Summerland council will allow critic to speak as delegation

Council critic green lit

A Summerland resident who has a contentious relationship with local council will be allowed to appear as a delegation at an upcoming meeting, after previously being denied.

Brad Besler has been a dogged critic of local government for years, becoming known in the community for his legal battles over Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act filings, direct lawsuits against district staff, and ostensibly being the cause for recently adopted decorum rules at public meetings.

Besler recently applied to be a delegation to council on behalf of an informal group of local residents that call themselves "Summerland Watchdogs," which he described as a group that "believes in holding local government accountable."

His request was denied by staff.

"I was going to speak about the importance of community engagement in Summerland because there was a feeling in the community that this council is not listening to resonance. But I was denied that opportunity," Besler said at Monday's meeting, during the public commentary period.

"I've attended almost every council meeting during this term, I've never seen a delegation be rejected before. And some delegations have very little connection to Summerland, then some delegations speak for up to 30 minutes ... I show up because I care about Summerland. This is the town I grew up in."

Later in that same meeting, Summerland council reversed the staff decision to decline Besler as a delegation, which is different than walking up to the microphone during the regularly scheduled public comment period at each meeting.

At those times, anyone is welcome to stand up and address council about matters on the daily agenda, with a limit of two minutes to speak.

Delegations, on the other hand, have a few more minutes and are able to field questions from council, are not restricted to items on the agenda, and show a slide show if desired.

Typically, delegations come from community groups looking to update council on their activities and perhaps solicit support, or from other government organizations with information relevant to Summerland.

Delegations must apply to speak a week ahead of the next council meeting.

Council voted to allow Besler to speak at an upcoming meeting, and then further discussed the nature of delegations going forward.

CAO Graham Statt said there have been a lot of delegation requests lately, so council may wish to make some rules regarding them.

"I think just for this meeting alone, there was three or four ... But we might also want to turn our mind if we're even broadening it more," Statt said.

"Because of what I'm hearing, if we are maybe thinking about how many times in a year someone, or an organization, can be a delegate as part of the criteria, if we don't want to limit the amount of time in terms of speaking."

Council ultimately voted to direct district staff to look at best practices in other communities, and prepare a report regarding potential council procedure bylaw amendments, allowing residents to address council on any matter of local government interest as a delegation.

Besler thanked council for allowing his delegation request at the next meeting, and added his two cents about the current procedures.

"In my view, everything is working good," Besler said, during the public comment period that ended Monday's afternoon meeting.

"The two minutes at the end of the council meeting provides people the opportunity to speak whether it's something that wasn't on the agenda or it's something that they observed during the council meeting, and the five minutes for the delegation, you need to apply with an application form at least a week in advance so it is a different process and in my view, I think everything was working fine. If I was approved like everyone else, this wouldn't be even discussed."

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