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North Cowichan Council Lowers the Cone of Silence - UPDATED

UPDATE:  Council will vote on this issue at the Wednesday Oct. 21 Council Meeting. If you believe that public input should continue to be read at the beginning of council meetings please email agenda@northcowichan.ca before the meeting at 1:30pm. This may seem like a small issue to the Municipality ... but it is a big issue to us who are involved in local community issues.

Original Article:

North Cowichan Council decides to stop reading the public input at the beginning of Council Meetings.

Pre-Covid, the public input section offered the public five 3 minute speaking spots. At bigger meetings like the first Forestry Meeting, the limit of 5 is lifted and you can have many more speakers.

The pictures below are from the first Council meeting I attended. It was one of the 2018 Council meetings focused on the Forest Review. I was most impressed with the public input section. Everyone was given 3 minutes and the Council and Staff had to stop and listen.

The Public packed the Council Chamber for the first Forestry Council Meeting. (Dec. 2018)

Each person was given 3 minutes to address Council

Since March, the Council Meetings have been moved online and the public input has been read out in their entirety or paraphrased (longer letters) by staff to the Mayor and Council.

The public can hear these public input submissions by watching the online Council meeting or viewing the archived meeting videos.

The public input is where you are going to hear things that you might not hear from staff, contradict staff or bring important information to the table.

As of the last Council meeting, the public input is no longer read out, and staff just gives us the count of emails received on each topic. (we have no idea how many emails are in support or against an agenda item)

The emails are still forwarded to the Mayor and Council but not read out in public.

The reason given for this change is that they are receiving too many emails and it would take too long to read them out in the meeting.

Pre-Covid they allowed for 15 minutes of public input ... now there is none.

At the September 16 Council Meeting they read out 23 public submissions and it took 13 minutes.

At the October 7th meeting they received 14 submissions and decided it was too much to read them out.

83% of these emails were related to the forestry review and the climate action plan update.

You can still email questions that will be answered at the end of the meeting after decisions have already been made.

The new slogan for the Municipality is "We're Listening" and the branding shows various dogs taking phone calls.

This reminds me of my dog, it appears to be listening but it only hears what it wants to hear.

Rob Fullerton is a website developer and co-founder of WhereDoWeStand. Rob manages the website, social media campaigns and is a member of the North Cowichan Forest Review Public Engagement Working Group.

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tags:
council
education
public engagement

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