Tuesday, April 3, 2012

What a Night At Council

I must say that it was certainly entertaining at council tonight. Usually Council meetings are pretty boring and procedural. Tonight though things got a little heated between the Mayor and Deputy Mayor. This is how I recall what happened and I did write it down so I should be pretty accurate.

Anyway, from the start of council there seemed to be an undertone of disappointment in the demeanor of Deputy Mayor Geoff Gallant. I think he certainly seemed preoccupied and not entirely happy about how things have unfolded regarding the Public Information Session that is happening Wednesday night at the Kinsmen Center.

Basically Geoff stated that he was disappointed that members of Council are not going to be addressing the public session on Wednesday and will not be answering questions presented by the public. Geoff commented that he believes that when Councillors are not available for questions that they are not being accountable to the public.

Councillor Smith countered this argument saying that the original intent of the session was for staff to present information to the public regarding planning and development in general and not specifically Motion Drive Estates. I guess that when the original motion was passed it did not specifically mention Motion Drive Extension but referred to a question presently before council. Which as I understand it was the Motion Drive Extension application. Confused yet? She also said that Councillors are accountable and available to residents 24/7, not only at a public meeting.

Anyway as the council meeting progressed it was plain to see that the Deputy Mayor wasn't exactly happy about this and when he tried to present some information from the recreation committee, Councillor Smith raised a Point of Order related to the information that Geoff was going to present and he was ruled out of order by the Mayor. Apparently Geoff was trying to present information that was discussed at the committee meeting but was not expressly written in the committee minutes. When the Mayor said that Geoff was out of order he disagreed and said that he was not out of order. There was some back and forth between the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor before Councillor Smith spoke up and said that Council should decide if someone is out of order or not. So they voted on it and the Deputy Mayor was ruled out of order by a vote of 4-2.

Oh it gets better.....

After the Deputy Mayor was ruled out of order and it was clear that he didn't agree the Mayor went on to report on something that apparently was not in the minutes of some committee meeting. Sorry I don't have all the details but I was trying to write it all down and the jabs going back and forth distracted me. So basically what happened is that when the Mayor proceeded to give his oral report the Deputy Mayor spoke up and asked why can the Mayor give an oral report and he can't? He obviously felt that he was being treated unfairly and was not happy about it. He challenged the decision of the chair and said something about consulting Municipal Affairs about the ruling.

In response to Geoff's question as to why the Mayor can give oral reports and he can't the Mayor stated that what he was reporting on was important to the operation of the town and lets face it the Deputy Mayor was just grandstanding. It was at this point that I thought the Deputy Mayor was going to lose it, to his credit he held some sense of calm, well as calm as can be expected I guess.

So the meeting continued and Councillor Byrne was asked if he had anything to report and he said that he never had time to send the minutes of a meeting about Tappers Cove but asked was it OK to give an oral report. Then he proceeded to give an oral report of what was going on down at Tappers Cove and I had a hard time not laughing out loud. Now I am no expert on the procedures of Council but the Mayor and another Councillor just gave oral reports immediately after the Deputy Mayor was ruled out of order and accused of grandstanding for seemingly trying to do the same thing. So the way I figure it if you go to a meeting and there is no minutes taken you can give an oral report. However if your meeting has minutes and you present them for the council meeting you can't give an oral report on something that is not in the minutes.

At the end of council when they are doing their round table Geoff again tried to say something about the Green Space Management Strategy (I think that is what it was) and he was immediately interrupted and asked if he was trying to present something that related to a motion that council will be voting on in a couple of weeks, the Motion Drive Extension issue. Again he was ruled out of order and forced to stop talking about the issue. Geoff told the Mayor that you can't stop me from talking and telling me what I can and can't talk about. The mayor responded I can if you are ruled out of order.

I will be the first to admit I don't know all the ins and outs of Council procedure but this is the first time I have seen this type of thing at Torbay Council. Makes me want to go back next meeting and I certainly will. The next meeting will be the one where they will vote on this Motion Drive Extension motion and I am sure all parties will have a change to have their say and even do a bit of grandstanding if they choose.

This little bit of excitement tonight at council doesn't rank up there with the epic battles between Andy Wells and Shannie Duff or Dorothy Wyatt but at least it shows that there is some life in the council chamber. I am sure that the Deputy Mayor is not too happy with how things turned out at Council tonight but he is a big boy and should get over it pretty quickly.

Who says Torbay politics is boring...

12 comments:

  1. You'll have to take a recorder the next time, Craig! lol Just an opinion, but it seems Council is not impressed that Geoff is letting the public know what's going on and he's childishly being picked on. Can't wait for the next election and a whole new council!!!

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    1. Well I don't know if he is being picked on or not but there are procedures that must be followed at council and if Geoff was violating them then they were correct to rule him out of order.

      As for Geoff letting the public know what is going on he certainly seem to be out front of council when it comes to public engagement. Some would say that all of the things Geoff does is part of a wider agenda. What ever the case I like the fact that he wants to involve the public, there is way too much stuff done in this town behind closed doors.

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    2. I don't understand this at all. Why/how was the Deputy Mayor out of order if he wasn't allowed to even present whatever it was he had?

      If it is all just a matter of procedure then you'd assume that the entire council would already know what the correct way of doing stuff is (this current council have been doing this job for several years now). If the Deputy Mayor was actually out of order then clearly he was in the wrong and it sounds like a lesson learned.

      However, the events that you described certainly makes it seem like there's something fishy going on (and as they say, "where there's smoke there's fire..")..

      Calling in Municipal Affairs seems like a big step to take, but then again if this WAS a case of one member of council getting "childishly picked on" and forced into silence then somebody needs to call shenanigans on that (for the good of all the councilors and - by extension - our entire town)!

      I find it all very frustrating to be on the sidelines when things that matter to me (such as this "land vs cash" issue) are getting decided upon. On the one hand, I DO get more involved and try to find out everything I can... but then it seems like when you get in close to the action something "Andy Wells"-ish like this happens that just turns my stomach against the whole system.

      If there ARE any secret shenanigans at work then I hope/pray they get exposed!

      Btw thanks for doing what you do, Craig - keep up the good work.

      MC(2)

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    3. When they took the vote on if Gallant was out of order, Councillor Tapper said 'How can I rule him out of order if I don't know what he's going to say?'. I think some of the councillors were definitely just acting childish and it damages their credibility when they refuse to let the public hear what is going on.

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    4. I don't know if there is a concerted effort to shut Geoff up or not, I doubt it very much. I would say that there seems to be a divide in council more on a party type ideology like we see in provincial and federal politics. I don't necessarily think this is a bad thing, it is just a fact of life. People are going to make decisions and set priorities based on their core beliefs.

      There is no question as to what side of the political fence Geoff sits on. He is clearly left of center and that is where his bulk of support is. I think that is why this Cash or Land issue is his primary focus, it is what matters to him and his constituents. Generally people who are left of center are more conscience of the environment. That is not a slight at anyone, it is just a fact.

      I think that overall our council may be a little closer to the center as far as their politics go, certainly the Mayor is a Progressive Conservative or at least he has leaned that way in the past. I would never want to speak for the Mayor or Deputy Mayor as to their political beliefs, I am simply making an observation based what is already public knowledge.

      The fact that our council is made up of people of different political beliefs can only be a good thing, it balances out and keeps things in check. This is not a new thing and it is not going to go away any time soon.

      As for why the Deputy Mayor was out of order, there was a discussion and it was determined that he was. They knew what it was he wanted to present and they prevented him from doing it. Now was he truly out of order or were they just trying to stop him from speaking?

      I have to believe that he was out of order and everything was handled honestly and correctly. I certainly trust council and staff to make accurate rulings.

      Also, I am pretty sure that the Mayor knows what he is talking about when it comes to procedure and what is allowed and not allowed in council chambers. I don't think Bob is the type to abuse his power to just simply shut someone up. I know him my entire life and he has more integrity than that.

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  2. Like I have always been saying since Mayor Codner got in, HE NEEDS TO GO...WE need a younger person who understands the needs for families in our Community and it certainly is NOT Mayor Codner in my opinion!!

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  3. This has to be one of the most ridiculous stories I've ever heard!!! New leadership in Council is needed. Mayor Codner has to go!!!

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  4. I hear everyone is jumping all over Mayor Codner but to tell you the truth I didn't think he did anything wrong last night. It is his job to chair the council meeting and make decisions on procedures and other rules in the council. He doesn't do that entirely by himself, other Councillors objected to what Geoff was saying before the mayor ruled him out of order.

    The fact is that there are rules in council with regards to what you can discuss and how it has to be done. Without these rules it would be a free for all and nothing would get accomplished.

    I understand what Geoff was trying to do, he wanted to have it on the record the information he was bringing back from the rec committee. If that was the case then he should have had it entered into the minutes of the committee then he could have delivered it, at least that is how I understand it.

    Anyway people may have their views about the mayor but he didn't do anything wrong last night, he did say that Geoff was trying to grandstand but as far as I could tell he did everything within the rules.

    Next meeting should be interesting.

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  5. The problem here is codner runs staff and council to his own end. He has in my opinion has Torbay as us versus them. It's time for the thems to boot him out next election.
    Is it not the CEO of the town who should be asked if the deputy mayor was out of order?
    At least the deputy is attempting to open the closed doors of the council chamber. All Committee meetings of the town should have minutes taken.

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    1. I take exception to this comment. I for one do not consider myself to be anybody's puppet. I can weigh up the facts as long as they are accurate, listen to the residents, make up my own mind,and vote. I think that I can speak for the staff from my own experience, when I say that these people are very competent and professional in going about their duties.

      Councillor Brian Whitty

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    2. I have to agree with you on this Brian. I think people over estimate the influence the Mayor has on council and staff.

      The mayor is but one voice on council, granted I think that the Mayors leadership should carry a certain amount of weight when determining the direction of the town. After all he is the mayor and ran on a particular platform and the people chose him.

      However each Councillor has a responsibility to carry their own weight and from what I have seen they do that. Everyone may not agree with the overall direction or the direction of a particular Councillor but they are there to do a job and I am sure they are all doing their best.

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  6. I am pretty sure that the mayor deferred to the CAO during the meeting to ask direction on the information the deputy mayor was trying to present. It appeared that she agreed that the information could not be presented at council.

    I guess it depends on what side of an issue you are standing when it comes to us vs them showdowns.

    Currently with this open space management strategy it looks like it is those who want open space and those who want development. This is not a new scenario and it is not unique to our town.

    Somewhere we need to find a balance where the needs of the residents can be met along with the needs of the environment, they don't always have to be at odds.

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