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Procedural bylaw matters - Clerk is setting out some adjustments

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

November 9th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

There was a bit of a rumbling and part of the earth that we know as Burlington may have moved just a bit.

The Clerk’s office released a report that will be discussed on Tuesday – changes to the Procedural Bylaw – the document that sets out the rule on how Council has to act.

Some good changes.

We have set out the report and added some editorial comment beneath many of the changes to give just what is being done some context.

In response to the committee review, the Clerk’s department has been working on expanding tools which enable residents to better interact with Council and in the Council process. The proposed amendments stem from an analysis of the committee review survey feedback, conducted in 2019. The survey comments indicated that the processes for communicating with Council were not apparent and that not having that information was a barrier to participation. Staff anticipate that these amendments will help to enhance communication for residents and Council, in creating rules and standards for Council correspondence, and petitions.

Additional amendments are proposed to align the By-law with legislation, and to create a timeline for when the public can reasonably expect when additional information is provided to Council and made available to public.

Addendum Timelines
At present, there is no timeline for how additional information is provided to Council or made available to the public. Staff are proposing to create a timeline for the release of additional meeting materials to ensure that both the Council and public have a reasonable expectation of when they will receive additional information. Staff will ensure that the addendum is posted not less than 24 hours before the hour for holding the meeting.

Finally – all too often addendum items have been added to the agenda at the last minute.

Should Council approve the proposed amendments, the additional items package will be renamed the revised addendum and that it be posted to the website for the public. Staff will ensure that the updated revised addendum is distributed to Council and posted to the City’s website not less than 12 hours before the meeting, to ensure that information is provided to the public.

Special Meetings
Current practice affords the Mayor or the City Manager to call a special meeting, the Clerk is then directed to petition Council to determine if there will be a quorum of Council present at the meeting. In review of the Municipal Act, S.O. 2001, c. 25 (the Act) section 240 the current procedure by-law provisions are incongruent with the Act.

Incongruent is putting it mildly

Council in memory

A majority of Council members could Call a Special meeting of Council. Good move – hobbles the Mayor who has been calling Special Council meetings at the drop of a hat.

The staff are recommending that the Procedure By-law be amended to align with the provisions outlined in the Act. This would allow the Mayor to call a special meeting, and they may be requested by a Council resolution to call a special meeting. In advance staff will poll Council to ensure that a quorum of Council is available before the meeting is called.

In addition, a proposed second clause to the special meeting section aligns with section 240 (b) of the Act. This would allow for the majority of members of Council to request a special meeting by petition. Upon receipt of the petition, the Clerk shall call the special Council meeting. This would allow for a majority of members of Council to request a special meeting.

We were not aware that the City Manager could call a Special Meeting of Council.  The Mayor has used the calling of Special meetings in a manner that this reporter has never seen before in 40 years of covering councils – they were being held at the rate of one a month.

Correspondence and Petitions
Currently, there are no provisions in the Procedure By-law that address how official correspondence, or a civic petition is received. According to the By-law, the only way to participate at a Council or at a standing committee is to do so as a delegation, this is echoed on the City’s website. The Clerk’s department currently allows for correspondence and has a provisional process in place for petitions but there are no resources that are publicly available. The proposed amendments set forth a detailed process and timelines which have been included in the accompanying amending by-law

In drafting the new sections, 42. Correspondence and 43. Petitions, staff have reviewed other procedural by-laws to better understand how other jurisdictions process these documents. Both correspondence and petitions will be handled in a similar fashion, with aligning deadlines. Staff have proposed that only petitions will be received at Council, as they will be ceremonially read into the record. If there are no additional motions regarding a petition or a piece of correspondence it will be received and filed.

It would be nice to see provision for one of the people behind a decision to be at the podium and able to answer questions from Council members.

Correspondence providing commentary on a matter that has been dealt with by Council will be received, circulated to members of Council, and filed, but will not appear on a minute record.

Correspondence that does not correspond to an agenda item, that is addressed to Council and received by the Clerk will be circulated. Petitions that do not correspond with an agenda item will be directed by the website to be sent to a member of Council, as it will require a sponsor. The member of Council who sponsors an item must submit a Municipal Officer’s report, outlining why the item was sponsored and the remedy sought. These items must abide by the deadlines regarding adding items of business on the agenda, the Wednesday, the week the agenda is published.

The requirement that a Petition be sponsored limits this tool.  If Council doesn’t want to hear what Petitioners have to say they could just be mute and ignore the Petition.  The Mayor should be appointed as the Sponsor of last resort or the Chair of the Standing Committee that will hear the petition

Administrative Changes
Staff are recommending the following administrative/housekeeping changes to the by- law.

Section Change
1.2 Italicize Name of Act
14.1 (c) Delete reference to “Citizen” in connection with citizen advisory committees
20.2 Capitalize the word Chair
27.3 Italicize Act name
41 Addition of Header – Public Participation
41.7 Deletion of incorrect references in Planning Act and correction
41.13 Deletion of incorrect section for delegations and correction

Strategy/process
The proposed amendments realign the Procedure By-law closer to legislation and with common meeting practices.

Options Considered
There are other areas in the current Procedure By-law that need review, these will be done over time and be brought back through subsequent amendment packages.

It would have been nice if these “other areas” were set out so that people could think about them and make comments to the Clerk.

Engagement Matters:
A public survey, hosted on the GetInvolvedBurlington.ca webpage open from April 30, 2019, through to June 7, 2019 received 385 respondents. The public survey posed questions to determine barriers to participation, advisory committee experience, and asked for suggestions to improve the system. This information was helpful in determining what services needed to be approved to enhance the overall experience for residents working with Council.

Kudos to the Clerk’s office for determining what services were needed to be approved to enhance the overall experience for residents

Should Council approve the procedure by-law amendments, supplemental materials will be created to help individuals navigate processes such as webpages and tip sheets.

Staff will work with Corporate Communications to ensure that public materials are reviewed to ensure that they are in plain language.

Conclusion:
Creating rules with respect to correspondence and petitions will help residents to understand what is involved and what they can expect. Rules and additional information will also work towards breaking down barriers, which will allow residents to more freely communicate and comment on agenda items that are before Council.

 

 

 

 

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