Council considers rules to increase public input

Staff told to make amendments to procedural bylaw at the Sooke District.

Rules to increase public participation are among the measures Sooke politicians are considering to improve community access at council meetings.

Director of Corporate Services Gabryel Joseph pitched amendments to the District of Sooke’s procedure bylaw Monday with changes aimed to increase public input at council meetings and to clarify how council operates for good governance.

The changes were urged by acting Mayor Rick Kasper and Coun. Kerrie Reay, with the support of Mayor Maja Tait, who is on parental leave. It is also part of a bylaw review undertaken by district staff.

The recommendations include increasing public delegation presentations to 10 minutes from five minutes. Delegations will be limited to two per meeting.

The current public question and comment period on the agenda will be deleted. Instead, the public will be permitted to speak for two minutes to any items in the reports or bylaws sections of the agenda.

The recommedations also suggests the bylaw have more clarity and use easily understood language.

“There has been some confusion around the procedural bylaw and for whatever reason they have never been explained properly or adhered to,” Joseph told council.

“We want to [clear that up] and increase the ability for the public to participate in the meetings.”

Before the meeting, Kasper said it’s important that there is more transparency at council and that residents feel their voices are heard.

“We’ve made great strides over the last five years, but I think we can do better. It is to be hoped that that will happen.”

Councillors had their own ideas on what they would like to see in the amended bylaw.

Councillors Kevin Pearson and Brenda Parkinson wanted the public comment portion increased to three minutes.

Parkinson also suggested that staff consider a section on the agenda where the public can bring up any issue they want with council.

Coun. Ebony Logins asked that more information be put on the delegation request. She also questioned why delegations must supply all their material one week before the meeting.

“My concern is that it’s (the amended bylaw) worded properly so that your entire presentation doesn’t sound like it has to be completely perfect,” she said.

Staff was directed by council to prepare the amendments to Bylaw 422 and present it at a future meeting.

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