Original Published on Aug 16, 2022 at 10:22

By Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Blue Mountains councillor Paula Hope says her two latest council motions are meant to set the record straight when it comes to a recent vote related to the Gateway attainable housing project. 

At council’s committee of the whole meeting on Aug, 9, Hope brought forward two notices of motion concerning council’s vote on June 28 regarding the disposition of town-owned property (171 King Street) to the Blue Mountains Attainable Housing Corporation (BMAHC) for the Gateway project. On June 28, council in committee of the whole voted 6-0 in favour of transferring the property to BMAHC. Coun. Jim Uram was absent for the vote.

At a subsequent BMAHC board meeting on July 7, Mayor Alar Soever and Coun. Rob Sampson (who are members of the board) reported that the vote was 6-1, with Hope opposed.

During the June 28 meeting, Hope suggested the decision to transfer the land should be deferred until a new council is in office to make the decision. She ultimately voted in favour of the transfer.

Minutes from the June 28 meeting note the motion was passed, but do not tally the votes. You can watch the video of the meeting here.

Hope’s first notice of motion requests that council clarify the vote was 6-0 on the property transfer. Her second notice of motion makes a formal request to BMAHC for a video recording of the meeting during which Soever and Sampson spoke about the vote. Both motions will be considered at council’s meeting on Aug. 18 and can be found on the agenda for the meeting.

“I felt it was a mis-characterization,” Hope said in an interview after introducing her motions.

Hope said she was surprised when another member of the BMAHC board informed her of how the land transfer council vote was portrayed at the board meeting.

“I wanted to see the recording. I have tried five times to get the recording,” she said. “I find it unique – two members of council not remembering a vote on a $4 million transfer of land. I don’t want it to happen again, that was my biggest concern.”

Hope has received a transcript of the meeting, but not the video recording.

“I’d like council to ask for the video,” she said, adding that she had not been provided with a policy or explanation as to why a copy of the video recording of the meeting has not been provided to her at this point.

Sampson, who is chair of the BMAHC board, said there are liability and human resources issues with releasing the video to the public.

“The issue is not that the public cannot view the video, or even attend the public part of our meetings, but rather should and can BMAHC have the actual video data delivered to non-board public for their use, and how do we protect board members and the corporation from the risk of any misuse of that video data,” said Sampson. “There is a risk that misuse of the video data may expose board members and the corporation to liability that needs to be identified and mitigated. In addition, BMAHC has limited HR to deal with these types of matters since the corporation is trying to prudently manage its limited available cash resources, focus staff resources on getting attainable units built, and minimize dealing with matters that distract the corporation from that objective.”

Hope said that Soever apologized for the incorrect information in an email to Hope and other members of the BMAHC board on July 12. She provided a copy of the email to CollingwoodToday.

In a separate interview, Soever confirmed that he shared incorrect information about council’s vote on the land transfer at the July 7 board meeting and that he apologized to Hope and the BMAHC board.

“Yes, I made a mistake and I apologized for it,” he said.

Hope has already filed her nomination to run for councillor again in the fall 2022 election. Soever said he will not run again. Sampson hasn’t filed to run for re-election.

Original Published on Aug 19, 2022 at 14:00

Update: Housing Board will discuss video request in September

Blue Mountains Attainable Housing Corporation Executive Director Jennifer Bisley speaks to The Blue Mountains council on August 18. Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

By Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Before a compromise was reached, however, there was some debate about Hope’s request for the video.

Hope brought a resolution requesting the video from BMAHC to council’s special meeting held on Aug. 18 after incorrect information about how she voted on council’s decision to transfer land at 171 King Street to the corporation was shared by Coun. Rob Sampson (chair of the board) and Mayor Alar Soever with the rest of the board on July 7. Hope requested the recording, but to date has received just a transcript of the proceedings.

“A fundamental democratic principle is at stake here,” said Hope, noting that the town funds BMAHC. “Council funds that organization and council is asking for a copy of that recording.”

BMAHC Executive Director Jennifer Bisley spoke briefly to council before the debate on the motion and observed the discussion from the public gallery.

Sampson said BMAHC is a separate entity from the town, consisting of elected officials and private citizens, that operates under different regulations. He said Hope’s motion was too vague.

“What is the intended use of that information? We need to be clear,” he said. “If it’s for the purposes of viewing the recording it should be clear in the motion.”

The debate consumed a considerable amount of time during the meeting and at several points both CAO Shawn Everitt and Clerk Corrina Giles interjected to say the resolution needed more clarity. Everitt said the resolution should be clear about what it was asking in terms of whether the video recording was to be shared with council only or the public at large.

“We need clear direction of what we’re going to be doing,” said Everitt.

After considerable back-and-forth discussion, the compromise was reached when Sampson committed to take the issue to the next board meeting during the first week of September to have a discussion about making the meeting recordings available for viewing.

“Let’s get on with it so we can get something done,” said Sampson. “I don’t think we’ll go further than what the town does, which allows people to view (meeting videos).”

In an interview after the meeting, Hope said she was pleased by how the debate ended.

“I’m very happy with the results of this discussion,” she said. “We came up with a solution that was better than my request. I’m very pleased about that.”

These items reprinted with permission from CollingwoodToday.ca, Collingwood, Ontario