Letters to the Editor

Monday, 26 March 2012

Resident frustrated at City meeting secrecy - Letter to Editor

A resident from Ward 1, Gretta Wells, is giving a presentation tonight to ask the city to rezone the city-owned land from residential to park. But the presentation is going to be closed to the public and the press. 

It is pretty troubling that discussions on city-owned land are being kept from the public.  The proposal to sell plots of city-owned parks 2 years ago only taught the City to keep their plans better hidden from view in the future. 

If a community wishes to make a public presentation to Council, any of the 12 councillors is able to put this item on the agenda for City Council.  Here are the two main reasons why Councillors are obligated to bring forward important concerns like this to City Council.

(1) Under your municipal procedures, "a Member of Council may introduce any item of business to a regular meeting of the Council." (page 30, City of Fredericton By-law No. A-2, By-law Respecting Administration and the City Council, Section 27.03)

[It is] simply asked that you place this item on the agenda for City Council. This by-law prevents anyone from obstructing you in placing this matter on the agenda of City Council.  

(2) Under the Municipalities Act, it clearly states your obligations:

“36(2.1) A councillor of a municipality shall
(a) consider the welfare and interests of the entire municipality when making decisions, (b) bring to the attention of council matters that may promote the welfare or interests of the municipality,” (page 65)

Aside from these obligations to bring forward issues of concern to your community, it is also troubling that City Council has deemed the presentation by resident Greta Wells to Council-in-Committee to be held in private. No other residents or press will be allowed to hear this presentation to Council this evening.  

Here are the restrictions under the Municipalities Act as to what can be discussed in a closed meeting of City Council.  Many of these are meant to deal with budget information that could affect tendors and the proposed sale/purchase of city lands. These are the first 4 in the relevant clause of the Municipalities Act:

(a) information the confidentiality of which is protected by law;
(b) personal information;
(c) information that could cause financial loss or gain to a person or the municipality or could jeopardize negotiations leading to an agreement or contract;
(d) the proposed or pending acquisition or disposition of land for a municipal purpose;

Sorry about the detail, but this is the law and it should be followed.

Mark D'Arcy
Fredericton, NB