In a world where people are looking for their municipal leaders to be open and transparent, the Municipality of Neebing has taken it a step further by allowing residents to get up to the microphone to speak during the first half hour of their regular council meetings.

Three speakers stepped up to the mic to address council at last week’s meeting at the Neebing municipal building on Highway 61 on various topics, using up the whole 30 minutes allotted.

The idea was hatched during the previous council’s tenure and is starting to catch on with the residents.

“Since I’ve taken over (as mayor), I’ve seen a gradual trend of increased participation now, which is really good,” said Neebing Mayor Mark Thibert. “We took on this initiative under the leadership, initially, of (former Neebing mayor Erwin Butikofer), who introduced the whole concept of community involvement at the beginning of it. So the last council adopted it.

“I think now with our ongoing pledge to be open and transparent and to allow for community engagement to shape the future of the community, there seems to be more people showing up to council now. Before it would be a rare thing for people to even show up. For now, at least, the last maybe half dozen meetings or so, we have a very regular following of people who come out to participate. Certainly for the last two or three meetings, I’ve had presentations from community members regularly now. I think that’s a good trend.”

It’s a different scenario in the Municipality of Oliver Paipoonge. If you want to speak before council, you have to write or email the municipal office at least a week before the regular council meeting takes place to have your deputation heard. Council and administration asks that you send a detailed submission of what issues or concerns you are going to address.

Oliver Paipoonge Mayor Lucy Kloosterhuis, whose council and administration didn’t allow an audience member to speak on the hotly contested Rosslyn Village water system shutdown at last week’s meeting, makes no apologies for how her municipality grants access for the residents to speak before council.

“We don’t allow public to just get up and start talking at every meeting,” said Kloosterhuis. “We can’t do that.

“It’s a council meeting. You can sit, you can listen at home because we’re now on YouTube as well or come and listen at the council chambers.

“I know there was someone who wished to speak, but if you start doing that, you’re going to have 20 people speaking on the topic. We just can’t run a meeting that way. We have to make sure that the business of the (municipality) gets done in the meetings we have every two weeks.

“. . . . We have to have some kind of order at a meeting and we can’t just have someone jumping up and talking on a subject that we haven’t had something in writing that we can work with.”

The Municipality of Shuniah and the Township of Gillies use the same method to hear deputations as Oliver Paipoonge, giving residents or delegations a week prior to the meeting to submit a written submission to speak before council.

Conmee Township is also quite similar in their approach, but they ask that residents get in their written submissions the Thursday prior to their Tuesday meetings.

In O’Connor Township, residents or delegations can speak before council by contacting the clerk no less than 48 hours before the commencement of the meeting. Residents will be allotted 10 minutes to speak, while delegations of five or more people can have two speakers address council for 10 minutes each.

Thibert understands that he could run into some testy residents with the open mic concept, but that doesn’t faze him because he wants to hear opinions from his community.

“I have no problems with (someone being angry),” Thibert said. “Whether somebody’s angry or not, I’d rather hear somebody’s opinion and give them a chance to vent.

“To me, the only opinion that’s bad is the one that is not rendered. If I’m going to walk the talk of what I campaigned on and what I continue to promote is being fair, open and transparent, then I have to allow all takers to come to the microphone.”

By John Nagy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Mar 24, 2023 at 09:00

This item reprinted with permission from   The Chronicle-Journal   Thunder Bay, Ontario
Comments are Welcome - Leave a reply below - Posts are moderated

Comments are Welcome - Leave a reply below - Posts are moderated