Silencing the citizens: Did Mayor Robertson go “nuclear” on 105 Keefer with 9:30am Monday Public Hearing?

[Mini-epilogue: Council finished the fourth day of the public hearing on Monday, May 29, 2017. Council is set to vote on this 105 Keefer rezoning application during a daytime regular council meeting on June 13.]

[Journalist Frances Bula reported on Twitter that she asked City staff for the final count on speakers for #105keefer. Of 324 people registered to speak, 196 spoke (that means 128 or 40% of the total did not). Of the speakers, 150 were opposed, 46 in favour. That’s a ratio of 3 to 1. Twitter discussions pointed out that several of the speakers in favour worked in the development industry.]

Does Mayor Robertson really want to hear from everyone who wants to speak at the Public Hearing on the future of Chinatown?

After three nights of public input, it appears he’s hit the “nuclear” button on the Public Hearing, to potentially to ram it through with great expedience. [As popularized recently by President Trump, “go nuclear” refers to resorting to drastic measures in an attempt to undermine an opponent.]

Vision has employed a strategy to exhaust the speakers list. They have decided to reconvene the Public Hearing at probably the most inconvenient time, during regular office hours on a weekday. If a person who has signed up to speak is not physically in the room when their name is called, they miss their chance. Normally they can go back on at the end of the list. When the end of the speaker’s list is reached, then Council can just go ahead and vote on it (thus effectively skipping many people who had signed up to speak).

The practice of holding part of a Public Hearing during working hours on a weekday is extremely rare in Vancouver. One example was in March of 2014, with the Oakridge Centre Public Hearing.

Alert! City Hall quietly shifts Public Hearings to daytime, working hours — another step down the slippery slope (CityHallWatch, February 23, 2014)

Public Hearings started at 7:30pm… then were moved to 7pm starts and 6pm under the present administration (it is harder for some people to make it after work to 6pm than 7:30pm).

Is it a nasty tactic for the Mayor to suddenly announced that the public hearing will reconvene at 9:30am on a Monday morning? Does it show a blatant disregard and disrespect to residents of Vancouver? Is the Mayor deliberately silencing the voices of the community, and preventing members of the public from speaking?

As a sign of good faith, the Mayor could announce publicly that Council will NOT vote on the 105 Keefer application on Monday, but will reconvene on a weeknight later in the week or the following week. That would enable more of the speakers who wished to speak to have their chance to address council. This will permit people to have their voice (who can’t leave their workplaces during working hours on a weekday)

There’s been a steady erosion of rights of citizens to speak to Council. In the middle of the Rize Public Hearing, the Vision dominated Council changed the rules governing the meeting. Previously all members of Council who voted had to be present for the entire length of the Public Hearing, now they can skip out of the meeting and still vote at the end. As well, members of the public could ask to speak a second time at the end of the speakers list (if they would not have enough time).

CityHallWatch writes Council: Procedures Bylaw amendments will reduce Vancouver’s democracy, weaken public Hearings (in Council 27-March-2012)

The rules for Council meetings are set forth in the Procedure Bylaw and the Vancouver Charter.

Council added extra backup dates for Public Hearings earlier this year, but it appears that Monday, May 29th was not previously scheduled as a backup date:

Details are in the March 28, 2017 document; the original meeting schedule is from Oct 4, 2016: 2017 Council Meetings Schedule

Neither was Friday, May 26th originally on the meeting schedule. Are they breaking their own rules?

Robertson made a formal public apology, albeit vague and for no specific reason, in the final days of the 2014 civic election, and many people think that gains him precious votes. He promised to do things differently.

Is there any clearer indication that Mayor Robertson doesn’t want to hear from you, than by scheduling a Public Hearing in the middle of the day on a weekday?

We encourage people to contact Mayor and Council over the weekend and first thing Monday morning to encourage them NOT to vote on Monday, but to reconvene the hearing on a week night.

Public Hearing sign still reads May 23, 2017 (photo Saturday, May 27, 2017):

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