It was an exciting day in our community when the Stanley Cup arrived with Richmond Hill’s native son, Jordan Binnington. Jordan is the rookie goalie for the Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues . Apparently all St. Louis Blues team members have an opportunity to host the Cup for a day and Jordan offered to share this moment with his home town. It was a generous offer and many Richmond Hill hockey fans showed up at Richmond Green to cheer Jordan on and revel in his success. I saw many of these fans squinting their eyes at the St. Louis “blue” colour trying to fantasize that it was actually Maple Leaf “blue”, but regardless, it was a really great day.
Jordan’s friends and family were also in attendance. I particularly appreciated the opportunity to speak to Jordan’s parents. From a parent’s perspective, it was really interesting to hear how their son’s hockey career progressed from the Richmond Hill Minor Hockey Association to the NHL, and all the steps in between. I found myself thinking that this victory parade was also a very “proud parent moment”!
New Council Meeting Times
As always there have been a number of decisions made by Council lately and as always I have tried to summarize some them below in this e newsletter. One of these decisions involved setting new Council meeting times beginning in September. I believe this decision is important because having open and convenient access to Council meetings so that citizens can easily participate in local government is a fundamental foundation of a healthy democracy.
Council and Committee of the Whole meetings will now happen at 9:30AM on Wednesday mornings. I believe this will make it very inconvenient, and in some cases impossible, for citizens to take time off work to attend Council meetings. It is for this reason that I opposed this change.
Before this term of Council, Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting times used to be scheduled at 4:30PM on a Monday and Council meetings occurred at 7:30PM the following Monday. This gave citizens two different times and opportunities to participate at Council meetings and minimized the impact of time conflicts with work schedules. As such I believe this original schedule for meetings should have been continued.
When the proposed time change was discussed I expressed my concern that the meeting time change would mean many citizens would have difficulty taking time off work to attend meetings. In fact since Council changed the meeting times to 1PM on a trial basis in December 2018, I have heard from a number of residents who agreed with my opposition to this change saying the new time makes it difficult for people to attend to speak to Council about an issue that was important to them.
In my past 6 years on Council it is clear that we have many meetings where there are few if any citizens in the audience. These meetings typically contain fairly routine issues that do not inspire citizens to express an opinion, and that is to be expected in cases like that. However, there are also a significant number of meetings where we find that there are citizens that need to speak to an issue on the agenda, and, in fact, we have seen meetings where the Council Chambers are full of interested citizens participating in the democratic process.
Meetings that generate a great deal of participation typically involve issues of development (and we will see an increasing number of these over the coming years) or issues that touch people personally like changes to fees, park redevelopment, decisions impacting the environment, or a municipally provided service important to a given group of residents, to name a few. It has also been my experience that, while writing letters and speaking to the local councillor is most definitely important, attending the meeting in person and speaking to Council directly is the best way to get a point across to the entire Council, and it often has the greatest impact. Thus, it has been my experience that allowing live citizen participation in meetings is important and I have always encouraged citizens to participate.
I believe that this current Council decision to change meeting times, will effectively reduce any opposing voices from the public and as such represents a significant, and in my view, unnecessary barrier to participation in our democratic process. You can read more about this decision and others below in this enewsletter.
I have always valued the opinions and feedback that I have received from residents and despite this change I hope that residents will be able to find other ways to participate in the future of our community. I will certainly continue to be open to hearing this input and doing my best to bring these voices to council even if the voices themselves can’t attend the meetings where these important decision are being made.
If you have any questions, comments, kudos, or concerns please feel free to contact me. I am always happy to speak to residents about our great community.
Ward 4 Councillor Richmond Hill
Banner Photo – Richmond Hill’s very own Jordan Binnington brings the Stanley Cup home.