Council will begin May by starting something new. On May 1st, Council will have hosted its first open town hall. It is worth noting that this is the second town hall that Cornwall City Councill will have hosted since introducing its town hall policy last term. The previous town hall was specifically to hear from residents on bringing back the ward system. The May 1st meeting is different in that residents were able to register with the City Clerk to bring up just about any topic.
I’m currently writing this column prior to the town hall taking place, but it will be published shortly thereafter, so I won’t be able to comment on how it went, but I do believe that it is a step in the right direction. There has been talk of Council hosting town halls for some time now, which did culminate with the creation of the town hall policy. However, as with everything else, COVID got in the way and set us back.
As Senator Clement recently stated as she shared the town hall announcement, hosting town halls was an item which was high on her agenda. I am very pleased to be able to push this initiative forward and to host the first open town hall.
The idea is of course to give residents and groups the opportunity to appear before Council when they may not otherwise meet the criteria of our procedural by-law for presentations and delegations. I am hopeful that these new townhalls will provide greater communication and transparency between Council and citizens of Cornwall.
On the topic of communication with Council, there is one issue that I would like to comment on briefly. That of decorum. Recently, there has been a marked increase in rude and abrasive emails, messages, and in person interactions with members of Council and city staff. It is becoming unacceptable. By the nature of our positions, we are here to serve residents, however, all members of Council and staff deserve a level of respect.
I can understand that sometimes there is frustration because of delays in responding, or perceived inaction, or other reasons. However, please note that these are not viable reasons for some of the correspondence or in person interactions that I have seen or become aware of.
Now I want to be clear, there is nothing wrong with criticizing Council for decision we’ve made, or a position that we have. Those are absolutely fair game. However, when the attacks become personal there is an issue. Name calling, sexism, racism, and other similar behaviours are crossing a line and are not political discourse. Same goes for harassing staff either verbally or by message.
Like everyone else, we deserve a workplace free of harassment. If someone came to your workplace and started to call you names, or swear at you, or make ultimatums or threats, it wouldn’t be acceptable or tolerated. The same applies to members of Council and city staff.
I am hopeful that moving forward we will see better communication moving forward and have productive discussions about issues that arise.