District of Sooke

Sooke council pushed to hold town hall meetings

Sooke council’s strategic plan calls for at least two public forums on an annual basis

Sooke residents can get questions answered and learn about the issues at a town hall meeting this fall hosted by district council.

A decision to hold a town hall came after council-watcher Gail Hall made a presentation at last week’s district council meeting.

“All your comments from the election, including inclusiveness, transparency and the like have long since disappeared,” Hall told council. “Virtually every word spoken by a member of the public in this room is governed by a dictate by council or staff.”

Hall and others have complained about the inability to talk directly to council for months.

Those wishing to address a council meeting are allowed two minutes to speak, but only on items on the night’s agenda. Councillors are also available by email and telephone.

Municipal staff is in the process of reworking council’s procedural bylaw with the goal of providing a better question and answer periods. The bylaw has been sent back to staff several times.

Council’s strategic plan calls for at least two public forums on an annual basis, but Mayor Maja Tait admits that hasn’t been done.

Hall would like to see a town hall meeting at least once a month or more often depending on developing issues.

“We need to gather from time to time in a less formal atmosphere than [council chambers] to have opportunities to ask questions that have no other venue,” she said.

Tait defended the lack of town hall meeting, citing new senior management, her own four-month maternity leave, and council’s work on an ambitious strategic plan.

“I don’t think it was an intent by council to not do certain things,” she said. “It’s a case that everyone is busy and focused and we’re trying to do things and perhaps we’re just not communicating out what we’re trying to accomplish and what we’re doing.”

Previous councils held town hall meetings, but they were not always well attended.

Coun. Rick Kasper would like to see a better communication plan put in place, but wants it to benefit the larger community. (Municipal staff is working on a far-reaching communication plan.)

“There are some questions that will never be answered to everyone’s satisfaction. I guarantee it. You’ll never satisfy everybody in this town,” Kasper said.

The town hall meeting will likely be held in October.