EDITORIAL: Long meetings and missed issues

Here are a few items that were put aside by District of Sooke council at last week’s meeting.

• A report from Fire Chief Kenn Mount on the hiring of two new firefighters and the reasoning behind it.

• A report from development services director Rob Howat on the condition of Sooke roads and a proposed five-year program to fix them.

• Several notices of motions that could restructure committees, hence change the way council does business.

• Two reconsiderations by the mayor: one to make a submission to the provincial government on marijuana regulation, the second on development on the foreshore of Sooke harbour and basin. (The second item involves the province’s desire for 10-year extension to an existing moratorium on construction in the harbour and basin. The deadline for response has since passed. Earlier this year, the mayor wrote a letter backing the plan, but appears to have changed her mind when CRD director Mike Hicks protested the province’s proposal.)

• There were also many smaller items such as correspondence, councillor verbal reports, and motions released from in-camera meeting.

So, why didn’t council deal with them?

Time. The mayor needed a vote to continue a meeting after 11 p.m. and didn’t get it from council. (There’s probably good reason: the mayor was sick, Coun. Brenda Parkinson said she had a “massive headache” and Coun. Rick Kasper left early)

The meeting ran four hours, and included three public hearings – much too long for good decision making.

It’s a troubling trend, as meeting appear to getting longer and longer. A reason for some it, we can agree, is the politicking that’s going as we approach the fall municipal election.

But the task of keeping meetings manageable falls to the mayor.

She has several weapons in her arsenal to do it, including calling special and holding more committee-of-the-whole meetings. (Council can’t formalize decisions in a COW meeting, but issues can be fully debated and referred to a regular council meeting for ratification).

Obviously, it won’t be easy, but what’s at stake it far greater; the lack of transparency and government put at a standstill – until the next four-hour meeting and then there’s no guarantee.

And that leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.

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