With November’s local government election looming around 25 wanna-be political candidates and six city staff explored the myths versus reality of serving on local government during an evening session held at Williams Lake city hall Wednesday.
Vancouver-based parliamentarian Eli Mina led the session and told participants whether they are new on council or seasoned they have equality when it comes to voting,
“If you’re new you want to make sure you learn fast so you can get to a level where you are part of the decision-making,” he urged, adding sometimes that means letting yourself make a few mistakes during the learning curve.
Council members are elected to ask questions, offer ideas and make decisions, he insisted.
“In municipal politics you don’t get to abstain so the community deserves that you be informed.”
He warned that citizens will soon lose respect if a board or council member is asking questions they should know the answers to.
The material for meetings comes out in advance of meetings and people need to arrive at meetings prepared.
Citizens often read through the material beforehand and know the answers to most questions are clearly answered in the material.
Mina touched on in-camera meetings and the growing concern that too much is being discussed behind closed doors.
He suggested when boards go into those types of meetings they go over the agenda and determine if every item is justifiably being discussed in-camera.
It’s the art of balancing legal aspects with robbing the public of hearing really good debate.
In a handout he distributed to participants, he included a self-assessment checklist of 10 items for board or council members. They ranged from keeping comments clear, concise and on topic to being willing to accept majority decisions as collective decisions.
“These may not be religiously followed but do you think they are reasonable?” he asked.
No one in the room voiced opposition.
He encouraged people to refrain from being silent when they could have good ideas to share and reminded them the decisions they make will impact future generations.