Updated: Aug 29, 2022
Residents and local organizations got their voices heard this week – a protest outside City Hall became the first instance of the public being allowed in Council Chambers since the beginning of the pandemic. Thank you for your engagement, everyone!
General Committee #1
Watch Again: https://youtu.be/Sry4f_hLZSo
A quick meeting after the Barrie Hydro Holdings Inc. Annual General Meeting – approving the minutes from May 25, receiving the financial statements, and approving the auditor.
General Committee #2
Watch Again: https://youtu.be/REgPbl7L950
This was an excellent example of what happens when residents raise their voices! A protest that began outside City Hall, against McCann's motion that essentially criminalizes poverty, was brought into Chambers (the first time members of the public have been allowed to attend Council meetings since the beginning of the pandemic), and had a profound effect on the conversation.
With some Councillors attending via Zoom, it was impossible to record all the votes properly – those attending digitally weren't always shown on the screen, and the Deputy Mayor did not take note of their votes, either. This is but one reason why one of our contributing members has created the UserVoice asking for Council votes to be recorded and made public in an easily consumable fashion. If you haven't already voted for the petition, please visit https://barrie.uservoice.com/forums/225715-make-a-suggestion/suggestions/45303736-for-transparency-and-accountability-record-and-pu
The Downtown Barrie BIA's "new and improved" governance was approved on consent – this has been a long time coming, and will hopefully reduce the possibility of some of the nebulous goings-on at the BIA in previous times.
Heritage Park / "Heart Barrie" Sign
Also approved on consent was the Heritage Park Master Plan – which includes the controversial "Heart Barrie" sign. As noted in the SHIFT report, many survey responses were related to this sign, and "the responses to the proposed sign are negative." (Unfortunately, this is an example of what happens when Council completely ignores residents who raise their voices.)
Needle Collection Kiosk Pilot Program
Councillor N.Harris put forward an amendment to not just receive the report, but to extend the pilot program for a further year, using a modified version of the needle collection kiosks (which will hopefully eliminate the bin contamination from the first phase of the pilot project). Surprisingly, this amendment was carried unanimously, and the pilot will be extended! (We suspect that some who might have voted against were swayed by the passionate people in Chambers.) As Councillor Aylwin noted before the final vote, there is a more permanent solution available, and that is a Supervised Consumption Site – we are still waiting for the government's approval, and in the meantime, many are dying needlessly at an alarming rate. We need both the federal and provincial governments to move quickly to allow us this life-saving service. Supervised Consumption Sites are proven to reduce public/open drug use and publicly discarded needles, it's time we moved on that.
Tenant Water Billing
Over twenty minutes of meeting time was wasted as McCann tried to push through an amendment on the Tenant Water Billing item – an amendment that staff had already recommended AGAINST, and was not supported by anyone else on Council except Harvey. It did give both Morales and J.Harris time to remember to declare potential pecuniary interests on this matter, as they are both landlords who would be affected by this decision. Both these Councillors should have known and declared these conflicts ahead of time, rather than wait partway into the discussion. Accountability / Councillor Conflict of Interest.
Changing the Council Meeting Schedule
It looks like General Committee and Council meetings will be switched to Wednesdays in the new term – this should give Councillors more time to read through the materials [cough, cough] ahead of each meeting.
Also of curious note is McCann understanding that "some councillors" work during the day, but wondering why Council doesn't meet in the daytime? Sigh... As CAO Prowse patiently explained, daytime meetings go hand-in-hand with a move to full-time Councillors – since the position remains part-time, meetings remain in the evening.
For those interested in some of the logistics and rationale (as well as why making Councillors' positions full-time would enable more diversity at City Hall), our contributing member Dave Meslin puts much of this in plain language in his book "Teardown: Rebuilding Democracy From the Ground Up".
Economic Development Activity Report
Councillor Harvey put forward an amendment to temper some of the unreasonable demands made by McCann, although it was still over 30 minutes wasted on the back-and-forth on this item which, as we noted in the Council Preview for this meeting, is mostly information that has already been provided by recent staff reports [cough, cough] and/or discussed in Council meetings, and the remaining information would be difficult (and likely unnecessary) to produce within 30 days, especially as we head into summer recess.
Barrie Police Services Board – Pan Handling and Criminal Activity
As should be clear by now, we had many issues with this item of discussion – as did the protesters who gathered at City Hall. Thank you to everyone who brought their voices to Council, your passion made a difference!
McCann's initial proposal was, fortunately, not given the light of day, with a replacement motion put forward by Thomson.
As pointed out by Aylwin (and many of those gathered in Chambers), the first three points were problematic, as they put Barrie Police Services in the lead of supporting those experiencing mental health crises, addiction, or homelessness – which is not their jurisdiction, and better served by organizations already working in these fields, and with that expertise – rather than addressing root causes.
For an inspiring speech, which those in Chambers obviously greatly appreciated, tune in to the meeting video (link above) starting at 1:22. Some of our favourite quotes: "...it's hard to feel love for a city when it doesn't feel like the city loves you back." "We can't arrest our way out of these systemic problems, and the police will tell you that, social services agencies will tell you that, and, most importantly, people who are living in poverty and experiencing homelessness or living in shelters will tell you that." and "When we don't address the root causes of these issues, it falls back on the police, and it doesn't help anyone involved. It perpetuates the problem, and it harms people."
It took Harvey until after Aylwin's speech – well over 15 minutes into the discussion – to declare that he had a conflict with both this and the original motion. Again, this should have been stated at the outset – it is frustrating that these Councillors take such a lackadaisical approach to integrity and accountability. Accountability / Councillor Conflict of Interest.
Aylwin made a passionate plea to remove those three paragraphs from the motion, but that amendment failed (despite it being obvious that everyone in the Chambers was in full support). It was highly disappointing that Ward did not ask for the "opposed" votes – the public deserves a record of who voted against this amendment.
Aylwin was able to make some additions to the initial motion, though. The first calling on the provincial government to immediately raise Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support social assistance rates above the poverty line – as he noted in the previously-mentioned speech, it's astounding and shameful that people living on disability support are legislated to continue living in poverty. (Also astounding and shameful that Morales opposed this amendment.)
The second amendment Aylwin brought forward was to investigate the feasibility of a pilot program to retain outreach workers to assist people experiencing homelessness and living in poverty. And yet another great speech starting at 1:49 – he was really speaking up for downtown and all its residents tonight! Some quotable highlights: "There is a perception that downtown Barrie is unsafe, but it's a perception. The reality is that the City of Barrie is one of the safest cities in the entire country, and the crime rates in the downtown are even with the rest of the city." "We need to stop this anti-marketing campaign of our downtown." "These are my neighbours, and they're human beings, deserving of dignity and understanding and respect and real support." "I hope we can take the lesson of this evening and not try to make hay, make political hay or score political points on the backs of some of the most vulnerable people in our community, because it hurts people, it stigmatizes people. So we need to learn that lesson and move forward on real solutions."
Finally reading the room, Council passed this amendment unanimously.
N.Harris tried valiantly to eliminate paragraph three of the motion – the request to the OPP to continue policing homeless people around the Highway 400 ramps. As she stated, they already do patrol the ramps, and she (and we) feared that this would encourage them to increase their policing of the homeless people living there.
The motion, as amended above, was approved unanimously. A number of concerned faces in Chambers, as, despite this motion being better than the one initially proposed, the first three paragraphs cause much concern around the criminalization of homelessness.
Finance and Corporate Services Committee
Watch Again: https://youtu.be/vt_-UEdzeU0
An informative presentation by the County about the Health and Emergency Services provided to the City of Barrie.
Items to be brought forward to General Committee include working with Georgian College to encourage greater engagement of students in the municipal election, the 2021 Year End Audited Financial Statements, and updated overnight waterfront parking.
BIA Special Meeting
Minutes: not yet available
Watch Again: not provided
Agenda: not provided
Engage Summary: we don't have one, since neither we nor any other BIA members got notification of either this meeting, or what it was about