A potential new avenue for citizens to speak at council

Lisa Goudy
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Coun. Dawn Luhning sits at the May 12, 2014 executive committee meeting.

If council votes the same way as executive committee, citizens can informally address council on city matters without debate or action of council.

“This is one that I am quite excited about actually. Right now in committee of the whole, we do have some people that simply send in a lengthy letter about a particular topic or something. They just want to get up and want to speak to how they feel about something,” said Coun. Candis Kirkpatrick.

“It might be a personal issue. It might be something that is an issue with the city, but really they don’t require anything of us and … I believe that some of the things that we receive as information items now might end up here.”

The new provision adding a public forum portion into the regular council meetings will allow anyone wishing to speak informally register on a speakers’ list at the city clerk/solicitor’s office by noon on the Friday before the council meeting. The individual must provide the speaker’s name, presentation topic and list of main points that the presentation will cover. Councillors will receive this information in advance of the meeting.

If approved, each person will be allowed no more than five minutes to speak. The entire portion of the agenda will not last more than 15 minutes per meeting.

Council has the authority to refuse to listen to a speaker if their presentation goes off topic or if summary points provided to council prior to the meeting aren’t relevant to the City of Moose Jaw.

Myron Gulka-Tiechko, city clerk/solicitor, said for anyone wishing to do a more formal presentation regarding “bylaw changes or different policies,” they can do so through the current process of speaking in front of committee of the whole.

It was proposed that the presenter provide a full script of the presentation prior to the council meeting, but it wasn’t supported by two-thirds of executive committee and so that was defeated.

But Coun. Brian Swanson said if someone states something that is incorrect, councillors wouldn’t be allowed to correct that or defend themselves because that would enter into debate.

“In 17 years I’ve listened to many presentations from people at the podium, some of them right off the wall. They’re limited to 10 minutes. I just consider it part of the job. I want to make the chambers more accessible, not less accessible,” he said. “I want to make the bar not that high for people to come and address council because I don’t see it as them taking up our time. That’s why we’re here.”

However, Coun. Heather Eby said the issue is about helping out people in the city clerk/solicitor’s office who have to approve or refuse people who wish to speak in front of council. The provision provides “clear direction and policy” to the office.

“If people come and say statements that aren’t true for five minutes, well, there’s stuff on the Internet every day about us that maybe isn’t true and we can’t respond to that either,” she said. “So they’re going to be there for five minutes and if they’re disrespectful there’s a way to shut that down.”

With Swanson and Coun. Dawn Luhning opposed, two-thirds support for the motion was received. All of the procedure bylaw items will need to be ratified by council.

Follow Lisa Goudy on Twitter @lisagoudy.

Geographic location: Moose Jaw

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