White Rock council members discuss bylaw changes at a legislation and governance committee meeting in January.

White Rock council members discuss bylaw changes at a legislation and governance committee meeting in January.

White Rock politicians enact plan to curb ‘abuse’

Certain language – not criticism – considered inappropriate by White Rock mayor.

White Rock city council this week unanimously passed amendments to a bylaw aimed at curbing “abusive” and “disrespectful” behaviour from residents.

Changes to the Council and Committee Procedure Bylaw were first brought to the governance and legislation committee in January, when council members noted their “increasing concern” at the lack of decorum during public meetings. Policy changes were also passed that evening to address the content and volume of correspondence received by the city, described by one member of council as “venomous.”

Mayor Wayne Baldwin told Peace Arch News Monday that the changes are meant to address “unacceptable language” used by some residents in submissions to the city and discussions at public hearings. He again pointed to a feedback form received by the city regarding a seven-storey proposal for Thrift Avenue, which the city rejected Feb. 15. Baldwin clarified that it was not the criticism of him in the letter – which referred to the mayor as a “disgrace” and called for his resignation – rather it was the language used, specifically the suggestion “mayor and coalition kissing ass with developers,” that is inappropriate.

“You can call me whatever you want,” Baldwin said. “But when you start using language like that submitted in a public document, that is wrong and it shouldn’t be allowed.”

Baldwin drew comparisons between the situation in White Rock and news reports last week out of Calgary, where Mayor Naheed Nenshi announced he was shutting down face-to-face public debate about a controversial proposed transit project due to “inappropriate” behaviour.

In Calgary, according to a statement by Nenshi, staff were subject to harassment, physical assault and threats on the part of a group of citizens, including “pushing, shoving and threats of violence.”

“Someone else is having the same difficulty,” Baldwin said. “I know a lot of municipalities do, but this is the first I’ve seen from the previously unassailable City of Calgary, with the most popular mayor in Canada.”

Baldwin pointed to a Jan. 11 council visit from Fraser Health officials to discuss water disinfection where he said they were “belittled and heckled” by audience members, noting he sent a letter of apology to the speakers.

The bylaw changes passed Monday state that “members of the public are not permitted to interrupt the meeting in any way, including outbursts, shouting out questions/comments, booing and heckling.” The bylaw goes on to detail the procedure to be followed if unwelcome behaviour persists, including expulsion.

Baldwin referred to an incident last fall during which former councillor Margaret Woods was asked to leave a public meeting after Baldwin said her behaviour was “unacceptable.” When Woods refused, Baldwin ordered the city clerk to call in the RCMP, who ultimately allowed Woods to stay.

“I was quite correct in saying that she should be ejected,” Baldwin said Monday. “Unfortunately, the RCMP did not know that. They thought they didn’t have the authority to do that.”

Coun. Grant Meyer brought up the Sept. 28 incident during his report, noting it was addressed at a recent conference he attended on ‘Integrity and Local Government.’

“They said Mayor Baldwin was right,” Meyer said. “There was a little confusion that night with the Charter, but he was absolutely within his right.”

Additional changes include limiting delegations on a single topic to once per year. Baldwin described repeated delegations as “not productive,” noting the city had seen “six delegations in a row” on similar topics, which are often referred for a staff report.

“That’s making a mockery of the system,” Baldwin said.

Asked if the absence of question period – eliminated in February 2015 – allowed for adequate avenues for the public to bring issues to council, Baldwin said question period was “not very effective.”

“To me, question period was not accomplishing very much,” he said, noting “half the municipalities” in the province don’t have it. “There are better ways of communication.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

It remains to be seen how tourism dollars announced this week will help in White Rock. (Sterling Cunningham file photo)
White Rock officials question if tourism relief will come soon enough

For business, budget ‘feels more like a placeholder,’ says chamber head

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
South Surrey, White Rock MLAs call Tuesday’s provincial budget ‘disappointing’

MLAs Stephanie Cadieux and Trevor Halford say residents are getting less for more

Memorial for Travis Selje on 64th Avenue in Cloverdale, west of 176th Street. (Photo: Tom Zillich)
Epilepsy-defence driver found not guilty in crash that killed Surrey teen Travis Selje

Accused testified she has no recollection of the crash and believes she had an epileptic seizure that caused the collision

(File photo)
Three young girls followed while walking home from school, Surrey police say

RCMP say suspect took off after girls went into nearby store for help

Black smoke rises above Highway 17 in Surrey on Thursday. (Fraser Valley Road Report Facebook)
Fire sends thick black smoke above Surrey industrial area

Firefighters say blaze burning just off of Tannery Road and Highway 17 in Surrey

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

MLA Shirley Bond, right, answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on February 19, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Former B.C. gaming minister says she wasn’t told directly about dirty cash flowing to casinos

Shirley Bond said Thursday civil forfeiture, gang violence and gambling addiction were also major concerns in 2011

RCMP Constable Etsell speaks to tourists leaving the area at a police roadblock on Westside Road south of Fintry, B.C., Thursday, July 23, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Yvonne Berg
B.C. police say they take ‘exception’ to conducting roadblocks limiting travel

Asking the police to enforce roadblocks exposes officers to further risk and possible COVID-19 infections, says federation president Brian Sauve

As part of the province’s strategy to combat the opioid overdose crisis, take-home naloxone kits have been distributed throughout the province. (Courtesy of Gaëlle Nicolussi)
Vancouver Island could be at its worst point of overdose crises yet: medical health officer

Island Health issued overdose advisories for Victoria, various communities in the last two weeks

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Firefighters carry equipment from the scene of Monday’s Willoughby fire. The April 19, 2021 blaze turned the Alexander Square development at the corner of 208th Street and 80th Avenue to rubble. (Rob Wilton/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley Fire: The aftermath of the inferno

The scene remains active as investigators work to determine a cause

BC Hydro released a survey Thursday, April 22. It found that many British Columbians are unintentionally contributing to climate change with their yard maintenance choices. (Pixabay)
Spend a lot of time doing yard work? It might be contributing to climate change

Recent BC Hydro survey finds 60% of homeowners still use gas-powered lawnmowers and yard equipment

Journal de Montreal is seen in Montreal, on Thursday, April 22, 2021. The daily newspaper uses a file picture of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dressed in traditional Indian clothing during his trip to India to illustrate a story on the Indian variant of the coronavirus. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press
Montreal newspaper blasted for front-page photo of Trudeau in India

Trudeau is wearing traditional Indian clothes and holding his hands together in prayer beside a caption that reads, ‘The Indian variant has arrived’

Most Read