By Mike Archer. Last week we asked if it was appropriate for Council’s Task Force on Homelessness to be meeting in secret on the very day the homeless were being evacuated from the Happy Tree camp across from the Salvation Army.
While Councillor John Smith chose to ignore our request for information, his co-chair, Patricia Ross responded but never quite got around to explaining why the meeting had to be secret. Deputy Manager Jake Rudolph told us, ““The three elements I went over with the City Clerk were essentially land, labour and law, issues. For example, there are issues around the subject of a homeless coordinator (which you have mentioned in previous emails) which require discretion. I can have the Clerk’s Department be very specific if you like but the concept was to anticipate topics which might come up that fall under the category of appropriate for Closed.”
My response; “Anticipating topics which might come up that fall under the category of appropriate for a closed meeting at some later date seems to be a rather broad interpretation of the Community Charter and it seems to leave the decision to meet secretly open to an enormous amount of interpretation.”
Those three elements – land, law, personnel – have, in many jurisdictions, simply become catch phrases which are routinely used when politicians want to be able to discuss things away from the prying eyes of their bosses – the public.
Councillor Henry Braun has railed against the seem ease with which council and its committees slip in and out of closed session and has pledged to curtail the practice if elected mayor.
Mayor Bruce Banman has made ‘transparency’ one of the things he claims to have brought to City governance during his term as mayor.
How many other secret meetings get called based on the “land, personnel, law” trifecta when our councillors choose to meet secretly?
Well here’s one:
Notice for the Special Council Meeting on August 26, 2013
So Much For Transparency
To qualify, by my understanding of the Charter, and the boxes checked off to justify it above, this meeting must be about municipal service negotiations over a piece or pieces of land, which may or may not include the land on which City Hall sits (because after all – they aren’t meeting in the sky), in which a staff member, or future staff member, or past staff member (or imaginary staff member?), may, or may not be personally involved … or might be in the future, or not depending on your definition of the word ‘may’.
We asked both the City Manager and the Deputy City Manager:
a) If this was a correct interpretation of the Charter or of the City’s own policy
b) If there would be a reporting after the meeting as to the subject matter and any decisions taken
More importantly, to quoted a hackneyed old phrase, “Is it the right thing to do?” When Abbotsford citizens, who are not even allowed speaking to council with giving them two weeks written notice, is faced with notices like the one above, merely announcing, for no reason they are porepared to share with us, they are going to have a secret meeting, citizens have every right to know why.
We’ve received no response from either city official..
So much for transparency. So much for open, democratic government.
Thanks for changing things at City Hall Bruce.
Join the discussion 4 Comments
Jay Mitchell Says:
“Mayor Bruce Banman has made ‘transparency’ one of the things he claims to have brought to City governance during his term as mayor.”
How, exactly? Perhaps from his perspective of civic entrenchment… but to the voting public, City Hall appears just as murky as it ever has. With some elected officials ignoring requests for information, and others stepping around issues in strategically-worded responses, it’s incredibly difficult for anyone to claim an improved level of transparency.
Edit: If someone wanted to truly bring “transparency” to our City Hall, they’d need to start with making all documents available to be public as a default without having to go through gatekeeper-style access requests. All e-mail correspondence should be openly available, as should any physical paper letters or memos pertaining to municipal business. No more internal jokes between City staff and the police department, no more snide comments between staff and members of local organizations about issues, and no more refusals to comment. If an employee or councillor doesn’t want to follow these guidelines, they should seek a position elsewhere.
From Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Today-Media/447088788677534
Thank you Mike, for hammering away on this business of ‘closed meetings’.
All government business should be considered the business of those who pay for the elected politicians, the bureaucrats, the civil servants, the consultants, the ‘partners’ in P3s.
Whatever comes out of the pockets of the tax-payers who bear the burden of government should be set on the default of OPEN,…..full transparency.
Only under extremely narrow, limited situations should the people who foot the bill be kept in the dark as to where their money is being spent.
Excessive, lavish indulgent perks, and expenses are merely a cover for theft of public money. But the bleeding becomes a raging river when government conspires to keep everything they do shrouded from public view.
I may disagree with you on some issues, but Mike, I am sure glad you are still around. Way too many people seem to have bought the reverse, that government is their Lord, and they are to be meek, subservient slaves to their masters. Democracy, despite any of its weaknesses is a beacon in this world. We need to protect our wonderful system of governance.
I agree totally Jay. Virtually everything that goes on in City Hall should be open to public scrutiny. After all, the tax payers of Abbotsford have EVERY right to know how their tax dollars are being spent.
A glaring example of this is the letter that Abbotsford Today received from APD notifying them that they were being “blacklisted” by the department. Let’s have a look at how and why this came about.
A week ago Abbotsford Today published an outstanding article about Henry Braun. The following day Bruce Banman called someone not associated with the publication demanding that the article be taken down. In Banman’s words, “it is too painful”. Banman was told that the person that he contacted had nothing to do with Abbotsford Today and, if he wanted to discuss the story, he should contact Mike Archer directly. The letter to Abbotsford Today was dated the day following Banman’s conversation with this individual. In a subsequent email coming from APD, it was stated that direction for the “blacklisting” came from the Chief, Bob Rich. Now, this is where the story gets very interesting. A week prior to the call that Banman made to this unnamed individual, the two saw each other in a local restaurant and Banman “lost it” on this individual, of all places, in a public place, in the presence of many patrons.
The only way Rich would issue instructions to Cst. MacDonald to write the letter in question would be because he himself had been instructed to do so by Bruce Banman, Chair of the Police Board.
Banman has stated that the person that he fears the most in the lead-up to the fall election is Mike Archer, Publisher of Abbotsford Today. Banman is seroiusly lagging behind in the polls. What better way to silence Mike Archer than to question the legitimacy of the Today Media Group.
This sad event, perpetrated by Bruce Banman, shows political interference in the operation of the Abbotsford Police Department and must be halted immediately. Who, besides the citizens of Abbotsford, will see that these behaviors are brought to the attention of higher powers?
Like · Reply · 10 hours ago · Edited
Bruce Banman, your behaviors and underhanded tactics show that you are not worthy of holding public office! Step aside now in order to save yourself, your family and your supporters the embarrassment that will come in November if you do not.