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A little accountability worth council’s time

A lot of people think regional council is a joke because they spend too much time debating cats and chickens. That’s unfair.

A lot of people think regional council is a joke because they spend too much time debating cats and chickens. That’s unfair.

There are much, much better reasons to think council is a joke.

Here’s a pop quiz: A council meeting is cancelled and the next week the agenda is swamped with items. Do you:

A) Spend half an hour talking about how you don’t have enough time to talk about stuff. Or;

B) Not do that.

If you answered B) then you just don’t get democracy.

Council solved this problem by passing a motion to meet next week ... unless they decide they don’t need to meet next week. I wish I was kidding.

It’s easy to make fun of council for these things, but there was a much more troubling vote Tuesday. For the second meeting in a row, council members rejected having their votes recorded.

Currently votes are done by verbal “ayes” and “nayes.” There’s no record of the final tally or who voted which way. Want to know which councillors voted for a certain idea? You can’t.

Councillors can always call for a recorded vote, and this often happens if it’s close. But you or I don’t have that power, so if they don’t bother, then you’re out of luck.

A group of councillors (for the record, Younger, Hendsbee, Dalrymple, Nicoll, McCluskey, Karsten, Wile, Sloane, Uteck, Watts, Hum and Johns) tried to have all votes recorded and tie names to votes. It died in a tie (opposed were Streatch, Barkhouse, Smith, Blumenthal, Walker, Mosher, Adams, Harvey, Outhit, Rankin, Lund and Mayor Kelly).

“It puts us on too much of a mechanical path. It takes away the discretion and the authority of the chair,” said Coun. Steve Streatch.

Uh, discretion? In counting votes? Is it just me or isn’t that the opposite of what we want?

Not to be outdone, Coun. Tim Outhit said having the media report on the numbers for or against something would just make council look divided. Apparently, citizens’ right to know is trumped by council’s right to look good.

To be fair, these guys aren’t trying to be secretive. They say optional recorded votes is good enough. Always doing it,
they say, would just slow things down.

Fair enough.

But council isn’t exactly the paragon of time management.

Is it really worth sacrificing a ton of accountability for 10 or 15 minutes per day?

Paul McLeod is a staff reporter at Metro Halifax. He is currently in rehab for being a political junkie. It’s going badly.

 
 
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