A Historical Perspective

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The other day I was listening to a Politician on the radio speak about a developing situation and what could be done to turn it around and fix it for the future. At one point he almost casually said “The regs say you have to use 6 of this but maybe we could reduce that to 3 – we’d have to look into it an consider all the factors but it’s something we’re looking at.”

In this day and age of big political winds of change trying to blow away both regulatory requirements and the documentation backing them in Washington I wonder just what will be left for review and reflection down the road as future decisions are made about ‘pesky regulatory requirements that hamper the ability of industry to function and prosper’.

That may be what is desired by industrialists and those they can buy but from a historical perspective, at least, it makes it difficult to trace the development and evolution of society and culture.

Back when Digital Cameras began to take off and replace Film someone opined that future archivists and historians looking back will see a dead zone beginning with the rise of the Digital Camera because most of the pictures taken with them never get printed so there’s no physical artifact to store away somewhere the way film photos have a film at least.

To some degree this is correct – how many people migrate their growing collection of digital media from drive to drive as time goes on? And those photos that were on that lost or damaged drive and only there – gone forever most likely.

This problem gives me pause for concern every now and then because this problem intersects with my life in a number of ways:
– I generate a lot of photos and videos – more than the average person by far.
– I’m involved in a number of history related efforts in the area I live in, most recently as President of the Boundary Historical Society but I also volunteer and work with the Boundary Museum and the Community Archives.
– currently I’m working with other members of the society in producing our 17th Report – a collection of pieces on the people, places and things that keep the history of the area ‘alive’,
– Every week I reproduce the two weekly newspapers from 106 years ago.
– And finally I am the semi-official reporter and recorder of city council meetings in my town.

And I put them all up on YouTube – thank you to Google for making that possible.

It is while wearing the hat of this last item that I write this opinion piece.

I’m not a politician. Not currently a member of any political party though I was in a youth wing of one of the popular parties in my youth. (then I grew up)

I do remember sitting in front of the TV as a child watching Sunday weekend roundup in Washington shows – can’t say why but they just held my attention. Might have been the oratory and passion, might have been the ideals. And as an adult I’ve found myself in a similar position due to a role I’ve had for the past 11 years; that of broadcaster of city council meetings.

I’m not a member of council or staff – more of their most loyal viewer in a sense. I’ve been at every council meeting since 2006 with only 2 or 3 exceptions.
And since 2011 a lot of those meetings have been recorded on the web.

Now here’s the historical thing about city council: there are official minutes, there are my recordings and there are news media recordings and reporting.

The official minutes do not record the minute details of discussion of things – generally it is a glossing at best with the essential details the only things recorded with fidelity and precision.

What the motion said and how the vote went at the minimum. Because of that brevity you have to look to the media for more detail about what took place.

The newspaper and radio reporters may bring their own audio recorders but they only share parts of what they get and usually a report on it – not the verbatim content. For that you have to go to my recordings.

Both the commercial entities and myself are ephemeral entities – we could ‘go away’ at any time and take all our files away with us. And that would mean the community, and any future historical researchers, would be the losers. It’s not the ending we would want and likely there would be a transfer of material if desired before dissolution. But events can transpire that foil our plans . . . so the archivists would be left with records kept by city hall.

This year City Council debated two changes to the way they do things that I’ve spoken against. (I can do that in the Committee Of The Whole meetings where the public can take part in the discussion and in the question period of the regular meetings).

The first had to do with a Code of Conduct. Essentially putting limits on how passionate or heated a discussion can get. Not germane to this article.

The second has to do with the Minutes and how they are recorded. Specifically the change is the remove the identification of who Moved and who Seconded a motion. So that the Motion and the voting results would be recorded but not those two items, Who.

There were several reasons cited in the proposal and they tend to sound reasonable . . . but from a Historian’s point of view it’s a lessening of the data preserved for the future.

Let’s say I’m trying to compile a history of the life of a prominent person who lived here and made contributions to the community over the years. During the time they spent on council I’d know what was before council, a distillation of the talking points and how the vote went.

Instead I see an example of how to say what happened in 250 words or less. The spirit and words and actions are mostly stripped away. The passion is baked out of it leaving the product of a body bereft of the attribution of who began and supported the topic to begin with.

Considering the rancorous history of this council in particular the contrast between life history before and after with the part in council might be stark. We show how X was passionate about all these things and their creation and execution but there’s this period where X is part of an entity that prefers to be seen as a neutral body with no individual parts. So almost nothing X said or did gets much mention in the official record. Except where X voted and some salient spoken points are noted. All the rest is dross. Not even fit to toss ‘cuz we didn’t deign to record it in the first place.

One of the points made in the proposal is it works against Grand Standing. Because we don’t want that in local politics . . .

Let’s address that, Grand Standing.

What is it? Why it is MAKING YOURSELF MORE NOTICEABLE THAN THE REST by standing out from the rest in some way. Taking an opposing stance and making a show out of it. Making a bold proposal and giving a big sales pitch to get it on the table (in the way that best ensures others will look like ogres if they speak against it).

It’s Politics. It gets in the way of getting things done. But it’s Politics. They are Politicians. At least some of them are . . . others are there because they really want to serve their community without the politics being a blockage. But it’s a Political arena, isn’t it?

Personally I think it gets in the way – but that’s me. At least we don’t have partisan politics in our city hall – yet. But I digress . . .

Without this information history becomes a little less clear to those who come later.
And understanding becomes harder.

  • Les Johnson (And this one is signed just to make a point about who said what, okay)

Council Meetings Oct 16, 2017

After nearly a month hiatus (UBCM happened) City Council resumed meetings, on Oct 16.

And it was with a full day:
A Committee Of The Whole meeting followed by an In-Camera meeting and then the regular meeting in the evening.

The COTW meeting saw a number of delegations with presentations.

Both gallery 2 and the Boundary Museum came to present quarterly updates. gallery 2 brought along their new director for introductions.
A presentation was made to introduce council to the sport of disc golf with the hope that the city would be amenable to making some city park space available for a play space.

The Women’s Coalition came to ask the city for a letter of support. There’s possible funding to get working on tackling the problem of homelessness with the approach of Housing First. And there is a filing deadline of Oct 20 – just 4 days later. There was a presentation and a lot of discussion.

For a simple ask of just a letter of support there was a lot of talking. Which could be expected considering recent actions this council has taken in dealing with the problems of homelessness. At one point the Mayor says ‘it almost seems hypocritical that we are . . .’. I will let you make up your own minds on that if you care to watch and listen to the Housing First part of the meeting.

Committee Of The Whole

Regular Meeting


Committee Of The Whole
NOTE: The image below may say Sept 5 but the video that plays is the Oct 16 COTW.

Regular Meeting

 

 

Grand Forks Art Gallery Society The Boundary Museum Society Quarterly Report Establishment and In-Kind Support of a Disc Golf Course Housing First Homeless Initiative Partnership and Funding Opportunity Monthly Highlight Reports from Department Managers Processes for Council Minutes Community Satisfaction Survey QUESTION PERIOD   Adopt Agenda RDKB REPORT Contracted Bylaw Enforcement Officer Housing First Homeless Initiative Partnership and Funding Opportunity Appointing 3 councillors to sit on the B.I.G. Board committee Grand Forks Downtown Business Association - Certification of Incorporation and Fee for Service request Concerns regarding Phoenix Ski Hill and transit accessibility Parks Access Amendment Bylaw No. 1959-A1, 2017 Application to UBCM Community Emergency Preparedness Fund for Flood Plane mapping Questions From Public and Media

City Council Meeting Sept 18, 2017

City Council held one regular meeting on Sept 18, 2017

It was a short meeting and nothing controversial or intense happened.

A short note on the pie chart: there are more items in the agenda than slice that appear in the pie. This is because anything that takes less than 90 seconds doesn’t become a slice in the pie. The ‘missing things’ are in the meeting – they’re just between the things that took long enough to become pie slices.
IF you choose to view the meeting on YouTube you will find a list of links, to every item in the meeting, in the read more description of the video.

 

 

Council Reports RDKB REPORT Rotary Club - directional signage Boundary Museum 2018 Fee for Service request Grand Forks Art Gallery Society - 2018 Fee for Service request Bylaw 1606-A6 to rezone 7357-10th St. from R-1 to R-3A Questions From Public and Media

City Council Meetings Sept 5, 2017

Council had two meetings on Tuesday, Sept 5, 2017.

In the Committee Of The Whole there were 3 delegations: Community Futures, The Phoenix Foundation and Grand Forks Search and Rescue. Look for the presentations. If yor\re unsure on what these organix=zations do then these shows

Council also considered new rules pointed at shelters being set up in parks or on public property. Pretty much targeting the homeless the rule says no temporary shelters allowed between 9AM and 7PM. Which sounds okay on first listen but if you give it a moment and think about who this rule is intended for then a few questions crop up like:

  • How would someone without a time keeping device know when it’s 9AM (or 7PM)? They are homeless and not as slaved to the clock as the rest of us.
  • If they miss that 9AM deadline and the city takes their shelter and stuff away then where can they pick it up? Because if that’s not already the case then some lawyer at some point will likely argue that the moment the city agents take possession of somebody’s worldly possessions the city has to hold onto them for a period of time. (and they’ll likely do it pro bono but the city’s our lawyers’ time in court fighting this would be paid by the us, the taxpayers) Has the city worked that part out?
    Hint: It might be more cost effective to just assume the city would be forced to hang onto the stuff and do that from the get go instead of incurring the 4 or 5 figure legal costs of learning it the hard way in court. (and the city would look nearly so heartless as it would if the stuff is trashed) If anybody on staff is reading this then look into that maybe and save us some money, eh?
  • I don’t know if this would be a big deal or not but: How would the city know the person that shows up to claim the stuff is the owner?
  • And if the person in question is a repeat offender then how will they be dealt with? They have no income so fines won’t be paid . . . the exercise will be fruitless. Not cost free though – anyone acting on behalf of the city or processing the file would be paid by us taxpayers.

In the Regular meeting (evening) the big issues of the night were:

  • whether the city would support the Fall Fair financially or not (look for that in the late item)
  • a dispute with a property owner / water customer over payment on the installation of a pit meter.
    This took up the largest part of the meeting with the discussion during the Information Items part of the meeting and later on the question period. Both times Councilor Butler recused herself from the discussion.
    In the agenda this item refers to two people twice and thereafter one of them exclusively. That one was present in the room and hoped to take part in the discussion council was having but the rules governing the regular meeting say a unanimous vote of council is required to allow that. Staff was asked what names appeared on the property title and when the answer came back that the person present was not named on the title they voted against allowing the visitor to speak. So they had to wait until question period.
    The decision did not go in the customer’s favour and neither did the discussion during question period. It got a bit heated.
  • The Permissive Tax Exemptions list of places and organizations applying for and being granted tax exemption. Interestingly the non-profit organizations include financials with their applications so if you’re curious to know how much money they have and how they spend / disburse it then that part of the agenda document would be interesting reading. Use the button above to fetch it from the city’s website.

The Committee Of The Whole

The Regular Meeting


 

Community Futures Phoenix Foundation of the Boundary Communities Grand Forks Search and Rescue Volunteer Appreciation Night 2017 and Policy #204 Update Monthly Highlight Reports from Department Managers Bylaw 1959-A1 Parks Access Bylaw Amendment Bylaw 1606-A6 Zoning Bylaw Amendment Grand Forks and District Fall Fair Minutes RDKB REPORT MIA Appointments of City Voting Delegates Scott Davis and Elizabeth Eastwood - Outstanding Charges Questions From Public and Media