Vancouver City Hall felt more like a stockade
When people arrived at a public hearing on Monday, February 27, we were met by a busy gaggle of security guards who streamed people in a variety of directions [“ Changes to public hearing procedures proposed at Vancouver City Hall”, web-only]. Most of us were ushered into what can be described as a bunker, a full two floors below the council chambers.
One had the impression that our elected officials did not want to be too close to the citizens who had turned out to what was advertised as a public hearing—a place where citizens can directly engage their elected officials. To add insult to injury, the agenda for the evening was packed with six items up for discussion—the last a development proposal for which over 150 people had signed up to speak.
By 9:00 p.m., the issue that had brought most of the people to council had not even been touched. “It’s a joke,” muttered the woman next to me. By the end of the evening only one speaker out of the over 150 or so was heard.
Why wasn’t the issue scheduled on a separate day or evening? Why was it the last item on the agenda? In the past, when there have been issues of importance and widespread interest, council has booked a space that was accessible and accommodating. Why don’t the mayor and councillors follow this practice? Why do they seem uncomfortable having citizens around? Why are public hearings more like exercises in attrition, with people showing up and treated to cramped bunkers and multiple late-night meetings?
Based on the packed agendas, Vancouver has the feel of a fast-tracked city. What’s the hurry in rushing through development and other issues that are immensely important to our city? The worst joke of all this is that these elected officials are amending the rules for future public hearings to limit the time that anyone can speak.
> John Shayler / Vancouver