Should Council Meetings have an open Q & A Session?

Last September, Bill Thompson emailed Mayor Gil Brocanier and said that five out of the seven municipalities in Northumberland County have a Question period so why can’t Cobourg do the same? Gil’s response was that legal advice was that it would open up Council to litigation.  Further he said that “Some municipalities have ignored their advice and allowed question periods that often turn into shouting matches and even Police enforcement. You need to look no further than Port Hope to see evidence of this.”  (See links below for more on this). But given that other Councils allow Questions, you have to believe that there is a way to allow for an open Question period in addition to the current delegation process.

Mayor Gil Brocanier and Mayor elect John Henderson
Mayor Gil Brocanier and Mayor elect John Henderson

With Gil no longer Mayor in the new Council, and with John Henderson as the Mayor elect, there is room for a change.  Perhaps a new arrangement can be made at Council meetings or possibly regular separate “Town Hall” meetings can be scheduled.  All Candidates for Council were asked about the issue and most seemed open to upgrading communication between voters and the Council.  John’s answer to the question was too long to include in the list of responses below but he made clear that he prefers the current system since it provides notice of the request/question. However, he is open to the idea of quarterly meetings for citizens to present their concerns to Council.  Other Candidates have similar suggestions.

Mayor

John Henderson (acclaimed) I would like to have discussions with the new Council and the Town Clerk on instituting Quarterly meetings that would begin at 6 p.m. (similar to our Public Meetings) where Council’s Strategic Plan, Budget updates and an opportunity for citizens to present their concerns to Council. This would result in an extended period of time to be decided to continue Council-community dialogue and allow us to keep our more, formal business-oriented Council sessions.
…. I am open to having an organization like Place Speak (Canadian company) to assist with critical question(s) that affect the community at large. Again, I would like to have the opportunity to discuss this with members of the new Council. This is another forum in which to gain community responses in real-time. [Abbreviated]

Deputy Mayor

Randy Curtis If individuals wish to ask questions of a member of council they have the opportunity to do in person, over the telephone or electronically, that way it is possible to have effective two way communication. Consideration should be given to a quarterly Q&A, or as part of the Committee of the Whole dealing with agenda issues.
Suzanne Séguin

I would suggest a 6-month trial period for Q & A at Committee of the Whole meetings, for agenda-related topics, and also hold two Cobourg Community Chats for any topic of interest to residents.

Councillors

Nicole Beatty

Open Q&A sessions is not an easy topic to broach; however, I believe that if implemented and facilitated effectively and efficiently it is a strong demonstration of civic engagement.  As a Councillor, it would be my responsibility to interact with residents and answer questions on matters that are important to them.  I would expect questions at Council meetings. [Abbreviated]

Aaron Burchat

I am open to a Q & A session at council meetings. I do believe there needs to be a policy set in place as to how it operates, and that there is a mutual understanding that the answer might not always be directly in front of council and sometimes it might require more research and would be answered publicly at a future council meeting.

Adam Bureau

If our residents want or need clarification before or after council meetings, I would have no problem with that, after-all, the Town Council works for our tax payers and they deserve the opportunity to be heard.

Emily Chorley

Yes, this is essential for enhancing participatory democracy in Cobourg and for enabling residents to hold their elected representatives to account. Question periods should be introduced at Committee of the Whole meetings for items that appear on the agenda.

Brian Darling The feedback I get from other municipal council members in other areas, is that it is a very inefficient use of Council’s time.  If they did not already have a Q & A period they would not implement one.  That being said if the newly elected Council chose to suggest other options I would be willing to listen. I would be open to quarterly or semi-annual meetings.  At this time it would allow Council to share any updates on our new strategic plan, a budget update and an opportunity to engage the public.  Any new procedure developed will have to align with the Municipal Act.
Karl Vom Dorff A Q & A period is sorely needed. It’s a way to keep councillors on their feet, an informal way for residents to voice their concerns and keep accountability and transparency front & centre. Other municipalities do it, why shouldn’t Cobourg?
Travis Hoover  In my previous work experience I had the opportunity to travel across the province and hear from large and small municipalities who allow Q&A’s and who don’t. Some that have it, regret the decision to implement citing that some organized groups tend to monopolize the time.  Some have had success.  Some have received legal opinions why it’s not a good idea.   I would be open to discussion regarding Q&A in the future.  I would also like to see public “town hall” style meet and greets being established throughout the community on a regular basis throughout the year to engage residents on issues important to them.
Miriam Mutton

Yes. Q&A is integral to improved communication between Council and Citizens. As part of a communication tool kit, Q&A can support timely dialogue which in turn can support better decisions by Council for the benefit of the community.

Johnny Percolides ABSOLUTELY…! I can’t believe that it has taken this long for Cobourg to finally ask, why isn’t this being done here? The public should be engaged and have a right to ask their elected Council a question at a Town meeting. 

Note: Candidates are listed in last name alphabetical order. Answers that were longer than about 40 words have been abbreviated (the limit was an average of 40 words per response). Some are still longer than that but are hard to shorten. The result is that this post is longer than I’d like. Be aware that most (but not all) candidates worked hard to keep their answers short.

The next and last question to be answered is: Are there any other issues you want to address?

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gerinator

How on earth does this question of Q&A turn into CTA bashing, CTA anything for that matter? I like a plan consisting of: Q&A is a good thing; formalized period within the COW where direct Questions are posited, minuted; then move along. There would have to be a code of conduct & expectations constructed (for example read the list of comments below to see the need for a code). I like the 6 month fixed trial period; results analyzed; improvements made; then go again. I don’t like winded, feathery responses to a simple question. Everyone is worried about the long/loud protester or worried about not knowing (and be chastised) the answer. It will happen but over time and properly managed, we’ll collectively get better at it.

Ken

Good grief! Now John Henderson wants to hire another consultant to answer any ‘critical questions’ that may be put forward to council!?

There is nothing wrong with a “Q and A’ session, either before the start of a meeting or after. When we lived in Haileybury, Ontario, the Temiskaming Shores council meetings always started and ended, with a ‘Q and A’ session. There was never any problem with this format! If any of the councillors and or mayor, did not have an answer, then the person putting forward the question would be told that an answer would be forth coming at the next meeting.

With the question put forward at a regular council meeting, it was then put into the ‘minutes’ of the meeting and everyone in attendance was made aware of the question/concern. Therefore, no excuses for the question/concern not being addressed! Now it’s on record!

Dubious

It is far more important for the public to inform Council regarding their desires rather than providing a forum for “Council to share any updates on our new strategic plan”. According to the Municipal Act Council should represent the people rather than updating the people on what has been decided.

Walter L. Luedtke

Citizens are welcome to make their issues known to Council using ‘Delegations’.
“Delegation to Municipal Council
In order to address and make a Delegation to Council on an item that appears on the Council Agenda, you can fill out the Fillable Council Delegation Form and submit the Form to the Municipal Clerk in person or by email.”

Ken

More paper work!

Wally Keeler

It’s a hardship for cry-babies.

Walter L. Luedtke

As we see in this blog, lots of folks won’t be interested in getting information, but rather have their pet axes ground and holding the Councillors’ ‘feet to the fire’.
I a Cobourg citizen has a real question, Councillors and Staff are available by phone or e-mail.

Frenchy

Something like you waiting in ambush for a chance (even a thin one), to smear the CTA and anyone who has the same opinion as them.
I totally agree with you that our Councillors are available to us now and open to receive any questions we might have. I’ve had positive experiences every time I communicated with town officials.
By the way, do you want to borrow my “high school grad” editor to proofread your posts before you hit the send button?

Wally Keeler

I’ve had positive experiences every time I communicated with town officials.”

This is meaningless. I’ve had the same positive experiences, but mine resulted in actions taken that benefited Cobourg taxpayers. What have you accomplished with your “positive experiences” with Town officials?

Walter L. Luedtke

Btw, I am a ‘someone’ not a ‘something’.
And as far as proofreading is concerned the end of that sentence should read ‘the same opinion as they’.
Also, I did not mention the CTA in my post.
May I quote you – in paraphrase – “those who stir the merde should be made to lick the spoon”.

Bill Thompson

“Those who stir the merde should be made to lick the spoon”
How does it taste Walter ?
“Btw ,I am a “someone”not a something “
Possibly you should remember this advice in future as it’s ok for you obviously trying to be childishy clever referring to one for example as “Duby “ vice Dubious on this site as well as others that I’m sure you can recall.
It doesn’t appear be as comfortable for you however when someone refers to you in words that you consider uncomplimentary.
Come to think of it there are only two people who post on this site who use improper name calling when referring to a poster who is in disagreement with your opinions.
What does that exhibit in a supposed adult exchange of opinions?

Frenchy

If our Mayor-elect gets involved there wouldn’t be enough time for Q&A’s at Council meetings or at any separate meeting held, we would be there all night.
His answers to 5 of the 6 questions posed on this blog have had to be abbreviated and even those answers have held very little substance. Can you imagine how long he could go on (without really saying anything) if he had an audience?

Walter L. Luedtke

You folks didn’t like Mayor Brocanier and now it looks like Mayor-elect Henderson won’t fare any better.
Perhaps if we had a CTA candidate for Mayor …

ken strauss

Walter, if you disagree with Frenchy respond with a cogent rebuttal rather than with irrelevant anti-CTA comments.

Walter L. Luedtke

Please enlighten me Mr. Strauss.
Why is deploring the no-show of CTA candidates for Mayor ‘anti-CTA’?

Bill Thompson

Maybe they were waiting for you to run for election Walter as you appear to be very involved always ..verbally….but never personally.

Wally Keeler

Same applies to you also Mr Thompson. You appear to be very involved always .. verbally … but never personally. Same applies to me, except that I have gotten involved personally, to extend the Hibernia sidewalk to the Ecology Garden, to set up bike hook-ups at the Ecology Garden, to install new sidewalks on the west side of Darcy at the train tracks, and this year the paving of the west shoulder to facilitate seniors on their scooters to attend the CCC. Those are a few things I have done before Council. What have you accomplished for the Town Mr Thompson?

Walter L. Luedtke

Among other things, Mr. Thompson, I have been a Rotarian – off and on – since the 1960s – in Colborne (Past President), Brighton and Cobourg.
I have volunteered in more fund-raising campaigns for those communities than I can count.
Now I can no longer be active, because of a hearing impairment.
The only service on your part I that I can recall is your feeding waterfowl in violation of the by-law and against the advice of the Willow Beach Field Naturalists.

Wally Keeler

That’s great Walter, especially compared to the pseudonym whining cry-babies who have done very little for the community.

Bryan

Fake News Wally. Exactly how do you know what the pseudonyms have done (or not done) in and for the community. You’re just blowing smoke.
You’re far better off directing your energy towards something productive, like the painted trash can project that Lydia Smith (CTA) and you pitched to council. That was a far better use of your time and skills. Bravo for that!

Wally Keeler

I’m doing other things that are productive, and they will become apparent to you as time goes on, so cut your fake righteousness on this item. The pseudonyms are perfectly able to speak up for themselves and say what they have done for the community, unless they have called upon you to be their defending spokespersona. I am not preventing them speaking for themselves. Walter has no problem with touting his accomplishments; neither do it. I have yet to read a comment by a pseudonym claiming anything beneficial they have done for the Town. I don’t do anything for the Town for a cheap throwaway bravo. I’m a dime-a-dozen resident with a desire to make a better place to live in like all the other residents with real names, not fake names. Not fake news.

Wally Keeler

The bigger point Bryan is that any Cobourg resident could have done what I did. There’s nothing special about it other than will. Even pseudonyms can make requests of Council to do something, albeit, not anonymously. I’ve never seen that done. Btw, the CTA, was a successful leader in the prevention of marina expansion, and I applaud that.

Wally Keeler

He’s touchy Walter. He has no problem smearing Town officials and politicians, but, alas, the CTA, purportedly speaking on behalf of “Cobourg Taxpayers”, is a sacred sow.

Cobourg Person

There are CTA candidates. Emily Chorley and Johnny Percolides are CTA members.

Bryan

Fake News CP. Just like the “rumour” that the business that one of the candidates is involved with sells illicit goods. Strange that the ones spreading this rumour have never gone to the police with their information.

As for Ms. Chorley and Mr. Percolides, neither are CTA members.

They certainly support some of the CTA’s initiatives, but then so do most of the candidates. Just read their platforms..

Cobourg Person

Mr. Percolides was listed as a honorary member on the CTA’s website. I’m not sure when he was removed but he is most certainly a member.

If “most” of the candidates support the CTA’s initiatives then why was the CTA sponsored forum cancelled?

Bryan

Was listed….past tense. And while Johnny may support some of the CTA’s initiatives, he is absolutely NOT a member.
If you have proof otherwise, please present it. Failing that, stop spreading your politically motivated fake news and erroneous information.

Candidate support for some CTA initiatives and the cancellation of the all candidates meeting are not related in the manner you infer.
I said “support some of the CTA’s initiatives”. That doesn’t mean all candidates agree on all CTA initiatives.It does mean that some candidates disagree with the CTA on some issues. Big surprise.

What’s your point?

Cobourg Person

I think I made my point obvious and it’s quite simple. If you can’t figure it out then I don’t think I can help you.

Bryan

Thank you CP. You have just proven to this blog’s readers that you can’t defend your point because you don’t have one.

Walter L. Luedtke

Where can one inspect a membership list of your secret society which is dedicated to ‘openness and transparency’.
Do you have a secret handshake too?

Cobourg Person

Thank you Bryan. You have just proven to this blog’s readers that the CTA lacks openness and transparency.

Bryan

Strange CP, I don’t see any replies from the CTA. I have posted as a private individual and not on behalf of the CTA. As indicated above, the CTA is totally open with its members. You CP are not a member therefore the CTA owes no duty to you.

Bill Thompson

Attend a CTA meeting to see for yourself and ask questions instead of your constant negative assumptions,but of course that would require a genuine effort to find the facts.
That has been suggested to you before but you’ve got no intention of ever doing so because it might be embarrassing for you to find the facts.
Much more rewarding /enjoyable to snipe safely from behind the computer keyboard as usual and give you a purpose.

Cobourg Person

So…..what you are saying is that the CTA won’t issue a listing of their members?

Bryan

As a former Rotarian, please tell us, does Rotary make its membership list available to the public?
The CTA is totally open with its members.
You, on the other hand Walter, are not a member so the CTA has no duty to you.
The Town, through Council and its staff, has an obligation to be open and transparent. The CTA’s mission, in part, is to encourage them to honour their statutory obligation.

Walter L. Luedtke

Rotarians are readily identifiable by the lapel pins they wear in everyday life.
Some even put them on their pajamas.

Wally Keeler

Anti-CTA comments are not irrelevant at any time or place. The organization reads “Cobourg Taxpayers …” That sounds as though I am included because I am a Cobourg taxpayer. So when the CTA postures as speaking for “Cobourg taxpayers” then they will just have to get used to so-called anti-CTA comments, such as THEY DON’T SPEAK FOR ME!!!!!. It’s politics, Mr Strauss. Get used to it and cut back on the smearing of our Town officials with hyperbolic post-nutritive disposal substance.

ken strauss

Thank you for your eloquence, Wally! Perhaps in your rush to vitriol you overlooked the absence of any claim to represent you or anyone other than myself.

Walter L. Luedtke

Ah, I see Mr. Strauss that your own opinions differ hugely from those you hold as a CTA director.
Chuckles

Wally Keeler

You overlooked the fact that so-called anti-CTA comments are something about which you expressed sensitivity. Whether you are a CTA unit or not is irrelevant, much like your plain prose dullmess.

Bill Thompson

Wally
You left off the “Association” part of the CTA name.
That identifies it is an association only ,not representing/ or speaking for ,but providing information for the taxpayers to be aware of.
They can either take it or leave it so no inference of “speaking for you” or anyone else.
Words can be interpreted/misinterpreted as you have just demonstrated by your comments.

Wally Keeler

Wow! What a hawkeye you are to notice that I left out the word “association”. It was deliberate.

“Most of the citizens of Cobourg have indicated that they do not want more visitors coming to the beach. Many feel it is crowded enough already. In direct opposition to the wishes of Cobourg citizens…”

The CTA dared to speak to Cobourg taxpayers informing them that “Most of the citizens of Cobourg…” Where does the CTA conjure up that fake fact. The CTA spoke on behalf of most Cobourg taxpayers. PRZT!

Frenchy

Walter, that was a “tongue in cheek” post. You obviously didn’t get the humour.

Frenchy

I voted for Gil both times that he has run for the office of mayor and never regretted it. I’m not sure who “you folks” are but you don’t know enough about me to judge me or link me to any group.

Wally Keeler

“those answers have held very little substance. Can you imagine how long he could go on (without really saying anything) if he had an audience?”

Your comments have little or no substance other than as pulp friction. You have been a chronic whiner and with no new fresh ideas whatsoever. Much like all the other pseudos

ken strauss

…to extend the Hibernia sidewalk to the Ecology Garden, to set up bike hook-ups at the Ecology Garden, to install new sidewalks on the west side of Darcy at the train tracks, and this year the paving of the west shoulder to facilitate seniors on their scooters to attend the CCC.

I note that you list your many “accomplishments” but no indication that they were all funded by Cobourg’s taxpayers. What have YOU done?

Wally Keeler

Of course they were all funded by taxpayers, after I had articulated the benefits to the community. Can you point to an individual in Cobourg who has privately funded a public sidewalk? Your point is nothing more than ideological spam. Btw, I wouldn’t expect anything from you except to receive a snear for anything I have done to benefit the Town, or the chronic snear you have towards Town officials and politicians. Show us your examples.

Jackie Tinson

There absolutely should be a Q and A session allowed at council meetings – at every council meeting. Pointless holding quarterly sessions when issues are no longer current. This is part of the democratic process and the fact that some councillors are uncomfortable thinking on their feet should not be a factor. It’s the responsibility of the chair to control Q and A and if the chair doesn’t have the necessary skills to control such sessions, he should not be chair. No matter how heated, the cut and thrust of debate is at the heart of our democracy.

Walter L. Luedtke

Alas, you seem to be confused!
‘The cut and thrust of debate’ occurs when a motion is on the table during a regular Council session.
It has no place during a real ‘Q&A’ period. That’s how municipal democracy works.

Dubious

The feedback I get from other municipal council members in other areas, is that it is a very inefficient use of Council’s time.

What use of Council’s time is more important than publicly responding to the concerns of constituents? Isn’t that Job-1 of a Councillor?

Bill Thompson

Brian Darling Interesting that three of three questions asked so far that you are consistent in making an initial negative response every time, but then leave the door open in case the wind blows.a different direction. That indicates non real commitment but conditional as to what the major public reaction is in my view. In this one you state “The feedback I get from other municipal council members in other areas, is that it is a very inefficient use of Council’s time. If they did not already have a Q & A period they would not implement one” Strangely that resembles what the mayor stated originally when the subject first arose.last year. Coincidence perhaps ? If that is true why do five out of seven municipalities in Northumberland County actually have a Q & A period.. Please say when and name the “other areas” council members that gave you the feedback that a Q & A was an inefficient waste of council time. Re comments about a fear of a shouting match etc breaking out in a Q & A as in Port Hope ,I attended the Cobourg council meeting when a young lady respectfully made a delegation about rezoning… Read more »

Walter L. Luedtke

I am sure that Ms. Chorley researched the issue of conflict of interest with regard to the Mayor and his niece and found there was none.
She brought the matter up anyway to smear the Mayor and his niece.
A man like our Mayor, who has spent many years in public service, is understandably ‘upset’ to be accused – by implication – of corruption in his last year in office.

Dubious

Years in politics sometimes blurs the line between legal and ethical.

Wally Keeler

And sometimes it doesn’t. Dubious consistently looks at the negative side of everything concerning municipal govt; a Strauss clone, no doubt.

ken strauss

Wally, I’m curious. What do you feel were the positive aspects of Gil’s treatment of Ms. Chorley?

Wally Keeler

… oh and I stopped beating my life. Satisfy your curiosity?

Frenchy

… oh and I stopped beating my life.

huh?

Bill Thompson

Last fifteen years in Ontario spring immediately to mind.