It was straight to work at Committee of the Whole Monday in Smiths Falls. Even as honking and hollering of protesters intruded into upstairs council chambers, the first priority issue — Public Engagement Options (re Beckwith Street Redevelopment)— took centre stage.
Several options were suggested by CAO Malcolm Morris, and council was urged to choose one or a combination depending on what it was they wanted to achieve.
Options included a tried-and-true delegation format perhaps limiting the number of delegations at each meeting; a group meeting by inviting interested individuals to engage in a conversation with the mayor, one other councillor, and staff; a public meeting with an external facilitator, or a public meeting with an in-house facilitator, but in either case establishing protocols beforehand.
Morris also said the Town has already posted a Question and Answer document on its website, and is using the Town’s new engagement tool Speak-Up Smiths Falls to both post information and gather feedback. The final option was to do nothing.
Morris said the delegation method serves council well, is the most accessible one (under the Procedural By-law), has been in use many years, and is the most transparent — it’s open to the public, is live streamed, and the media is present.
Councillor Alford spoke up; Alford initially suggested in January re-visiting the February 2018 resolution. She said this council looked at the same evidence provided to the previous council, and, to her, the feedback didn’t provide a clear majority one way or the other in the general population. All of this council’s actions, she added, were in keeping with the Ontario Municipal Act.
“We’re all aware people are protesting this decision — as is their right.” But Alford went on to point out “there are many of those protesting who have chosen to call into question the personal integrity of many of those sitting at this horseshoe.
“We have been on the receiving end of personal and public attacks on our character and been accused of any number of nefarious plots.”
She pointed out that sitting at the horseshoe were seven people, duly elected, who contributed individually and collectively, and have taken an oath to act in the Town’s best interest; she added that there are some stating council is somehow “in league to destroy Smiths Falls and its downtown — over parking.”
She made it clear that council wasn’t going to reconsider the decision on Complete Streets. She concluded “each can arrive at their own conclusion rather than relying on social media and third- or fourth-hand information.”
Mayor Pankow agreed. “We know there are many unhappy with council’s decision, but I remain steadfast in my decision, and do so for those who follow behind in generations to come.”
Councillor Allen commented, like the Mayor, she had spoken to many, and has done her homework; for her the Complete Street design “will carry our Town into the future.”
Councillor McKenna asked the obvious question — “why haven’t folks taken the opportunity over the last eight to ten weeks to come forward with a delegation?” He added he would be willing to sit with the Mayor and any small group of people who want to express their views in a safe, productive manner.
“Shovels go in the ground this spring and we can hopefully move forward.”
Councillor Dwyer asked if there was a costing for an external moderator; Morris said it would be minimal, perhaps $200.
Council reached an agreement to accept two delegations at the next council meeting March 11; each will be given 20 minutes to ask questions. Mayor Pankow emphasized questions should be those not already asked and answered, and should be included on the delegation form.
If interested in appearing, contact Deputy Clerk Nadine Bennett at 613-283-4124 ext.1130, or email her at email@example.com . She will explain the process and where to get the delegation form; forms must be submitted by 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday March 6.
Photo caption: Councillor Wendy Alford talks to CAO Malcolm Morris as Committee of the Whole begins March 4. Photo credit: Sally Smith.