Where is transparency at city hall? by Thomas Vann

By  | November 23, 2010 | 18 Comments | Filed under: Keeping track of Cambridge Council 2010-2014

This ran in the Cambridge Times… comments invited below

On Nov. 8, I was at a city council meeting to speak about seniors and seniors with disabilities during our recent election.

I went through proper channels and had paperwork signed by the clerk.

When l arrived at the meeting, a strange thing happened. I was asked to hand my presentation in prior to the meeting. I questioned this move as I have never seen this done before, nor was I ever asked to do so in the past. I handed over part of my presentation and made it perfectly clear this was only part of my presentation. If the remaining presentation were needed, I would do so at a later time for their reference purposes.

The papers I handed over were viewed by the city clerk and mayor. The mayor came up to me twice and tried to convince me this presentation was not on the agenda and was not the appropriate time, and that I would be deferred to election issues at a later time.

I said this is the perfect time for it, and TV crews were here for me to bring this forward on seniors’ task force issues to the public. I still wanted to present this. I suspect due to the TV crew being there they didn’t want me to speak.

The meeting got to the point where I was to speak and the mayor mentioned he spoke with me and was to be deferred. I stood up and said, “No, this is about the seniors and I wish to speak”.

I should have been given the opportunity and if this was not in line with the agenda I should have been asked to stay on topic or have it deferred.

The opportunity to present this was denied when both the mayor and city clerk  said they saw my presentation and it was not on topic. Remember, they only saw a part of my presentation and I mentioned this clearly. Even another newspaper stated my presentation was on topic.

Coun. Rick Cowsill asked that I be able to present this and it went to a recorded vote. Cowsill, and councillors Ben Tucci and Linda Whetham, voted in favour of allowing me to speak. The mayor, councillors Karl Keifer and Gary Price voted to not allow me to speak. A tie vote means I was not allowed to speak at all.

I came in good faith only to be told to go away and come back another day. The presentation was on why seniors were not given a polling station in Katherine Elliott Court, with approximately 125 to 140 seniors and seniors with disabilities, as was done for many years and will be done so during the next provincial election

It was also on how conditions at Gertrude Burgar Court were causing many seniors to stand in line for up to an hour to vote. Many left due to not physically being able to do so. Some may never get the chance to vote again. I spoke to Alex Mitchell the next day and his reply was it was their choice to leave the line.

For years I’ve dealt with seniors issues and the disabled and have never heard anything like this. My presentation was not to embarrass the city, but to point out what happened and how we can solve this so it never happens again. Is this a pattern the City of Cambridge is going to take in the future?

Will everyone be asked to submit their presentation before speaking at council from now on to be censored?

Where is the transparency? For a city that says it looks after its seniors and disabled, we must do a better job.

I can only hope we can solve these issues and people get to present solutions to problems at our council meetings freely in the future.

Thomas Vann
Cambridge

http://www.cambridgetimes.ca/opinion/letters/article/906243–where-is-transparency-at-city-hall

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18 Responses to Where is transparency at city hall? by Thomas Vann

  1. bemcdowell@sympatico.ca'
    Bev McDowell November 23, 2010 at 8:29 am

    Kudos to the Times for publishing Thomas’s letter.

    I too would like to know why a polling station was not provided at Kathleen Elliott court.

  2. omnigorn@hotmail.com'
    Brett Hagey November 23, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    Funny, I did the same thing, I submitted my presentation ahead of time, and was subsequently shot down. You are such a loser, Thomas……just like me 🙁

  3. Debbie Duff Vitez November 23, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    First they took your right to vote away… and now your right to speak at Council!
    Is this what you want for Cambridge?

  4. lvann_11@sympatico.ca'
    Thomas Vann November 23, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    Brett, you are far from a loser. You are a smart man with an upside. Does everyone speaking now have to do this Brett? e-mail me when you get a chance or call me please Brett. Thanks.

  5. margaret-barr@sympatico.ca'
    Margaret Barr November 23, 2010 at 11:04 pm

    Thomas, unless something has changed of which I am unaware (which is highly possible) delegations are not required to hand over a copy of their presentation. However, many do. Some delegates bring enough copies for the mayor and each councillor to have; just to keep the facts straight and keep their ‘message’ in front of the council. They don’t want to be ‘out of sight, out of mind’.

    I know if I ever presented to council (which I never have, and probably never will……) I would definitely want to leave copies of my presentation behind. That way there’s no chance of being misquoted or misunderstood.

  6. omnigorn@hotmail.com'
    Brett Hagey November 23, 2010 at 11:49 pm

    Yeah, we’re not losers, Thomas but I sure feel like it sometimes when I think about what we can get accomplished, and how we’re getting sidelined by our own government. What a joke, eh

  7. Debbie Duff Vitez November 24, 2010 at 1:14 am

    Not for long Brett, if there is any justice left in this Province. We will see it soon..

  8. lvann_11@sympatico.ca'
    Thomas Vann November 24, 2010 at 5:56 am

    Margaret, that’s why there is photo copiers at City Hall. l was asked for my copy before council for a reason. At least you tried to make a difference Brett and not sit back and complain.

  9. bemcdowell@sympatico.ca'
    Bev McDowell November 24, 2010 at 7:48 am

    Brett

    I submitted a written submission for this council meeting that also was not presented. I received an email the next day and told to file my “request” under FOI with Jim Quantrall.

    I am now wondering how many other submissions where denied or not presented.

    Since we know that everyone at city hall appears to read the Advocate, I suggest that you publish your submission that you wanted to present here on the Advocate.

  10. m_boilard@sympatico.ca'
    m. boilard November 24, 2010 at 8:14 am

    I have never given a copy of what I am going to read to our Council ahead of time (not Cambridge Council). The Clerk has asked me … but I know of no by-law that requires me to do so…if you are… your Council has done it again!

    This submitting your presentations before hand is simply a ploy to control meetings. You as a taxpaying citizen has the right to speak … your words on paper should not preceed you. Simply put your name on the agenda … give the topic on what you are going to speak to and tell the Clerk to do his/her job (and keep his/her nose out of your business). Bring a copy of your presentation for every Councillor, plus a few for the press. Give it to each Councillor right before you speak… that way they actually listen. If Council refuses to let you speak, then their refusal becomes a whole new issue and dealt with as such.

  11. dmac3000@yahoo.ca'
    jj. mac November 24, 2010 at 8:22 am

    Here’s a historical tidbit that might be of interest – 3 terms ago, the City of Waterloo council became very defensive when the subject matter being presented at regular meetings didn’t quite match the agenda. The changes made were very straightforward – submit your .ppt files in advance or no podium time. Period. The Mayor and council did this to avoid the embarrassment of halting a presentation when it was deemed to be inappropriate. This change came about halfway through the term and then when coupled with the gross lack of due diligence surrounding the RIM park financing scheme, that old council was shown the door at the next election. For those who had hidden agendas, the new policy did add a special new focus on the discussion.

    Change sometimes does go full circle.

    J.

  12. Debbie Duff Vitez November 24, 2010 at 8:28 am

    Once this Election issue has been resolved, the next thing we need to do is get the Ombudsman back on board.
    This is what happens when you get questionable people running your city, and they vote to remove the Ombudsman from policing them..
    If, they were running a clean ship, why the vote? Why not have the Ombudsman on board.
    I am hearing nightmare stories about corrupt Municipal Governments since this was allowed to happen.

  13. grenlouwhite@hotmail.com'
    Louise White November 24, 2010 at 11:00 am

    Thank you Thomas for trying, I am so sorry that you were not heard. Keep trying!!! I posted your letter on my Facebook so that everyone can see the Idiots that are running our city.

  14. lvann_11@sympatico.ca'
    Thomas Vann November 24, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    Thank-you Louise.

  15. omnigorn@hotmail.com'
    Brett Hagey November 24, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    Thomas, when Doug, Alex, and I met to talk about more transparency from the city the only concern was maintaining the budget, hence my proposals got shot down. I think the computer guys are telling Council that providing the public with videotaped council sessions, audio transcripts, getting the Council online, etc., would cost piles more money.

    Council is our City’s executive board, to them computers are just glorified hammers so they would have no reason to suspect what they are told is incorrect, the resident expert on hammers is the guy who’s supposed to know.

    Nobody outside IT really, really knows what computer hardware and software is needed, that’s the Chief Technology Officer’s job, and if he’s escalating the true costs of IT projects, then executives are forced to believe anything they say.

    Well, my beef is with the IT department, not Doug, not Alex, not the Council. What executive board, in any corporation is going to say to computer guys “Hey look, you spend too much already, and you don’t really need this new stuff.”?

    26 IT people, $4 million annual budget, my colleagues in the area tell me our computer hardware suppliers apparently did a number on WRDSB, and I’ll bet they did it here, not to mention Kitchener, Waterloo, the Region…..

    I think Council has gotten the wool pulled over their collective eyes and they don’t want to spend any more on IT just to get more info out to the people.

  16. rmannn22@hotmail.com'
    Joe Public November 24, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    26 IT people for a city? How many people do they support? I work for a global company with offices all over the world employing thousands of people and we don’t have that many…and we make everything available to our sharehoulders online. And a 4 million dollar budget?? we should all…every last citizen…have that information delivered to us by hand on whatever media we require…

  17. omnigorn@hotmail.com'
    Brett Hagey November 24, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    Exactly, Joe, I think we’re getting boned, too. So, now I have to create a report that does some comparisons with CCC versus other organizations with $80 million annual revenue, and gross assets of $500 million. Wish me luck!

  18. rmannn22@hotmail.com'
    Joe Public November 24, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    Good luck 🙂

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