By Kalinowski, Tim on March 17, 2020.
City council will carry on with all public business as the City adjusts to a new normal with COVID-19 concerns growing.
In a surprise special meeting of council on Monday, called just prior to the regularly scheduled Community Issues Committee meeting, council debated a motion put forth by Coun. Jeff Carlson which would have postponed all public meetings of city council, CIC and the Finance Committee indefinitely while the COVID-19 outbreak continues.
“Many of us have been hammering along (the message) if you can stay home, stay home,” said Carlson. “Being in a position of leadership, I don’t want to be saying ‘do as I say, not as I do.’ I think we should be leading and modelling proper behaviour for our community, and saving our city manager and our administration valuable time for what’s important at this time.”
Carlson was supported in his position by Coun. Rob Miyashiro.
Deputy mayor Belinda Crowson said she agreed with Carlson about showing leadership in times of crisis, but to her that meant something different than it did to him.
“I would agree we are leaders, and in a time of stress in communities they need to see their leaders leading,” she said. “They need to see their governing body governing. So I cannot support this. I think we need to look at this week by week, but a blanket statement like this where we are just going to cancel indefinitely is not showing the leadership I expect of us at this time. We have to do our job. We are governing body of the corporation for the City of Lethbridge, and this is our time to be there for the community in the way that we can.”
Crowson was strongly supported in this position by six other members of council and defeated Carlson’s motion 7-2.
Mayor Chris Spearman felt the vote was the correct one at this time.
“The intent (of Coun. Carlson) was honourable,” he said. “It is we would set an example to the community; on the other hand there is a bit of a conflict because our role is to govern. And through a crisis, providing governance is important … We have decided to continue to meet, but also to make sure the agenda review committee will make sure only essential items are future agendas in order to not detract from City resources which will be focused on the COVID-19.”
After defeating the initial motion put forward by Coun. Carlson, council did approve two additional motions.
Council approved a motion by a vote of 6-3 to permit all City committees to meet electronically or remotely as necessary as the COVID-19 outbreak continues should they wish to use that option.
And council voted 7-2 to direct city council’s agenda review committee to tighten up what submissions, presentations, resolutions and public hearings should be brought forward to public meetings to ensure “essentials” needing a council vote would be on any given agenda.
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