The war at city hall
It should come as a surprise to no one that council soundly hammered Brian Skakun on his notice of motion request Monday.
Skakun, egad, asked for public information, or, in his mind and that of most of the community, information that should be public. What we’ve discovered is that it is indeed public information, it’s just not readily available to the public.
Council also hit the nail on the head with Skakun’s notice of motion asking for specific information on a handful of city expenditures in that, when he filed the notice and it became an issue, the community jumped to the conclusion that there is something nefarious going on a city hall because the information is not being readily disclosed.
So now they’re all mad at Skakun because he’s got things swirling … again.
It hasn’t seemed to enter anyone’s mind that the best way to stop these things from happening is to make the information readily available. It’s human nature to expect that when things are hidden, especially at city hall, they’re hidden for a reason.
The best way to combat that is to make the information available, not vilify the person requesting it.
We can appreciate the fact that it takes staff time to assemble such requests. And there is no doubt that wasting staff time on frivolous requests is just that, a waste of time. However, that determination is not up to city staff to make.
Part of this issue that rankles me is that it seems like there was a determination made that Skakun either didn’t need the information he was requesting or that he wanted it for political reasons and so he should go through hoops to get it.
That is wrong. A person requesting “public” information, especially a city councillor, shouldn’t have to list their reasons for wanting it.
And there is something seriously amiss with our system, whether mandated by the Community Charter or by a decision at city hall, when a sitting city councillor has to file a freedom of information request to obtain city documents.
That is just wrong.
Sadly, there seems to be little appetite among councillors to devise a system whereby this type of information is more easily and readily available.
As for Skakun. He has, once again, opened a wound on council that likely won’t be healed. The animosity between he and several other councillors will be a source of distraction for the rest of this term and that can lead to a dysfunctional council.
And there is plenty of blame to be handed out here. We can be critical of Skakun for kicking the hornet’s nest and doing some political grandstanding, which he has, but we can also be critical of the rest of council for going out of their way to make his life miserable.