Justifying the Unjustifiable
The Beagle Editor, JUSTIFYING THE UNJUSTIFIABLE!
After having read through staff responses to community submissions on the Draft Code of Meeting Practice, I am astonished at the manner in which proposed changes have been justified.
‘Justifiers’ such as “not required in the model code” or “a non mandatory provision considered best practice by OLG” are actually meaningless, as council’s are permitted to include or exclude any or all non mandatory provisions and add any supplementary provisions, so long as they don’t contradict the mandatory ones.
Justifying the removal of Public Access sessions and webcasting of Public Forum because they are not required in the Model Code is neither here nor there. They can be included as supplementary, as they don’t contradict the mandatory provisions.
Please note: providing written transcripts of Public Forum Presentations to council the day before the meeting is not required by the Model Code either, yet staff have included it.
When justifying an inclusion because OLG considers it “best practice,” it is of equal significance that OLG has also classified it as NON-mandatory. So provisions such as limiting the number of Public Forum speakers, the GM’s power to refuse Public Forum applications etc can be excluded.
I note that one of staff’s reasons for removing webcasting of Public Forum was because it gave more weight or prominence to this type of community engagement as compared to written submissions. It would appear that staff have overlooked the fact that Public Forum speakers have only 4 days in which to research, draft and write their presentation, whereas those writing submissions have 3 to 4 weeks. I would say the boot is on the other foot!
Someone suggested that live streaming of Public Forum be split so that those speakers uncomfortable with being recorded could go first before recording began.
Staff response: “if some presentations were live streamed and some were not, a distorted view of the range and content of the contributions would occur.”
Would this not also apply to selecting 3 speakers ‘for’ and 3 speakers ‘against’ an agenda item when there is an over abundance of Public Forum speakers? Not according to staff. They relied on the non-mandatory best practice justifier in this instance.
But really, all the above pales into insignificance when compared to the considerable effort by staff to justify their provisions while completely disregarding all major concerns expressed by the community in their submissions.
It is now up to councillors to decide whether they will represent the views of their community or that of management, keeping in mind their Oath of Office: “to act in the best interests of the people of Eurobodalla Shire.”
Deua River Valley