Council had a very busy day this Monday – without even having a Committee Of The Whole.
The day began with two public hearings / feedback sessions beginning at 1PM.
The first was a Hearing regarding Bylaw No. 2039-A4 Proposed Rezoning from R1 to R4 to accommodate agricultural uses on the 7600 Block of 8th Street. No one showed up to speak to it as you can see below.
Following that was the Public Feedback sessions regarding a Development Variance Permit for the Proposed Non-Medical Cannabis Retail Store Licence at 7500 Donaldson Drive. This is the current location of the Warming Centre. A number of people showed up to speak against Pot and Pot stores in general. The warming centre turned out to be a side issue in this hearing. Listen below.
Right after these sessions Council had a long in-camera session. Of course I cannot tell you what they discussed – media isn’t allowed in the room. But they do give an agenda where they show which sub–sections of section 90 they are using to invoke the in-camera proceedings. I’ll reproduce that part of the agenda below:
THAT Council convene an In-Camera Meeting as outlined under Section 90 of the Community Charter to discuss matters in a closed meeting which are subject to Section 90 (1) (a) personal information about an identifiable individual who holds or is being considered for a position as an officer, employee or agent of the municipality or another position appointed by the municipality; (e) the acquisition, disposition or expropriation of land or improvements, if the council considers that disclosure could reasonably be expected to harm the interests of the municipality; and (k) negotiations and related discussions respecting the proposed provision of a municipal service that are at their preliminary stages and that, in the view of the council, could reasonably be expected to harm the interests of the municipality if they were held in public;
Finally the evening meeting took place at 7PM. A number of items were added to the agenda and they related to the housing issue and warming centre. The links to the Agenda for this City Council Meeting are: As an HTML page As a PDF doc
June 10 was a busy day for Council with a number of meetings. Not only that but it was also a day where they were deciding on a highly controversial issue: Should they work towards changing BC Housing’s planned location for the Supportive Housing from downtown to lots on 70th adjacent to the project BCH has nearly finished?
To ‘support council’ (and remind them about the level of concerned opposition) a local group held a rally outside city hall just before council. Some people from this rally also wanted to attend the meeting.
When the public gallery gets full in council chambers staff enforce the fire code regulations and prevent people from entering until seats become available. This was the case for the evening meeting and the result was a group of people waiting in the hall and extending down the stairs.
Normally those in the hall wait and if they talk among themselves keep the volume at a respectful level. Apparently a couple of the people in this group would not do that – the hubbub could be heard for the first 20 minutes of the council meeting. So much so that people sitting near the door were experiencing some difficulty hearing the proceedings in the room (not every councilor uses the their microphone) At one point chanting was heard – what the reason for that was I cannot say. I was stuck in the room running the live webcast. When they would not quieten or leave the police were called. They settled down after the RCMP attended and talked to them. No one was arrested.
The result of council’s deliberations on this went in their favour: Council voted not to let the motion proceed to a 3rd and final reading. So the move will not happen. And the facility will go into the location on 2nd and Central downtown . . . which very many oppose as well.
Council did have other things to discuss and decide. You can see that from the agendas which you can download below.
NOTE: This has been updated (June 18) to include the video of the meeting.
The situation around the homeless in our small town has become a hotly contentious issue.
Even though we had a flood of historic proportions last year that has created major problems for home owners, businesses and the city in general this issue has come to take precedence. At least in the minds of the community that wants City Council to do something about it.
There is even a Facebook group that has swollen to hundreds of members in a short time. I know many people, with good intentions, and even some city councilors are members of this group.
They held a public town hall style meeting at Perley school a little while ago. You can watch that here.
Recently they held a rally outside city hall 15 minutes before the last city council meeting happened. This was ostensibly in support of council. And by and large apparently it was . . . but not everyone was as well behaved as the rest. This resulted in a loud commotion in the hall outside council chambers. This disturbance began before the meeting started and didn’t end until 20 minutes into the meeting. And that only after the police had been called and attended. You can hear them in the first 20 minutes of the city council meeting below. Around 3 to 4 minutes in it is quite evident. I will note that the microphone, which is fairly directional, was not even pointed in their direction.
After returning home from that meeting I posted to facebook about this. I pointed out that while this was supposed to be a rally in support of council it didn’t turn out that way. And seeing some of the commentary from that Facebook group in advance of the meeting . I will quote from my post below.
Well if that was supposed to be a rally in support of council I’m glad they didn’t have a rally to lambaste council. Or was there a ‘wink, wink, nudge, nudge’ hidden in the notice I didn’t pick up on? (no I really really don’t need an answer to that one)
I posted that and turned off the commenting. Which prompted questions. When I gave someone the gist of what happened they in turn posted . . . and then faced the wrath of some supporters of the group.
After finding the original posting about the rally I turned commenting on and shared that to the comments section. Which led me to face an onslaught all that evening and into the next day. It went from outright denial to saying I was BS’ing and exaggerating. Essentially calling me a liar without actually using the word.
And I added this as well: This is how it was advertised in the C4 group. Seeing the signs in the crowd and the RCMP having to be called and learning about some of the pre-event commentary in that group I’m not surprised now.
It was grueling.
First someone claimed it was ‘just one guy’. But it was a group and people in the council chambers could hear them. People listening on the live stream could hear them. At one point this group was chanting.
I was doing my job broadcasting and couldn’t get up and go to the door to see better so I could only report on what I saw and heard. Which included the cops being called. That was denied. When someone stood up to point out that this was true they were then attacked. Having them point out that not just one but two staffers had called the cops did nothing to ameliorate the situation – it only appeared to fan the passion of the people behaving like trolls.
What I hadn’t included in my original post was some of the comments I found associated with the rally posting on that group. I shall share those below.
Don’t like whats going on, then get your butts down here on Monday, I’m going to suggest a little earlier than 645 case they try to sneak in early. AND ALL the doors need manning. I’m sure there’s more than one entrance. AND I wouldn’t put it past the snakes AND Pretty sad when they try to pull the wool over our eyes AND “… they can give Mr. T a lesson or two on sneaky and bullying!!! Wasn’t till we threatened to bring in lawyers did they back down, …”
Seeing those comments and my experience of being in council chambers while the disturbance was going on outside the doors I suggest that my remarks were informed by the information and experience I had. How could it be otherwise?
I later found out from others that initially it was one woman who would not be silenced for quite a while and after she’d given up she was followed by ‘some guy’ who wouldn’t quit until the police talked to him. Why the chanting happened I don’t know. Why the disrespect for council took place for 20 minutes after a rally ‘in support of council’ I cannot say either. Though when you’re involved in a group that holds a public rally or protest and people show up and misbehave it’s your group that gets the blame.
I do not hide the fact that I do not share the same thinking as the group does.
In posts on that group I see people complaining that without all 4 pillars we should not accept any single pillars. That supportive housing without the rest of the complementary support systems should be rejected. I’m no Internet Expert on Housing First or 4 Pillars the way some in that group have said they are. I will freely admit that.
Someone shared a post that was made by one of the group’s admins to another group in BC what has been fighting against BC Housing. At the end of that post they write “We need to start banding together provincially to take down BCH!”
I won’t go into what I think is wrong with that but I will say it would be a fruitless and expensive exercise. I’ve seen and heard people say that the city should take BCH to court. As if we did not have enough expenses on our plate with the flood and all that entails. BCH is a Crown Corporation. It’s power flows from a higher source than city council’s.
I do have a suggestion though . . . you can see that below.
I also have to point out once again that I am a Volunteer. No One pays me for most of what I do in the community – most of the time all they have to do is ask. On occaision I will be hired but when that happens they tell me that up front. And often wait an unreasonable amount of time for me to actually bill them. It’s frustrating for them.
But I’m a volunteer first. Because our small town shouldn’t have to pay for what would be expensive services if they don’t need to. If I can help out.
Another reason I no longer take money from city hall is because I want it clear in everyone’s head that I do not work for city hall, I work for the community. Partly in the hope that when people are passionately fighting about things I won’t get mistakenly wounded in the cross fire.
But that was stupid of me to think that way. If you take a side you become a target. And even if you have truth on your side the Trolls don’t care.
This past week has been one of the most stressful in my 13 years covering council. Even during the water meter controversy it wasn’t this bad. I’ve struggled with how to respond. I’ve struggled against a looming desire to stop doing everything and tell the whole town to stuff it. And I’ve struggled against that part of me that yearns to join the fight and make them pay – that part scares me.
If it wasn’t for the words of support of others. If the DBA hadn’t reached out to ask me to record two whole morning presentations. If that hadn’t kept me busy every single day this week (so much so that city council is way on the back burner). Without that I might have stewed away until I gave it all up and what the new reporter at the Gazette worried about in his editorial would come to pass – Les wouldn’t be there to broadcast council. Because it takes hundreds of dollars and hundreds of hours of work to provide this one ‘free service’ but for the trolls it only takes a couple of minutes of concentrated venom-laced invective and accusations spread over hours to make it all go away.
Here’s my freely made suggestion for All the groups in BC that want to get the system fixed and the have the supports badly needed in our communities properly funded and implemented.
A Public Meeting was held at Perley School on May 1, 2019. The group Citizens For A Better Grand Forks put the event on with the City sponsoring it. Over 160 people showed up.
The meeting was Moderated by Michael Strukoff.
The links in the list below should open a new window with the meeting video cued up at the position in the meeting that the link referred to. All you have to do after that is press Play.
OR you can watch the video in its entirety below.
Apologies in advance to anyone whose name I’ve misspelled or associated with the wrong organization. And if I’d had more time I’d have put in the actual question text instead of ‘question ##’ . . . but people who did not show up want to see it so I’ve put it up in this fashio for now.