The draft procedures bylaw was amended at a recent council meeting to deny the public access to the information packages for council agendas on the preceding Friday at 4 p.m., instead delaying the release until the day of the council meeting at 10:00 a.m. Since the draft bylaw that’s available online doesn’t reflect this change, I am relying on the account of the meeting in the Whitehorse Star on Dec. 23, 2016.
According to that account, Coun. Robert Fendrick put forward the motion to delay access to the package with the reason that council needs more time to “mull it over” before the public gets its paws on it. A thin rationale to be sure, but unfortunately for the rest of us, only two councillors, Samson Hartland and Betty Irwin, voted against the amendment.
Not too long ago, Whitehorse council changed the time of council meetings from 7:30 p.m to 5:30 p.m. I believe it was around the same time that they made the information packages available on Friday instead of Monday. Councillor Fendrick’s amendment is a regression to that state of affairs where residents were only given a few hours to review information related to the evening’s agenda.
The problem should be obvious, but perhaps it’s best illustrated by the very manner in which this amendment came about. It was proposed and adopted in the same meeting; first and second readings were conducted at the same time. By the time third reading is given, very few people will be aware that their ability to prepare a lucid submission to city business has been interfered with. Again.
I hope mayor and council will withdraw this mean-spirited amendment to the procedures bylaw, which will only serve to handicap residents when we’re seeking to provide input on issues that affect us.