Pitt Council won’t ask for address in question period

But addition of neighbourhood requirement sparks debate

Patricia Gordon was not allowed to ask a question of Pitt Meadows council because she would not say her street address. That requirement has been eliminated, but neighbourhood added. Now some argue the neighbourhoods in Pitt Meadows are not clearly defined. (THE NEWS files)

People addressing Pitt Meadows council will no longer have to give their full street address, but will have to say their full name, street, neighbourhood and city.

That prompted a debate at council Tuesday because two members and someone from the public argued the city doesn’t really have neighbourhoods.

At a December council meeting, Patricia Gordon stood at the podium to ask a question of council, and was asked by Mayor John Becker for her name and address.

Gordon said she would list only her street. Becker insisted on her name and street address, in accordance with the city policy for people addressing council in question and comment period.

Gordon sat down without asking a question.

Afterward, Gordon complained the policy has not been enforced equally.

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

Gordon is assisting Coun. Bill Dingwall with his campaign for mayor in the 2018 municipal election.

On Tuesday, council voted for a bylaw amendment to delete the sentence, “those appearing before council must state the name and address for the record,” and replaced it with the sentence “those appearing before council must state their full name, street, neighbourhood, and city.”

Coun. Tracy Miyashita said she could not support the “neighbourhood” aspect of the policy, saying the city has no defined neighbourhoods, so it can’t put that into a council policy.

She said the policy could be used to stop someone from addressing council.

“I’ve been at a council meeting where people have not been allowed to speak because of a sticky issue,” said Miyashita.

Coun. Bill Dingwall agreed, saying the city should designate official neighbourhoods as part of the upcoming Official Community Plan revisions, as was suggested by resident Bob Meachen in question period.

“That’s a great idea,” said Dingwall.

Meachen had argued that there are not well defined neighbourhoods in Pitt Meadows, and no official neighbourhoods.

“The whole reason we’re dealing with this issue is because of a literal interpretation,” said Dingwall. “So why would we include a term like ‘neighbourhood’ when we don’t have an official designation of neighbourhoods in our community?”

Coun. Janis Elkerton argued there are neighbourhoods, and most long-term residents refer to areas such as Upland, South Bonson and the ALR. She said some streets traverse the entire community, such as Harris Road, so residents need to be more specific about where in the community they live.

“I’m not hung up on neighbourhood,” agreed Coun. Bruce Bell, saying those addressing council just need to say where they are from in the community.

The amended policy passed on a 4-2 vote, with Dingwall and Miyashita opposed.

Resident Nicole MacDonald spoke in question period, and noted that two speakers who preceded her with comments and questions did not give their neighbourhoods or full names. She said the whole issue came about because of the request for confidentiality, and controversy over whether residents should have to offer a street address.

“It seems a bit ironic we require more [information], and also that we’re not adhering to our bylaw,” she said.

Residents from any part of the city should be able to speak to issues, she said.

“Nicole MacDonald, Pitt Meadows should be enough.”

Gordon said council’s amendment was “overkill, and making things way too complicated.”

She said when people say they live in Uplands or Lowlands, she doesn’t really know what neighbourhood they are in.

“As long as we live in Pitt Meadows, that should be enough,” said Gordon. “Everyone’s opinion counts – we’re all paying taxes.”

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