Changes to Cobourg Council meetings

On Monday January 28 , there was a public meeting to obtain input from citizens on what they thought about the proposed changes in Council procedures – this was discussed in three posts on this news blog (see links below).  At tonight’s Council meeting, the bylaw to implement the procedures was up for approval and the draft procedure did not reflect any of the changes recommended by citizens.  But a comment on this blog by Deputy Mayor Suzanne Séguin said that changes can only be by a majority vote of Council. To underline the need to respect the public comments, Simon Chorley made a presentation to Council tonight that listed the key concerns.  When the bylaw came up for approval, Councillor Emily Chorley made seven motions to amend the bylaw with three of her seven being approved.

Councillor Emily Chorley’s motions to amend the By-Law

Emily Chorley
Councillor Emily Chorley

All the motions were debated by Council. Refer to the by-law being debated here: Bylaw up for Final approval at Feb 4 meeting. Note that Chair Mayor John Henderson did not vote on any of these amendments.

  1. Re Section 3.6 – A two-thirds majority should not be required for anything.  Only a simple majority should be required; two-thirds is un-democratic.  The motion to change was defeated 4-2 with Aaron supporting Emily.
  2. Re Section  5.1 – the time of Council meetings should be changed to 6:00 pm from the current 4:00 pm.  This would make the meetings accessible to the public.  The motion to change was carried 5 -1 (Nicole Beatty against) so all future Council meetings will be at 6:00 pm
  3. Re Section 5.5. – Since two meetings cannot be at the same time, the public planning meetings should be at 5:00pm.  An alternative of having public planning meetings on “Off-Mondays” was suggested but was not voted on.  The amendment was carried unanimously so all public planning meetings will be at 5:00 pm.  Note that the upcoming Cultural Plan Public Meeting scheduled for 6:00 pm on Feb 6 will not be re-scheduled.
  4. Re section 16 – When staff are asked to report back or take another action, wherever possible, a deadline for the action must be set.  This amendment was approved unanimously.
  5. Re Section 17.2  – Councillor Chorley moved that all staff reports must include reasons for the action and alternatives with advantages and disadvantage.  This would make reports more rigorous and enhance transparency.  This was defeated with a 3-3 vote with Adam Bureau and Suzanne Séguin supporting Emily and the Mayor abstaining.
  6. Re Section 17.3 – The standard format of staff reports should be modified to include sub-sections of para 6 to include cost benefits and risks for “no action”, “alternatives” and the “recommended action”.  This motion was also defeated but this time 4-2 with Suzanne supporting Emily.
  7. Re Section 30 – the requirement for a confirmatory bylaw should be eliminated.  Brent Larmer explained that it was required to make legal: resolutions, motions and other council decisions.  It could always be reversed If council so decided and was not applicable for decisions backed by their own by-law.  The motion to remove the requirement was defeated 5-1.

Once all the amendments were dealt with, Council approved the complete bylaw which will incorporate the above approved amendments.

In other Council Business, Councillor Chorley was consistent in her drive to put deadlines on actions – an exemption to allow 3 dogs in an apartment (instead of 2) was denied by Council and Emily moved a requirement that it be enforced by May 31.  Her amendment was unanimously approved.



Note that in addition to the above changes, a notable difference will be that each Committee of the Whole meeting will include a Q & A Forum as described in my Jan 8 Post here.

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Walter L. Luedtke
6 February 2019 9:50 am

A doggy-bylaw for Cobourg:
“No more than three (3) dogs that are 12 weeks or older can be kept within a single home property, and no more than two (2) dogs can be kept within a unit with residential dwellings containing two or more units (i.e. semi-detached, apartment, condo).”
Councillor Chorley moved that this by-law be enforced by May 31st.
Enforced by whom? Municipal dog enumerators or more neighborly informers?
This by-law needs to spell out not just when, but how it is to be enforced.
A timely and complete Staff report is urgently needed to deal with this issue.

Reply to  Walter L. Luedtke
6 February 2019 11:40 am

comment image

Walter L. Luedtke
Reply to  Frenchy
6 February 2019 11:55 am

What sarcasm?
This is a serious issue for Cobourg’s many dog owners and their non-dog owning neighbors.
I commend Councillor Chorley for expediting the enforcement of this by-law.
But it seems to me that the by-law has to be fleshed out with regard to methods of enforcement and an appeal mechanism.
This article may give you an idea of the extent of the dog problem in Ottawa.

Fact Checker
Reply to  Walter L. Luedtke
6 February 2019 12:30 pm

Walter, Point taken.
So when will you be doing a delegation to Council to share your wisdom on this serious issue?

Walter L. Luedtke
Reply to  Fact Checker
6 February 2019 3:24 pm

Waiting for “Citizen Engagement” – the $10K software for online engagement.
That portal makes the delegation grandstanding a waste of Council’s time.

Reply to  Walter L. Luedtke
6 February 2019 4:53 pm

Good point, Walter and the link is very interesting.
I am trying to figure out, though, whether we have a ‘dog catcher’ on the payroll? The reason I ask is because we have one individual, in our neighbourhood, that seems to think it is alright to walk his dog, at night, when he is not seen and not pick up it’s poop…..the dog’s, that is!
And another neighbour that lets it’s dog out, first thing in the morning, so as to allow it to wander around the neighbourhood to poop and pee on everyone’s lawn and then return home to be let back into the house?
Who looks after this sort of nonsense?

Miriam Mutton
5 February 2019 10:40 am

Good point, John. In your opening paragraph above about the draft by-law not including comments by citizens made at the public meeting and further clarified in a post here by Deputy Mayor Seguin.

This is a good example why a report from staff (including meeting minutes) for a public meeting is important information. Before Council makes its final decision. Such a report would the equivalent of identifying the options (e.g. ideas from the public) and outlining the benefits and disadvantages (e.g. expert staff opinion and best practices).

If I understood the proceedings of yesterday’s Council meeting, Council voted against receiving reports from staff which include options/alternatives with justifications and, instead, remained with status quo of a staff report identifying a recommendation and without exploration of options as part of the public report.

So, to be blunt, Council appears to have failed a test of sustainable practice. Adaptation and change requires exploration of options and since Council is obligated to conduct its business of decision making in public, the information it relies on also needs to be public. Instead they opted to remain with a practice of dominance, relying on a recommendation without having to explain why it is the best choice among options.

I do appreciate the nuances of governance and recognize that it may well prove in time that this Council has its own ways of adapting to changing needs of the community and to pressures from outside it jurisdiction (e.g. changes in legislation). What I heard last evening though, was some good change and some missed opportunity.

Reply to  Miriam Mutton
5 February 2019 4:50 pm

Not sure whether it is a good idea to micromanage staff.
Can be morale killer.

Reply to  Albert
5 February 2019 5:00 pm

Albert, not mico-management but rather simple, ordinary, responsible analysis to deriving important, costly decisions and action. There is no guarantee that the final decision will turn out to be the correct one, but the odds are certainly in favour of doing so.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Albert
5 February 2019 7:30 pm

Requiring that alternatives and risks are to be included in every report is not “micromanaging” but is an expression of the reasonable expectations of any leader. Do you think that Councillors should make decisions without relevant information? Perhaps they just need some dice…

Miriam Mutton
Reply to  Albert
6 February 2019 1:01 pm

Hey Albert,
It is not about micromanaging staff, it is about ensuring a positive space for dialogue for staff, members of council and citizens. Sometimes to get the best solution or idea there is a lot of back and forth, exploring options. For example, what worked best 10 years ago may not today. Like the well known phrase, ‘democracy can be noisy and messy’, I believe there needs to be room for dialogue without having to worry about ‘getting tossed under the bus’.

Reply to  Miriam Mutton
5 February 2019 4:57 pm

Here here on your comments Miriam. It seems to me that each and every Councilor will have to have the resolve and endurance to consistently ask for verbal confirmation, from Staff, of options and cost benefits researched and discarded. What if the response from Staff is ‘screw you’? It is curious that the Mayor declined to vote on 17.2 and 17.3, sections that would have improved accountability and overall decision making. Is it not also curious that the entrepreneurs on Council did not carry the day on the motions to improve sections 17.2 and 17.3? How do they manage their own businesses?