If you could talk to the TNRD, would you?
The board of directors approved a new procedural bylaw on Thursday (March 24, 2016) that includes an addition to regular agendas — public inquiries. It appeared on the agenda for the first time this past week (Thursday, April 7, 2016)
Up until now, there’s been no place on the agenda of regular board of directors’ meetings where people could stand up and ask questions to the board or staff, directed through the chair. Many municipal councils have such provision in their agendas and I proposed several months ago that the TNRD include one, as well.
Eventually it made its way to a discussion at a committee-of-the-whole meeting and then to a regular board meeting as part of changes to the procedural bylaw. It seems like a fairly simple matter but it resulted in a lot of discussion at the committee meeting.
Some directors were concerned that it would encourage “regulars” who frequently complain about local government to start showing up at board meetings. Others worried that questions would be asked that would catch staff by surprise and couldn’t be answered on the spot. And some felt questions should be limited to issues discussed at the same meeting.
Still others felt that since delegations are accepted at board meetings there was no need for a Public Inquiries section. On that point, while delegations are an important part of board meetings, anyone wanting to appear as a delegation must make arrangements in advance; the numbers are also limited.
Board chair John Ranta pointed out that his Cache Creek council allows public enquiries and that it causes no problems. It’s a matter for the chair to make sure they’re productive. Through the discussion, the TNRD board came to the consensus that the guideline for the question period will be 15 minutes with no limitation on the types of questions that can be posed.
It remains to be seen, of course, whether people take advantage of the chance to ask questions of the board (there were no questions from the public this week), but it’s important to provide the opportunity.