Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Absence, Accountability and that ever popular bit of Transparency

According to a Prince Rupert website, last night’s City regular Council meeting and Committee of the Whole sessions never took place, no civic business was conducted in Podunk on a Tuesday night and a rather ambitious agenda sat unfulfilled, hostage to a long weekend and an apparent inability to find enough elected officials to get the job done.

While our city council doesn’t exactly have the most onerous of municipal government schedules, (meeting once every couple of weeks) the prospect of summoning enough Councillors and a Mayor, for the session after the Easter weekend proved to be too much of a challenge.

With the mayor again out of town (engaged in a variety of out of town seminars and meetings as described eloquently by Councillor Briglio at the last actual session of council to find a quorum) it would once again fall upon the six city councilors to get to the work of Prince Rupert as put forward by the city hall staff.
Well, that was the plan anyways.
Alas, if our Internet reporter has his information correct (and considering his more than casual interest in city affairs we suspect it is) then city staff could not find the four necessary warm bodies to do the peoples work.

Now this isn’t necessarily a problematic development, there was the long weekend, the end of the school break, perhaps complicated travel schedules; there really could be any number of possible reasons for a missed session.

But what’s not clear is why they didn’t take a straw poll at the last meeting or the week following and realize that the next session would be a problem, and reschedule the session prior to its normal date. A little forward planning might have gone a long way in avoiding what will make for a bit of a black eye for elected civic politics around the city.

More importantly for the transparency aspect of this council, why didn’t the city publicly announce that this weeks session was postponed and advise when the rescheduled session will take place (if it will.)

The city does have a fancy looking website that could be used for these important advisories to the people, not just for the photo ops and newsletters. In fact there are details provided as to what the local government needs to do should there be a cancellation… Judging by the reading material, it’s not that hard to post a notice of postponement with an account of why (hence the accountability thing).

The other worrisome aspect of all of this is, that we’re learning of this missed session through a citizen journalist who posts his material on his own website. Where we wonder was the local media, which to our knowledge attend these council sessions from time to time and are supposed to be our independent check and balance on the doings of our city council.

There was no word of the cancellation in the Wednesday Daily News, nor did the Northern View have anything posted to their website, nothing was to be found on the TV 7 website or the CBC Daybreak site.
We didn’t listen to the Mix today or yesterday so we have no knowledge if the private radio station had what would amount to the scoop of the week from the local media gang.
So until the established media gets around to covering the situation, we’ll have to make do with the one line advisory and promise of more from, which promises a forthcoming review and roll call (whenever it may be posted) of those that stood ready to govern, but had to go home due to a lack of like minded elected officials.

What has yet to be determined is whether this missed session will be made up this week, next week or if it will be merged with the next regularly scheduled session of council on April 14th.

Of even more importance, will we be able to count on a full complement of elected officials to take a look at what’s been going on while they’ve been away?
For those interested in score keeping here's the latest count of attendance thus far at city council in 2008 (not including the postponed session of last night), it's always available on the right hand side of this blog in the Podunk Service centre.

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