Citizens must address city council in person, not by phone, councillors say
'There are just too many voices that we've never heard because they've had literally no way to get here'
People wanting to fight city hall must do so in person, after councillors rejected an initiative Tuesday allowing citizens to represent themselves by phone.
City council often hears from citizens at during meetings before making decisions, but only if those people are able to make it to city hall.
Coun. Andrew Knack suggested council allow people to make presentations by phone or video, which would be a first in Canada.
But fellow councillors felt his idea posed too many risks.
"I do have concerns about the potential for disruption, the potential for filibuster," Mayor Don Iveson said.
He worried people would call in constantly in an effort to derail meetings. As the chair of those meetings, Iveson said he didn't want to have to tell people they wouldn't be allowed to call in anymore.
"You force the chair into an incredibly difficult position," he said.
But Knack said the concerns were overblown. The city clerk assured councillors there are ways to deal with disruptive people and the possibility of too many people calling in.
Many left voiceless, Knack says
Knack said he's disappointed people who genuinely want to have their say at city hall won't have the chance now.
The Ward 1 councillor said the city's existing policy excludes many people with full-time jobs, parents with young children, students, seniors and others who can't physically make it to the building.
"There are just too many voices that we've never heard because they've had literally no way to get here," Knack said.
He experienced the frustration himself before he became a councillor, while running a retail store, he said.
"I couldn't come out to speak to [an issue] because I was running the store," he said.
Coun. Dave Loken said making other arrangements is one of the sacrifices people have to make if they want to have a say.
He was more concerned the city couldn't handle the technological issues of several phone or video conference calls.
As a compromise and to test-drive the idea on a smaller scale, councillors agreed to come up with a plan allowing people with "physical challenges" to appear remotely before council.
Council already allows people located outside the city to phone in to council meetings.