Council Reviews Public Input on Governance

At a special meeting tonight, the result of the online survey were reported plus Council heard from 7 residents – five gave presentations and two were in writing.  There were 8 people in the Gallery.  The biggest concern was the planned reduction in the number of advisory committees with a special concern by Gigi Ludorf-Weaver and Warren McCarthy about the disbanding of the Sustainability and Climate Change Advisory Committee since then their group would lose a voice giving input to Council.  Judy Smith’s written submission agreed with them.  But a “hybrid” approach suggested by Councillor Aaron Burchat seems to be getting some attention – that’s where all Councillors would go to all Standing Committee meetings. This would be like having 3 or 4 Committee of the Whole meetings per month but with each one limited to a few departments instead of all of them.

But the first part of the meeting was a report on the results of the online Survey – although only 125 people actually completed it.  Brent Larmer gave a detailed report on the survey and promised to put it online but at the time of publication it was not available – instead I’ll summarize the highlights.

Summary of Governance Survey

  • The public was told about the survey and invited to participate with two public notices, two emails, three blocks in the local newspaper plus posts in social media.
  • There was an open house on 17 May with 12 attending.
  • Most of the questions and responses were about how citizens rated Council Communication with the public although there were a few questions on actual Governance.
  • About 50% of respondents were 65 or older.
  • The response to most questions was on average neutral – that is, half were positive and half negative on various aspects of Council communication and transparency etc. For example the average score for overall satisfaction was 5 out of 10.
  • Support for a change in Governance was 76%.
  • People like advisory Committees.
  • People like Town Hall meetings.

The next part of the meeting was hearing from presenters.

In Person Presentations – Summaries

Gigi Ludorf-Weaver
Five points:

  1. Preferred the “hybrid” idea as suggested by Aaron and described above.
  2. Strongly supports having a Sustainability and Climate Change Advisory Committee
  3. Wants a Sustainability manager who should report directly to the CAO
  4. The ICSP (Integrated Community Sustainability Plan) is very important
  5. An advisory committee is very important since it is a way of providing a voice to council for her group.

Warren McCarthy – supported all of Gigi’s points

Ben Burd

  • Suggested 3 not 4 standing committees.
  • All meetings should be on Mondays with the regular Council meeting being on the fourth Monday.
  • Meetings should include all Councillors so they would essentially all be “Committees of the Whole” since the whole council would attend.  But each meeting would cover one-third of the departments.
  • There should also be Advisory Committees.

David Kuhnke – spoke about providing for Electric vehicles

Gail Rayment

  • Asked about mandated committees (both the Heritage and Accessibility committees are mandated by the Province)
  • Wondered why there was so little debate on many subjects.  This caused Council discussion!  It appears that some Councillors do discuss one-on-one with other Councillors although Miriam said she only debates publicly.  Also Councillors will often ask staff about issues before meetings.
  • She doesn’t “do social media” and suggested more emails. No-one had a suggestion on how to do better than online surveys using Engage Cobourg.

There were two written submissions.

Judy Smith wants to keep the Climate Emergency Committee and thinks the ICSP is important.  She also supports the hybrid Governance idea.

Fred Luken Supports the approach described by Ben Burd. That is:

  • Having one Council meeting per month, with attendance from all councillors whenever possible
  • Having 3 standing committees, with all council members as participants. E.g.
    • One for Public Works, Planning and Development
    • one for Parks and Rec., Economic Development
    • one for all other matters, including finance, legislative issues

The meeting was useful for homing in on the “hybrid” idea (also called option 3) but it was also evident that few people in Cobourg have an opinion on the subject.

The next step is the Ad Hoc Committee (also called Working Group) will meet to review inputs and recommend to Council.  No date was set tonight but a previously provided date for submission to Council was 17 July 2023.

Resources

Town Documents

Cobourg Blog reports

When Brent puts his reports on the Survey online, I will put a copy here.

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10 Comments
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Sandpiper
10 months ago

Does anyone know who is Governing ByLaw Dept. in this Town??
Our Condo Board would like to know as they seem to close shop and lock the doors with only an answering service taking messages after 5 pm. only to be responded to the following day .
The Police will not act on perceived By Law issues like early morning or late night construction issues or Noise issues , Loud late night parties ie at the Marina , or private back yards .

Bryan
Reply to  Sandpiper
10 months ago

Sandpiper,
The clerk, Brent Larmer, is responsible for the by-law dept.
The best way to contact Brent is email. [email protected]
He is very good at replying to email, even after hours.

Cobourg taxpayer
10 months ago

Can the Sustainability and Climate Change Advisory Committee list details on their accomplishments since inception? A FB search reveals a group with a similar name and 4 members, another Food Action Advisory Group with 52 members. There was an event in May 2022 in regards to EVs by this group but I can’t find much else. Of the 7 presenters 4 were speaking on Sustainability, Climate and EVS. What are the accomplishments to date?
And for the rest of us that did not attend, well I can only speak for myself but the mess our political system is in with uncontrolled spending of taxpayers money is depressing and exhausting. The local issues in this area are much more consuming at this time then owning an EV. I don’t care how they govern I just want results.

Lucas Cleveland
Reply to  ben
10 months ago

 (1 of 3)

Hello Ben

Thank you for always being so up front with your concerns and issues and for taking the time to share them on your blog. Unfortunately, you are making assumptions that tell the readers more about your own views and cynicism then those who you claim to write about. As an example, the reason we all have our laptops open, or at least the reason I had mine open while the presenters were speaking was to take notes so that I can ensure to follow up on the concerns voiced and opinions shared.  Your illogical deduction that I do not “follow or respect(s) public opinion” because I use modern technology to take notes, because I somehow do not conform to a your mildly outdated view of what constitutes politeness, or because I left the meeting after the presentations to coach my son’s soccer team as I had committed to do prior to running for Mayor is a stretch at best. Also let’s remember that the last public meeting (that was put on by the police and not council) I attended by choice and had to leave to put my 7 year old son to bed at 8:15pm. I also watched both meetings to conclusion after the fact online. 

I also want to address your comment about making a motion to receive for information purposes. Ben, it wasn’t needed or required as the entire reason for the meeting was to ‘receive information’ from the public. Why would there ever be a motion to receive after each presenter when the sole purpose for the entire meeting was to receive information from the public? Ask yourself, Why after taking the time to be present at the meeting, to take notes and to engage with the presenters, would any of the councillors or I try and “diss” or insult those who took the time to share their opinion and contribute to the process? We at council are focused on getting more participation and are always thankful when people like yourself take the time to help and would never look to insult those whom we serve. 

Last edited 10 months ago by Lucas Cleveland
Lucas Cleveland
Reply to  Lucas Cleveland
10 months ago

(2 of 3)

Lastly Ben, after reading your presentation from a few weeks ago, the one you made knowing full well that I, The CAO, and our Municipal clerk were going to absent from, and combining it with some of the points you raised the other night, it becomes very apparent how uninformed you are with the current situation facing elected leaders and municipal staff, the current issues around communication as well as the current state of political apathy. This is in no way an insult, I too had little idea until sitting in this chair and it makes sense that you wouldn’t as it has been many years since you were in office. Your statements, general assumptions and leading conclusions shows a lack of experience and knowledge around the current staffing crisis, modern employment issues and obstacles, the new workload of municipal employees, the consistent and constant downloading of tasks from other levels of government and the state of public engagement across the nation. I am aware of the great work you did as a councillor but its a different time, with different issues and things have had to change in all areas of governance, communication, expectations, and work culture and it will continue to so we need to look forward and not rehash ‘the good old days’. Trying to pin the current lack of political engagement across all levels of government across the country as somehow the fault of Cobourg’s small yet mighty communications team is unfortunate and illogical . Our team is one that hits well above its weight in terms of content, speed, professionalism quality and quantity.

Again, I am not sure of your experience in the modern day communications Ben so do not want to make any assumptions. The realities of not having a local newspaper, the time, knowledge and skill required to use social media efficiently and effectively, the increased demand for public statements and public notices, the need to ensure EDI standards and AODA standards are met in all communications and of course dealing with the hundreds and sometimes thousands of emails sent to town hall each week all are handled by our small yet powerful team.  

Last edited 10 months ago by Lucas Cleveland
Lucas Cleveland
Reply to  Lucas Cleveland
10 months ago

(3 of 3)

I will once again repeat as I have numerous times that I believe a more comprehensive communication strategy is needed, more funding for communications, and an updated and user-friendly website will all go along way to solve many of our constituents’ issues and it will allow more work to get completed by staff in a timely manner.

I am happy to admit and recognize that there is and will always be room to improve but that doesn’t mean that our current team is in any way responsible for the political apathy that is endemic across the nation. 

I do want to say thank you Ben. (and thank you to the readers and posters of the draper blog) I do wish that all the community were as involved, opinionated and knowledgeable about the process as you. We do need more people like you to participate, to share ideas and to work alongside of the town staff and elected officials to make Cobourg the best place it can be. While you and I may differ on what that looks like or what that will take, its clear that we both care deeply about this community and the direction we are headed.  Thank you for sharing your opinions.

Kindly
Lucas Cleveland

Last edited 10 months ago by Lucas Cleveland
ben
Reply to  Lucas Cleveland
9 months ago

Mayor Cleveland, I have extracted a few of your comments in these posts as some need rebuttal.

“because I somehow do not conform to a your mildly outdated view of what constitutes politeness.”

Politeness is never “outdated”, and I would say that if one is impolite, in the eyes of others that says more about the impolite person than the values that others hold.

As and example, the reason we all have our laptops open, or at least the reason I had mine open while the presenters were speaking was to take notes.

I will take this at face value, but when someone speaking is trying to meet the audience whilst speaking and seeing an array of laptops and faces peering over them from time to time, it is disrespectful.

I also want to address your comment about making a motion to receive for information purposes. Ben, it wasn’t needed or required as the entire reason for the meeting was to ‘receive information’ from the public.

I never said that the public presentation was going to get a motion of “file for information”. That remark is a reference to the well known practise of dismissing prepared speakers.

Lastly Ben, after reading your presentation from a few weeks ago, the one you made knowing full well that I, The CAO, and our Municipal clerk were going to absent from, and combining it with some of the points you raised the other night

I really object to this comment. How do you know if I knew that you and the Staff were going to absent from the meeting? I did not know, and resent the statement as presumptuous. 

it becomes very apparent how uninformed you are with the current situation facing elected leaders and municipal staff, the current issues around communication as well as the current state of political apathy. 

That’s your opinion. I am very well aware of the issues facing Staff and the modern world, that doesn’t mean that I refuse to try to discuss the issues and not just accept them because “Well that’s the modern way!

Last edited 9 months ago by ben
ben
Reply to  ben
9 months ago

2.
Trying to pin the current lack of political engagement across all levels of government across the country as somehow the fault of Cobourg’s small yet mighty communications team is unfortunate and illogical . Our team is one that hits well above its weight in terms of content, speed, professionalism quality and quantity.

This comment doesn’t make sense in the light of my remarks, as it was pointed out the remarks of two weeks ago was “a diplomatic suggestion”. You cut me off, this week, whilst I was answering the very question of “How do we raise the level of public engagement” and you then characterised the previous address as an attack on our communications department. How is asking for an evaluation of the $300K we spend on this department and suggesting that some training in “community engagement” take place, an attack?

Last edited 9 months ago by ben
Sandpiper
10 months ago

I for one think that Climate issues went out the Window with the Ukraine War with its Bombs and Fires and attacks on their nuclear plant and World Wide Forest fire issue . These alone have set the Climate care issue back decades, and until thats resolved why waste Councils time
And what does everyone mean when they throw out that sustainable word its to broadly used . May be when that’s understood or whats its applied to, then there may be some direction or path to follow .