Village needs new public input process

This is a personal post and does not reflect the views of my employer, VCTV, and the Valemount Entertainment Society.

As part of my job requirements, I have attended every Village of Valemount (VoV) Council meeting for the past three-and-a-half years. During this time I have witnessed many items come to Council for action. Most are routine, but occasionally, some topics spark the public’s interest and lead to increased attendance at the meetings, with a strong desire from the public to provide input to give the Mayor and Council further information prior to making a decision on the matter at hand.

Unfortunately, the current VoV Council system for accepting public input does not permit this. I believe that the process is flawed, making it difficult for the citizens of Valemount to participate in the process of governance in a timely and effective manner.

To speak before VoV Council, members of the public must file a Delegation Request with the Village by Thursday noon prior to the next Tuesday’s council meeting.

However, the Council agenda for that meeting is not publicly posted until the Friday afternoon before the Tuesday meeting. This means that the public is unaware of items that are on the agenda until the day after the Delegation Request cut-off.

So, if an item appears on the agenda, members of the public will not be able to speak to Council about a matter on the agenda until the open Public Comments section of the meeting – the second last item on the agenda.

Members of the public may then speak, however, any decisions to be taken on items would likely have been made well in advance of the Public Comments section.

The effect of this flawed public input process is to leave residents feeling frustrated, with many complaining that they do not have a say in their local governance, angry with their elected representatives for not allowing them to be heard — even if Council wanted to — because their hands are tied by the current rules.

In my opinion, the process for requesting to speak to Council must be revised. My suggestion would be to change the deadline for those wishing to speak to Council to 3 pm on the day prior to the Council meeting. This would allow time for the public to learn which items would be on the agenda (which, again is issued on the Friday prior to the meeting).

The agenda could then be amended by Council at the meeting to include the full list of speakers. Or, if in the opinion of the Corporate Officer, the list of speakers would be too lengthy to be accommodated at a regular Council meeting, a recommendation to Council could be made to table the agenda item to a later date and hold a Special Council Meeting to hear the speakers for information before the item is brought back to Council at a future meeting for action.

Valemount citizens want and deserve to have their say on matters important to them – prior to Council making a decision on those matters. The current system does not allow for this. If you feel that it should, I urge you to write to Mayor and Council requesting that the public input system be changed.

Gord Peters,

Valemount, B.C.

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