City Council Briefs
Keeping it open

Dane Gibson
Northern News Services

NNSL (Mar 24/99) - A bid to go in-camera to discuss pay raises for Yellowknife city council was thwarted by councillor Dave Ramsay.

Monday's Priorities, Policies and Budget Committee lunch at city hall ended with a vote to go in-camera to discuss pay raises and other issues, at which time the public was asked to leave.

While going in-camera is a common practice designed to debate information items, it could be misconstrued as crossing the line of public openness.

Ramsay questioned why a discussion regarding the Council Enumeration Bylaw wasn't public.

"I don't know why the discussion regarding council enumeration was scheduled to be in-camera," Ramsay said after the meeting.

"Once I brought it up, council agreed to make it public, which was the right thing to do."

Other items on the in-camera list included a memorandum on a radio communications study and a discussion regarding Highway 3, which Ramsay also tried to make public.

It was revealed the Department of Transportation requested the information they provided to the Highway 3 discussion remain private.

"This goes back to our election promises and trying to keep things as open as we can," Ramsay said.

"Perception is a lot, especially in a small city. If you go behind closed doors, people want to know why."

City councillors take raise

It was recommended by the Policy, Planning and Budget Committee, Monday, that a three per cent raise should be given to councillors, the first increase city council has received since 1992.

The raise for each council member represents $360 per year. Each councillor currently receives $13,000 annually.

"Council hasn't seen an increase in eight years so it's something that's overdue," Mayor Dave Lovell said.

"This council is really pro-active and they're getting things done. I think the city is being very well-served."

There is a bylaw in place that states council is entitled to a raise equal to whatever the city's union receives for its employees.

Proclamation days too much

Councillor Robert Slaven proclaimed proclamation days are becoming meaningless.

The Financial, Legislative and Administrative Committee, noting there are more requests for proclamations hitting city hall from community groups and national organizations than ever before, debated whether proclamations should be discontinued altogether.

"What has happened is proclamations have become something that's not particularly meaningful," Slaven said.

"My feeling is we'd be better served if we abandoned the practice of proclaiming these days altogether."

Proclamation requests include the proclamation of days, weeks, months and years. Slaven pointed out there are a number of B.C. communities that have adopted a policy to end the practice because, among other things, sometimes legal challenges arise from controversial requests for proclamations.

The debate surrounding Gay Pride Week last year was brought up, something councillor Kevin O'Reilly was dismayed about.

Councillor Peggy Near said council has a social responsibility to make civic proclamations when it will benefit the community and was "totally against banning civic proclamations. Councillor Kevin O'Reilly was also "vigorously opposed" to the motion.

The motion was unanimously defeated.