Independant panel of governance experts needed for Ottawa

Independant panel of governance experts needed for Ottawa
Posted on April 6, 2013 | James O'Grady | Written on April 3, 2013
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Letter type:
Comment

Publisher

Publisher:
Ottawa Sun

Author's Note:

Author's Note:

I wrote this comment in response to an Ottawa Sun video (link is at bottom of my comment) where Mayor Watson attempts to claim that the City of Ottawa is open and accessible. There are many reasons why this is not the case. I list 12 reasons off the top of my head as to why Ottawa City Hall is anything but an 'Open Government'.

How can Mayor Watson think Ottawa City Hall is open and accessible when they don’t even provide written meeting minutes anymore? Ie. There are no written records of official meetings. It’s incredible to think that a government institution in Canada could get away with this in the 21st century. Video is no replacement for meeting minutes because its not searchable by keyword.

Not to mention the many other things they do to discourage participation:

1) Holding committee meetings downtown during the day when residents are working.

2) Only providing one week for Councillors and the public to review and prepare responses to Staff reports, even though Staff is often months late with these reports. One week is not enough time for anyone to do proper due diligence or consult with experts and the public.

3) Limiting public presentations at committee meetings to 5-minutes… too short to make a real argument with any detail.

4) Making decisions at committee meetings without properly considering public feedback, which is almost always ignored because the decision has already been made behind closed doors, prior to the meetings taking place.

5) Releasing Staff reports on Fridays before holiday weekends (ex. Lobbyist Registry Report was release on the Friday afternoon before the July 1st long weekend, 2012)

6) Removing the ability of the Public Advisory Committees to advise Council on issues in a timely manner.

7) Preventing staff from directly answering media questions. Forcing the media to go through Communications instead, making it difficult to meet publishing deadlines.

8) Not holding public consultation meetings at appropriate times or locations to encourage public participation. Incorporating public consultation into the regular everyday governance of the City would solve this problem.

9) Watering down the Lobbyist Registry from Watson’s election promise so that it really tells us nothing at all.

10) Discouraging debate around the Council table so that no one, including the media, knows what’s going on until its too late.

11) Appointing figure head public representatives who are rarely engaged in the decision making process (ex. OC Transpo)

The list goes on…

This is the least open Ottawa City Hall I have seen in my lifetime. If Mayor Watson thinks its open, then he has no idea what 'Open Government' is all about.

This is why I would like to see an independent panel of governance experts conduct an impartial review of the City of Ottawa’s governance and make recommendations as to how it can actually become a real 'Open Government'.

About The Author

I am a social media entrepreneur, communications professional, part-time school teacher and community leader living in Nepean, Ontario. I am also a hockey goaltender, political hack and most importantly, an advocate... More