A Surrey city councillor’s attempt to have a one-hour “regular time slot” incorporated into Monday night council meetings inviting residents to “speak to any local issue of interest to them, including asking questions of mayor and council” was defeated by the rest of council on Monday night.
Coun. Linda Annis, of Surrey First, noted that currently Surrey residents only get to address council over land issues during public hearings at the outset of regular council meetings held Monday nights. Her motion asked the hour be “set aside” prior to each council meeting and that residents be allowed to address council for five minutes each.
“There’s been a mounting frustration amongst the residents of Surrey and they don’t feel their voices are being heard by council,” she said.
Coun. Brenda Locke said while she agrees with the “spirit” of the motion, “I just don’t think that it’s going to be functional that we can do a one hour prior to a meeting. I can’t support the motion as is.”
Coun. Laurie Guerra echoed that. She said council members emails are made public, as are their office telephone numbers.
“I’m not sure about the rest of my colleagues up her on council but I get hundreds of emails every month and a number of phone calls from residents stating their concerns, I contact them in one way or another and I get our staff to get on that to find out the answers to their questions or concerns and that’s just part of my job that I do and I’m doing it on a consistent basis,” Guerra told council. “So I’m not sure where the people are coming from that say they don’t have access because they have free access to me and I don’t take that likely.”
Coun. Steven Pettigrew suggested council stage an open microphone for 15 minutes, as some other municipal councils do, and allow three speakers to address council. “That might be something we could do – 15 minutes isn’t that bad,” he said. “But for an hour? I would have difficulty with that as well because I believe it’s a very long time period and that’s going to push it the other way, and we’ll be here until one, two o’clock in the morning.”
Disappointed, Annis later said she’ll schedule regular “town hall” meetings in each Surrey neighbourhood so she can hear from residents first hand.