The “Other” City Council Meetings

Ron Bolin: Feb. 3, 2011

In 2011 Nanaimo City Council will hold 18 Monday regular Council Meetings in the 300 seat Shaw Auditorium at our downtown conference centre.  During this same year, the full Council will meet 19 times as the “Finance and Policy Committee of the Whole” (FPCOW) in the board room of City Hall with few seats to spare.  The major difference between these two meetings of Council is related to the fact that bylaws and the exercise of bylaw powers cannot be delegated [Community Charter section 154].  But as we shall see, Council handles many very important issues at these meetings. If we consider the last two FPCOW meetings (Jan.17 and 31, 2011) and the next (Feb. 7, 2011) we can see the kinds of issues undertaken:

  • Jan. 17 – Presentations were made on the budgets of the Planning, Development, Human Resources and Strategic Relationships Departments by their Department heads.
  • Jan. 17 – Discussion of a delegation request that the Green Lake area be serviced with sewers as was allegedly promised years ago at amalgamation costing some $3-4 million.  With an implied extension of some $16+ millions for other areas not serviced with sewers.
  • Jan. 17 – Reports and discussion of Lighting at an artificial turf field; holding combat sports events at the VICC; Quarterly Report of the Manager of Purchasing and Stores; Councillor Bestwick’s request for $14,392.27 re: the Conflict of Interest issue.
  • Jan. 17 – Council moved to an in camera meeting and the public was excluded.
  • Jan. 31 – Over $200,000 in grants was discussed and decided.
  • Jan. 31 – A sole source contract for $69,000 was discussed and decided.
  • Jan. 31 – Licenses to use City property for 5 and for 10 years were discussed and decided.
  • Jan. 31 – A 5 year operating agreement was discussed and decided.
  • Jan. 31 – Council moved to an in camera meeting and the public was excluded.
  • Feb. 7 – Issues on the agenda include:

o   A Presentation on Budget Methods;

o   Authorizing $900,000 for 3 Waste Collection Trucks;

o   Approving $70,000 for more Quarterway Bridge development;

o   Cilaire Street Lighting;

o   Resident Only parking in the neighbourhoods surrounding Vancouver Island University;

o   A scheduled in camera meeting.

[Details can be found in the Agendas and Minutes of FPCOW, as well as other Council Committee meetings, can be found on the city’s web site.  Minutes are not available for some time due to the fact that they are not approved until the next scheduled meeting and are then not reported on line until the meeting following approval.]

As seen from these agenda items a significant portion of Council’s business is carried out here in the shadows.  The discussions are often livelier than those at Council meetings and very important financial and other decisions are made here.  FPCOW meetings are not captured in video or audio and there is thus no record excepting what may be presented by a representative of the media if one or more are present and minutes are not provided for some time.  Millions of tax dollars move through FPCOW, budgets are presented at a more comprehensible level, and major issues are discussed, all currently in the absence of significant attention from the citizens,  tax payers, and often, the media, who will have to live with the consequences of decisions made here. This Committee has real power and uses it. We should pay more attention to its workings.

Have you ever attended a FPCOW meeting?  If so, what are your comments?  If not, why not?