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Thursday, June 24, 2010
Renovating Council Chambers
There was a bit of a dust up at the Board of Control meeting yesterday when we were considering the renovations that had been previously approved for council chambers. Controller Bud Polhill, who has supported this initiative many times before, suddenly decided he didn't like the price tag, even though the final cost to us will be just over a third of what was originally contemplated.
“Did you think we’d get it for free?” enquired the mayor.
“Don’t try to make a fool of me,” complained Polhill. “If you want to insult me, go out in the hallway and insult me. Don’t do it in public.”
Actually, Polhill was quite happy to go public in the hallway after the meeting where the media were only to eager to cover a bit of political posturing.
Because that’s what this was all about.
Both Bud and I served on the Governance Task Force which recommended a number of changes to the council chambers to make it more transparent, accessible and accountable to the public. These changes included electronic voting to ensure recorded simultaneous voting, shifting furniture to have council face the public, projection of motions being debated on a screen for public viewing, and a move to a paperless agenda.
These changes were adopted unanimously by the taskforce and by council in several separate votes. Additionally, the projects that dealt with these changes were adopted at the meetings on stimulus funding and budget considerations. Not once did the controller object to any of these proposals at the time.
Not only are we dealing with the same proposals for the renovations, the cost has declined by about two-thirds since we originally supported them when we expected to pay the whole shot ourselves, rather than getting help from the federal and provincial governments.
So what has changed?
An election is four months away. This is nothing more than a cynical move to cater to popular stereotypes about public spending. This is not the first about-face of this kind. It won’t be the last.
That’s why we need to implement these changes, to ensure that the public knows exactly what its elected representatives are saying and doing.
Accessibility, transparency, accountability. That’s what these renovations will give us. It's about time.