Meet the Mayor
February 25, 2015
Are you interested in the laws, and other limitations, surrounding, protecting, and exposing your Mayor and Council? What would it take to stimulate your interest? The laws are there and we didn’t make them. We simply have to live and work in an environment circumscribed by the wisdom of history as articulated by the senior governments. It’s not all bad. In fact, the wisdom of decades, even centuries, ensures that we do not function in ignorance when dealing with public policy, public funds, and community resources.
Consider the power of a single Council member. A member of Council, including the Mayor, has no more power when acting alone than does the grocer or the cab driver. In fact, the grocer and the cab driver have more power in their respective realms than the noisiest Councillor or Mayor holding forth in the office of the Chief Administrative Officer without the sanction of the Council.
The fact is, anything the Mayor may say in public that has not been voted by Council cannot bind the municipality or compel the Administration. (This should give you a small measure of comfort.) So wherein resides the power? The power resides in the Council in open session voting on a resolution or bylaw. If the Council hasn’t said it by majority vote (two thirds for some votes), it hasn’t been said.
Nor can a member of Council direct an employee in her or his function.
The real power of the member of Council is to be found in her or his ability to research the issues and speak with convincing rationality to the topic under discussion. So, convince me if you want to see your pet project become a reality.
There are some topics on which Council members should not speak, nor should they be present when the topics are discussed. Conflict of interest exists when a member of Council has a personal or pecuniary interest in the outcome of the discussion. In these cases, the member is legally required to declare the conflict and withdraw from the discussion.
Conflict of interest, whatever the source, cannot be allowed to taint the discussion or the vote and this Council is committed to maintaining its ethical boundaries.
In municipal government there is no privilege of immunity such as is enjoyed by members of parliament or provincial legislatures. Any remarks made in Council are subject to libel or slander suits. For that and better reasons we choose our words with care before we speak because once said, no word can be recalled.
And there’s the matter of public opinion. How does Council understand the will of the public? There’s good news, especially for members of Council: Council in session is the closest thing to public opinion that we will ever see in this municipality. After all, each member of Council was elected by the voters to write the bylaws, craft the policies, pass the resolutions, and levy the taxes to pay the bills.