Standing room only if you are delegating at city council: so much for accommodating the aging population.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  February 11, 2013 The late Jane Irwin tweaked city council’s nose during the meeting she attended last Monday evening, before she died the following Thursday, when she remarked,  pointedly, that  council members and staff sit in comfortable seats while delegations have to stand.

Many of the delegations use a walker to get to council meetings and need their canes to get to the podium.  They are given ten minutes to speak and then remain to answer questions.  For some that is not a comfortable physical experience.

This delegation left her cane on the table where she could make use of it if needed.  A chair to sit on would have been appreciated.  Our Council chamber is not geared to people with ambulatory problems.

The City Clerk’s Office say they are looking to have a chair available for people to sit at but that means getting a table they can sit at as well – and right now there isn’t anything in place where a speaker can sit, have access to a microphone and a place to put their notes.

Our Council Chamber has a wee bit of a shabby look to it, a sort of retro-fifties feel and a sense of it being a “tired room”.  The “optics” are terrible.  For a city what wants to attract those high-tech companies and their well-paying jobs what we have in the way of a council chamber is a bit of an embarrassment.

To add to the visual presentation one must add a comment of the sound system.  When the city manager is meeting with council he sits inside the horse show where the microphone he has to use is of such poor quality it is often close to impossible to hear what he is saying – and with this city manager you want to listen very carefully.

Burlington talks of its aging population.  It talks of its engaged citizens but then does very little to make them comfortable at council meetings.

It got to be a little too much for this delegation – she had to take her cane off the table and use it to lean on while she shifted herself from foot to foot. Delegations are made to stand before Council like serfs with their hats in their hands. We need to upgrade our manners.

Cathy Unsworth came to Council last week to talk on a heritage matter that impacted property she owned in the west end of the city.  Before getting into her delegation she commented on being asked by the Clerk’s office if she was going to speak for the staff report or against the staff report.  Ms Unsworth just wanted to talk and didn’t feel she had to say she was for or against something.

She makes a very valid point.  People who choose to address Council need to be treated with more respect. And consideration has to be made for their ambulatory needs.

When a person calls city hall to register as a delegate the Clerk should send them a Briefing paper explaining the rules and procedures that are followed.  Including a letter from the Mayor welcoming the person as a delegation would be a nice touch as well.

There should be paper, pencil, a pitcher with water and paper cups for delegations to use.

Burlington isn’t some little hick town.  We are a city with a population approaching 175,000 people.  Our Council Chamber should reflect both who we are and how we want to be seen.

Time for an upgrade.

Return to the Front page
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Comments are closed.