A Letter to Mayor Baldwin and White Rock Council on the Elimination of Question Period and the Muzzling of Citizens

To Mayor and White Rock Council.
I am opposed to the proposed amendment to Bylaw 1860 that will remove Question Period. I am most disappointed that City Council no longer feels the need to listen to questions from the public in a Public Forum. The Mayor and City Council should treat the public input process with the respect and dignity that citizens deserve. We both want White Rock to prosper. We, the public, and City Council are on the same team, or at least we should be!

Question Period is a valuable tool for the public to share concerns with City Council and for the public to hear those concerns as well as your response.

Removal of Question Period contradicts the Mayor’s own stated values!

Conflict with the Mayor’s stated Values:
Requiring questions to be received in private via email, phone, letter, or in person is in conflict with the Mayor’s values in which he states on his website that he values “Open Communication (value #6)” and “Respect for the Public (value #2)”. In 2013, the rules for Question Period were changed to prevent members of the public from asking questions not specifically on the agenda, and now in 2015 you are removing it entirely. This clearly violates the claim that you want “Open Communication” and shows disrespect to the public input process. In my opinion, this is a step backwards and so clearly violates value #5 regarding the desire for “Continuous Improvement”.

Conflict with the Mayor’s stated Goals:
This proposed change to silence the public through the elimination of Question Period will decrease the public’s confidence in its elected officials and is clearly in direct conflict with the Mayor’s #1 stated goal of creating an atmosphere of mutual respect and tolerance (click here to see the Mayors list of Values and Goals). In addition, it violates Goal #2 that states that the decision-making process should be “based upon principles and values that are respectful of the Public’s need for consultation“. Muzzling the public is clearly not respectful of the public’s need for consultation. The fact that this was pushed through first, second, and third reading on Feb 2nd prior to any printed newspaper notice given to the public further erodes confidence in this process as “creating an atmosphere of mutual respect” in our elected Mayor and Council nor does it demonstrate being “respectful of the Public’s need for consultation”. Disappointingly, quite the opposite is demonstrated.

Democracy and good governance can only exist when leaders are willing to be challenged and are willing to hear different views. I have always used Question Period in a respectful manner and have not seen any member of the public fail to present questions in an equally respectful manner. I see no valid reason to remove Question Period. When leaders stop listening, they also stop benefitting from the wisdom of those in the community that you claim to represent.

With all due respect, I ask that you NOT make this change to remove Question Period.
Scott Kristjanson

The Broken Promises of Mayor Baldwin

From the Mayor’s own web page:

On that page, the Mayor says that the Values he stands by are:
1. Honesty and integrity.
2. Respect for the public, other elected officials, and City staff.
3. Sound fiscal management.
4. Ethical behaviour in both business and personal life.
5. Continuous improvement in seeking excellence.
6. Open communication.
7. Innovation and creativity.
8. Decisiveness and common sense in decision-making.

The Mayor’s stated goals include:
1. Increase the Public’s confidence in their elected officials by creating an atmosphere of mutual respect, tolerance, and civility in our governance processes.
2. Institute decision-making processes based upon principles and values that are respectful of the Public’s need for consultation.

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