If elected, will you actively work to bring a Question and Answer period for the media and the public to Council and committees?
Karl Vom Dorff
If the majority of municipal councils in our county allow a question period to residents, we have to ask ourselves, why not in Cobourg? I believe the easy (but valid) answer, the non-political suicide answer, is to say ‘yes’ to a Q & A period. One hears the usual remarks in favour of one, such as that it allows for accountability and transparency and gives residents a voice. However, what are the disadvantages? For example:
Despite the ‘disadvantages’, I believe that a question and answer period is a worthwhile and much needed addition to the municipal governance within the Town of Cobourg. Residents pay their taxes, and should be entitled to have questions in council answered in both a formal and informal matter. Should council not be able to, or not wish to provide a literal response to a question, it could always be followed up at a later time with a written response. Should Q&A period become part of the council meeting process, there will have to be very clear guidelines and rules.
I am open to a Q & A session at council meetings. I do believe there needs to be a policy set in place as to how it operates, and that there is a mutual understanding that the answer might not always be directly in front of council and sometimes it might require more research and would be answered publicly at a future council meeting.
As I’ve stated before, I’m fully open to revisiting the “question period” idea, but as a new Councillor I would first want to be briefed on the legacy and the legalities that have (to my understanding) been established by previous councils.
Presently, Council promotes delegation status at both the Committee of the Whole and Council meetings. Delegates have a ten-minute time to present and Council members can ask clarification type questions. More importantly with the discussion on the floor to follow, recommendations can be made for staff involvement per Council’s directive. Just recently the Fern Blodgett submission resulted in a letter of support for their bronze sculpture, in-kind support and $5 000 allocation based on the future success of their application.
The above would not happen at a Question/Answer period at Council session. From my understanding, the citizen would register, present, clarification questions could be asked, BUT without any follow-up recommendation. Most Councils only allow a 10-15 minute time frame either directly before or after Council ends.
With regards to Advisory Committees, members of the public through the Secretary/Chairperson can request to be placed on their upcoming agenda and present as a delegation-either as an individual, group or representing an organization. Citizens are able to attend all Town Advisory Committee meetings and observe the on-going proceedings.
In addition, citizens have access to all Council members via their e-mail, home/cell contact and through the arrangement of a personal meeting, as well as Town staff for access to information. I believe that we offer multiple channels for communications and would prefer our Council sessions be focused on our current practices. I would however be open to exploring quarterly meetings as explained in Question #3.