a regular basis.
Also in terms of deputations, there were member complaints about Councillor Morales texting and making faces throughout Ms. van Gennip's deputation about affordable housing, as well as him insisting she report on issues not related to her deputation. His and Councillor Thomson's treatment of Ms. Colebatch was also described as more argumentative and bullying, rather than trying to understand or explore her point of view. Private citizens should not be discouraged or intimidated out of speaking to Council – while we know these two women have much experience in giving deputations, watching the way they are treated when speaking to Council can be incredibly discouraging to people considering speaking up for the first time. Our values of Creating Safe Spaces, being Solutions-Focused, Empowerment and Inclusivity are the first breaches that come to mind.
When it came to the discussion and vote regarding the zoning bylaw amendment for 217 Dunlop St. E. it was, as noted by Councillor Aylwin, unusual that the Mayor did not call on the Ward Councillor to speak to the issue first. Hopefully just an oversight on Lehman's behalf.
One "thumbs up" moment for democracy and public engagement – Councillors Riepma and Harvey changed their votes on the Holly Community Centre Naming Rights issue, after consulting with members of the public. They were both concerned there had been a lack of community consultation on the issue. Thank you for listening to the concerns of residents, Councillors Riepma and Harvey!
Engage's Summary: https://www.engagebarrie.org/post/planning-committee-tuesday-january-20-7pm