On Wednesday, the mayor’s executive committee voted to adopt a staff recommendation that would eliminate eleven active citizen committees and formally dissolve ten others whose work has been deemed to be ended. (The item still has to be approved by council.)
The Globe & Mail’s Patrick White explains the opposition to the move, and quotes deputy mayor Doug Holyday’s rationale for cutting these committees:
Opponents portray the move as an attempt to blockade one of the few avenues unelected Torontonians have to influence municipal policy while the mayor’s allies see it as making good on election promises to streamline government.
“It’s a simple way of reducing bureaucracy,” said deputy mayor Doug Holyday. “There are many, many other ways for people to be heard at city hall without these committees.”
It should be noted that Doug Holyday pointed out the “many, many other ways for people to be heard at city hall” on the very same day that the executive committee reshuffled their agenda, forcing those who had come to city hall to speak against the elimination of city committees to wait for more than seven hours before getting an opportunity to depute.
And when the citizens in attendance did get a chance to speak, others in attendance reported that the councillors on the executive committee seemed uninterested in what they had to say.
Here’s how Daren “cityslikr” Foster at All Fired Up In the Big Smoke described the scene:
The reception most of the speakers received was perfunctory at best. The members of the Executive Committee asked few questions, most of their attention turned to making sure enough of them were present to maintain a quorum. I don’t believe Councillors Mammoliti (probably off figuring ways to defund Pride) or Shiner were ever in the room during deputations.
Councillor Kelly left early and Councillor Thompson, when he was present, spent most of it away from his chair talking to members of the press and the mayor’s staff. Citizen democracy wasn’t foremost in their minds.
To recap: Councillors argue that citizen committees are no longer necessary because citizens can speak directly to councillors via committee deputations and other mechanisms. Then those same councillors ignore the citizens who take the time to come to share their opinions.