Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Councillor's Motions on Township Council

In BC, local government councillors and directors vote on a number of items at public meetings. The vast majority of items that get voted on are a result of embedded processes within local government. For example, voting to approve or deny a development proposal is triggered by a development applications being submitted to the affected local government. Voting on budgets, official community plans, and neighbourhood plans are a direct result of provincial requirements in the Local Government Act and Community Charter. Councils and boards can also vote on issues that come to their table through various internal committees, commissions, and staff reports. As a councillor or director, especially if you are a “lone wolf” type, you don’t actually have too much opportunity to get your personal issues and priorities on the table within this process; that is unless you use the notice of motion process.

A motion is like any other item that is voted on in local government. You need to provide notice, usually one meeting in advance, to get the motion on the agenda. At the meeting, you need a mover (normally the motion creator,) a seconder, and the majority approval of the council or board to pass.

When looking over council agendas from both the City and Township of Langley, there is a striking contrast in the use of councillor motions. In the City, I can’t recall the last time I saw a councillor motion, but these motions are a regular occurrence in the Township of Langley.

Councillor Kim Richter is likely the Queen of Motions in Langley as almost every council meeting has one of her motions on the agenda. Most of the time, her motions die as she finds no seconder, but sometimes her motions do get approved. I don't believe that Councillor Richter is abusing the use of motions as other councillors in the Township also take advantage of the motion process. Sadly though, it seems that councillor motions can get used for petty politics that don't necessarily improve the community. For example, the latest motion from Councillor Richter was:

Whereas Council now receives both a one third, tax free allowance for travel as well as a monthly $340 travel allowance, which could be considered “double dipping”;

Therefore be it resolved that members of Council choose to receive either one or the other, but not both.

I don’t believe that putting motions on the agenda is a bad thing, but it looks like another Township Councillor has had enough of motions. Ironically, he has put forward his own motion to reduce the amount of councillor motions in the Township. The following motion is from Councillor Grant Ward and is another example of what some might call petty politics.

1. Many communities in British Columbia have only one or two notices of motion per year;
2. The Township of Langley, in recent years, has experienced a dramatic increase in notices of motion reaching a high of approximately ten on one Council meeting day;
3. There is a tendency of notices of motions to continue on themes or topics after Council has deliberated;
4. Council members are starting to rush to provide notices of motion prior to other members of Council;
5. More thought and equity should exist in the utilization of notices of motion amongst members of Council;
6. The objective must always be to achieve the best governance possible.

Therefore Be It Resolved:
That staff be directed to amend the Procedural Bylaw to permit Councillors one notice of motion per month, to a maximum of ten per year, to be effective January 1, 2013.

Councillor motions are part of the local government process and I don't believe that their use should be restricted. If a motion is really out-to-lunch or just about petty politics, it can be defeated within 15 seconds when no one seconds it.

No comments: