Address mandatory to ask questions of Pitt Meadows council

Council watcher says its an invasion of privacy

Patricia Gordon has asked questions of Pitt Meadows council many times.

A Pitt Meadows council-watcher said she was singled out by Mayor John Becker for stricter treatment than the usual person asking questions at the podium.

Becker insisted Patricia Gordon give both her name and full street address when she rose to ask a question during last week’s business planning.

Gordon refused, citing personal privacy, and offering only “Fraser Way.”

Becker insisted on the full address, so Gordon sat down without asking a question or making a comment.

According to the city bylaw: “Those appearing before council must state their name and address for the record.”

Afterward, Gordon said she was shocked.

“My freedom of speech and my public participation was taken away from me,” she said.

“I had spoken two times before that day,” at business planning meetings without giving a specific address, she said.

“I always say Patricia Gordon, South Bonson.”

Then, she said, that wasn’t allowed.

A member of council was critical of the mayor’s treatment of Gordon.

“We’re spending all this money on public engagement, and then a citizen who sits through the entire business planning wants to ask a question, and she can’t,” said Coun. Bill Dingwall.

He was referring to a $5,500 course the mayor has been taking about civic engagement at Simon Fraser University.

Gordon also referenced the public engagement course: “If I was his teacher, I would have given him an F, for fail,” she said.

Dingwall said Gordon has been watching council for almost three years, and always asks “good, professional questions.”

He sympathized with her privacy concerns.

“You don’t want your address out there.”

Gordon said it’s dangerous to insist a woman publicize where she lives.

“As a woman, in particular, I do not wish to give out information on a live streaming broadcast that gives up my address.”

She tries to keep councillors’ “feet to the fire,” and said her questions are often about contentious issues.

“I don’t want to find someone waiting for me outside of my home.”

She would be willing to write her address on the speaker’s list before taking to the podium, but even that would become part of the public record, she said.

William Wilde, another council regular, stood up after Gordon, and was asked by the mayor for his full address – something he has only listed as “Kennedy Road” in the past.

The numbers didn’t immediately pop to mind, and Coun. Tracy Miyashita yelled advice to him:

“Just lie. Make something up.”

She said later that she was being facetious.

“I said that as a joke, because he has never given an address and always gotten away with it,” said Miyashita.

“To me, it has been extremely inconsistent whether people even give it. We’ve been accepting the street, or just the neighbourhood people live in.”

Becker said the procedural bylaw has, for decades, called for members of the public making comments or asking questions to give their name and address, “so that council and our residents have a very clear understanding of the question and context.”

The requirement to state where they live identifies individuals who have a vested interest in an issue, he said.

He allowed that he has not always strictly enforced the bylaw.

“I have been lax in the last little while,” he said.

“I will be asking people to adhere to the bylaw.”

He added it is up to the chair to keep a level playing field for everybody, as the city moves into an election year and more people arrive at the podium in council chambers.

Asked whether she will be running for council, Gordon said she has not yet made that decision.

She did not run in the last election.

Gordon said she always keeps her comments respectful.

“I haven’t been escorted out by the police yet,” she said, adding several of her friends who oppose further development of the Golden Ears Business Park development in South Bonson have been.

Gordon noted Coquitlam allows questions from the public via Twitter and other social media.

“Some of them are quite off-the-cuff.”

Becker said any council member can make a motion to change the procedural bylaw, and Dingwall said he plans to do that.

Gordon said she will continue to hold council to account.

“It won’t be the last time I will be speaking, I can guarantee that.”

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