May 28th, 2024

Council defeats motion on in-person appearances at public hearings


By Herald on January 28, 2021.

Tim Kalinowski
Lethbridge Herald
tkalinowski@lethbridgeherald.com
City council narrowly defeated a motion which would have suspended in-person appearances to public hearings indefinitely while COVID-19 public health restrictions remain in place.
The final vote during Tuesday’s meeting was 4-4– a hung vote without Coun. Joe Mauro present. In the case of a hung vote on city council the motion is considered defeated.
The two most passionate advocates for the motion were Coun. Jeffrey Carlson, who readers may recall also tried to have all regular meetings and committees of council suspended indefinitely last spring as COVID-19 arrived in Alberta, and Deputy Mayor Rob Miyashiro who said his primary concern was putting staff at potential risk if members of the public were allowed to continue to attend in person at public hearings.
He advocated for anyone wishing to present at a public hearing to have to either submit their comments by email or present virtually.
Those opposed to the motion on council, particularly Coun. Belinda Crowson and Mayor Chris Spearman, said they did not have enough confidence in the City of Lethbridge’s ability to allow full public participation virtually, and did not wish to disenfranchise anyone from a public hearing process who this technology might fail. Noting the technical issues experienced during regular council meetings where sometimes even councillors get disconnected without warning, Spearman said unless City staff assure him such problems wouldn’t exist during a public hearing, with perhaps dozens of people in attendance online, he could not support a complete ban on in-person public hearings at this time.
City manager Craig Dalton said he could not give that assurance given the City’s technical limitations at the moment.
Spearman said he was open to revisiting the issue with council again at a future meeting.
“We want to make sure people can participate, and that is key,” he said. “We are in a temporary situation. I think we will try to enforce our health orders as much as possible. I think there is a some of us on council just didn’t feel we are striking the right compromise today, and we will continue to look at it.”
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