There is no shortage of issues that need to be discussed, and decided, around the council table. At the February 13 council meeting, the questions of who sets the agenda and what items are included at what time were at the forefront of the discussion.
One of the first items listed under new business was a verbal report from councillor Wolfgang Duntz about the formation of an agenda review committee.
Mayor Jack Adelaar said, "I've looked at this particular point under new business and I decided that this item is not relevant to this particular meeting, that it is not relevant in total." Adelaar removed the agenda item with the argument that it would subvert the office of the mayor. He said, "This resolution as presented is not within the jurisdiction of this council to deal with, it's a provincial jurisdiction. If you want to change the mayor's duties, you better start writing letters to the provincial government."
When Duntz asked to speak to the item, Adelaar made it clear that he did not invite further discussion. Duntz expressed his doubts as to whether the mayor can make a ruling to remove agenda items and corporate officer Kathy Lalonde left the meeting to seek the advice of a solicitor on the matter. When Lalonde returned, she stated the mayor cannot remove agenda items. She also explained that, under the Bowen Island Municipality's procedure bylaw, the corporate officer is responsible for preparing agendas, usually in consultation with the mayor and the chief administrative officer.
Councillor Alison Morse said, "We all have items we want to see on the agenda but there are also applications that need to be dealt with and often there isn't a lot of time. We need a master calendar that shows what needs to happen when, that's part of the strategic plan." Morse added that in the past, councillors had simply forwarded items to the corporate officer who included them in the agenda. Adelaar stated that he didn't see any sense in the corporate officer being in charge of setting the agenda.
Duntz explained that he had been acting mayor for the two weeks of Adelaar's vacation and it had been his task to review the agenda. He said, "I realized that there were items on the agenda, one was the rescinding of the [Watershed, Aquifer and Stream Protection] (WASP) bylaw and the other one was the rescinding of the parking requirements in the Land Use Bylaw (LUB), that came as a surprise. This raised a few concerns. Items that I felt as important or more important didn't get on the agenda and there were items on the agenda that had minor significance."
Duntz had enquired about the process and learned that the agenda had been traditionally set by the mayor. Duntz said, "I found out that mayor Turner was spending several days with the councillors going over the agenda. He was very diligent. We have not had that." Duntz explained that he believes that the agendas for this council's previous meetings had been set single-handedly and that he sees a need for close cooperation between council members. "I suggested to have two councillors work with the mayor to set the agenda," he said. "The power of the mayor under B.C. legislation is minor. The mayor is just another councillor with a few more duties for which he is paid more. I see great merit of having a committee to assist the mayor in setting agendas."
Councillor Tim Rhodes agreed that "more heads are better than a single head" and councillor Daron Jennings said that a committee would "bring balance to certain issues Bowen Islanders want to see addressed."
Morse cautioned that council still needed a calendar and that the timeline is often tight. She said, "Part of that job is going though agendas and staff reports and decided whether they are ready."
Adelaar quoted the community charter on the responsibilities of the mayor. He said, "The mayor is the head and chief executive officer of the municipality. In addition to the mayor's responsibilities as a member of council, the mayor has the following responsibilities: to provide leadership to the council, including by recommending bylaws, resolutions and other measures that, in the mayor's opinion, may assist the peace, order and good government of the municipality; to communicate information to the council; to provide, on behalf of the council, general direction to municipal officers respecting implementation of municipal policies, programs and other directions of the council and to establish standing committees."
He added, "I never heard a peep from any councillor with respect to the agendas that I have drawn up in conjunction with the municipal clerk," he said. "If you go through the minutes, you find that there has been nothing in terms of amendments to the agendas from the councillors." He also said that he did not receive any phone calls or email notification inviting a discussion about the issue.
In a telephone conversation on February 14, Adelaar stated that his position on the formation of an agenda review committee was, in part, due to "misinformation, miscommunication and a misunderstanding" and that he is working on an amended resolution that will allow council to move forward.
The council meeting was filmed and is available for viewing at http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL5F86D488CA502C44&feature=plcp.