Continued Transparency and Accountability

In the next 5 weeks I will be blogging about the issues as I see  them  and as I have been able to extrapolate from the last 4 years.  Please feel free to comment and discuss the issues.  I do not have all the answers but feel free to contact me and I am willing to discuss them.

These issues always instill disagreement during any election.   They are catch words that some candidates use when they do not have a viable platform.  They are often used to complain about a situation during the election but rarely result in any constructive solutions.  Although I am using them, it is with the understanding of what they really mean and accurately reflect decisions that this City Council has acted on.

Two of the most important issues are:  Accountability and Transparency.

Accountability

Accountability means that the elected officials are going to work for and with the electorate to offer solutions and solve the issues that are important to them.  It may not be an ideal solution or one that is preferred by the constituent, but it will be one that is fair to everyone concerned.  That might mean  a resolution may only partially solve an  issue.

Example:  A young man called and then messaged me on Facebook.  He wanted something done about his neighbour and felt the situation next door was potentially dangerous to his family.  He did not want anyone to visit him but he did insist on a fast resolution.  I contacted the city bylaw officer and the police over some legal complaints.  As I looked into it,  I agreed that it was a potentially dangerous situation and used the proper channels to resolve the issue in question.  While the solution that the constituent wanted would have stepped on someone else’s rights, the final solution was a team effort of myself and staff with bylaw violations dealt with quickly.

I  also have a friend who disagrees with a neighbour in the way he cares for his home.  I have explained to him that his standards are very high and the city cannot impose them on others.  Although he doesn’t like it, he understands.

Accountability is for everyone.  You can be guaranteed that I will always resolve an issue with everyone’s rights being protected.

Myself and Councilor Desmarais have had Ward 2 meetings twice per year since 2010.  We spoke to all that came and helped them with their issues.  We shared information that helped them understand their situation, etc.  Interestingly enough, the other 2 candidates have not attended any of these gatherings.  Why?  I am not certain but I do know that when I was preparing to serve the citizens of Ward 2, I attended all Council meetings for eighteen months prior to the election so that I could understand and be prepared to serve the citizens.

Elected officials are accountable to ALL of the electorate and not just a small group.  That is responsible accountability.

Transparency

 An interesting concept that is important to the citizens of Port Colborne is transparency.  This describes the action of  someone is looking for information and being told that it is available only to a select group.  Like most municipalities, Port Colborne also has a group of people that make frequent formal requests for information that the city has not yet received or has not yet been presented to council.  When they are told this, they feel that the local government is not transparent to the citizens.  It is important to understand that this release of information by government is legislated in the Ontario Municipal Act, therefore, City Council cannot hide information unless it is spelled out in the Act.  All activity by government staff and elected officials is defined in the act and must be obeyed.  This includes the silence of Council and staff on any business that is discussed in-camera. (ie behind closed doors)

The information shared in in-camera meetings could be about staff, legal information directly related to the city’s activities for the citizens, the sale of city property, etc.  Our city clerk is responsible to manage and archive this information appropriately.  She is very much tuned in to the Act and makes the final decision on who can be given information.  This is done to protect confidential information as well as the rights of all citizens.

The current and past councils have always made Council meeting agendas and minutes available to anyone.  Agendas and minutes are available a few days before each City Council meeting by email.  Printed copies are available by contacting the city clerk at least one week before meetings.  Agendas are also distributed at each Council meeting and and are archived with the minutes at the city library.

Transparency is critical to all citizens of Port Colborne,  City Hall and the elected officials have nothing to hide. I have been open and transparent to everyone unless it has been regulated otherwise under the Municipal Act.  I can state that the seventeen years I have been on Council, there has been very little information that has been deemed protected and confidential.  Any citizen that wants information on the issues can find it if they want to.

Conclusion

During this election, all citizens should ask each candidate for their position on these critical issues of accountability and transparency.  I am prepared to answer on these and other questions as they pertain to this important issue.

Election 2014 is all about the issues that are important to you.  Read more about me and what I will do for you.    If you have any questions, there may be an answer in my frequently asked questions.  Feel free to  contact me with your own comments and questions.  Thank you for your continued support.

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2 thoughts on “Continued Transparency and Accountability”

  1. Yvon
    Good Evening,
    First off to a current issue Water, Water Water. Why being accountable to Ward 2 and citizens of Port Colborne we are now being faced with unfortunate hikes in rates, taking out money etc.. When a defined plan could have been made by past councils which you were a part of. The lack of foresight and planning will have effects that could turn away potential growth, then if we do nothing will open the city to liability. Often spending isn’t on what is needed but more in lines of what is wanted.
    Transparency another good point. Does the public really know what is going on or do you really think council is told everything. You know that there is wheeling and dealing off camera. I would like to see more in camera and less behind the door activity. I have nothing to hide.
    As for me you know as a firefighter and at the rink a lot, I hear a lot and welcome to debate issues. What people want is better leadership in finding solutions and a proactive approach. Now growing up with politics I’m not just a simple newcomer. Was the last few paragraphs meant for me. I do understand you may or may not think I understand things but what I do not know I will find out.
    Thanks for blogging I look forward to debating more.

    Like

    1. Hi Tim. If you followed council over the years you know that we have been struggling and dealing with this Water situation for years. Do we have a plan? Yes. We do. The studies that came out were needed to further understand and get a better handle on what needs to be done to solve the problem. Let us be honest here, Port Colborne will continue to have issues with water and if anyone tells you it can be solved they are dreaming in techno-color. There has been foresight on this issue and we have been working very hard at repairing all that needs to be repaired to solve some of the main issues. Thank god we have this study that now allows us to continue to plan and repair the lines that are in bad shape. The study will help the next council to prepare a good and active capital budget to replace the present capital budget. Your comment that there has not been any planning is false and fits your platform but the bottom line – we have planned and continue to plan for major repairs within the city but with the idea of being fiscally responsible and not run off like chicken little. As for your comment about spending, it appears to be what is wanted and not what is needed. I take offense to this since this council has been very responsible on this issue. We have spent money on needed projects and this included the VHWC. It was needed to replace the old facilities that were at the end of their life cycle and would have cost more money than the city spent on this centre. It has become a jewel for us and everyone speaks of the great facility this little city has.

      Council is given all information. Any employee that hides info will not be an employee for long. As for in camera meetings-Council has a legal responsibility to keep this information secret. Is it what most of us want? NO. It is in the Municipal Act and we have no choice in the matter. Yes No matter who is there this will not change. All council can do is respect the law as written and make sure that all that we can share is shared with the citizens. This council has been very open and transparent. What we can share has been shared.

      I also go to the VHWC usually on a daily basis. I also speak to many people when I am there. Yes many individuals are concerned but there is so much hear say out in the community that they are often asking me for clarification. I share the truth that I can legally share with them and often continue to give them more information about the issue that they do not have. As for meetings, I gave my situation. I was also on council many years ago when I returned to present myself at the last election I prepared myself by going to meetings for 1.5 years prior to the election. I don’t care what an individuals background is, you are not aware of the reality until you go to meetings and listen to the discussions. A TV meeting doesn’t give you the reality, it simply gives you the answers without the on going discussion in the background that is often important for an informed decision. As for budget meetings, they have never been on TV. They are always open to the public and citizens can participate at these meetings. Only a few people attend and I have always said that was sad since we are discussing and evaluating all expenses that the city will have over the next year. I am prepared to admit that you are more prepared than most due to your father’s involvement and good standing in our community. He was an excellent councillor. I was not making a dig at anyone but stating a fact. We just started seeing the other 2 candidates on a regular basis in the last months. I simply question the commitment of someone who appears to not be prepared for such an important job for our community. Thanks for this discussion. I appreciate the time you are now taking with the importance of the position.

      Like

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