Saturday, December 4, 2021

Call For Increased Transparency in Council Process

Editor,

With regards to your November 10th editorial, “Is There an Ideal Time of Day For Council Meetings”, Imagine Meaford respectfully suggests that the issue of transparency goes beyond just the scheduling of Council meetings.

Yes, technology has enabled residents to participate in Council meetings from remote locations. Or, they can watch proceedings through YouTube at their convenience. And, extending the deadline for residents to send in their written comments about the SkyDev development is a positive accommodation.

However, transparency comes in many different forms, through different instruments. And, there are numerous examples of how Meaford’s tax-paying citizens have been discouraged from having their voices heard on SkyDev. Here are a few:

  • Public meetings (not just Council Meetings) have been scheduled at inconvenient dates and times, such as on a long weekend (if that meeting time was the idea of the developer, then Council should have explained why that wasn’t a good idea);
  • Officials should have been present for all resident meetings with the developer so that proper communication with residents before and after could take place;
  • Council has used the minimum notice area of 120 metres, when resident deputations have requested a larger circulation and have been ignored;
  • Signage on the development site has been minimal at best, consisting of a plastic-covered office paper stapled to a signpost. (Grey County’s signage is somewhat better, but is not always required, depending on the County’s involvement in the approvals);
  • The municipal website offers less-than-adequate navigation – and that is being generous – for development projects;
  • Communication studies and web site changes have not been acted upon, and the website is often not up-to-date; and,
  • At the public meeting in May, Meaford Council, staff and SkyDev listened and made general comments at the very end of deputations, but did not take direct questions from the public.

In sum, this closed-door approach does not provide the transparency or necessary forum for problem-solving or for coming to an informed decision that serves all parties affected by this development. Communication is a tool that can and should be inviting and supportive in a small community, and Meaford Council and the Municipality are simply failing its citizens by either purposely or passively discouraging input from all corners of the community.

Respectfully,

Ric Riordon, Imagine Meaford

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