Surrey council has appointed councillors as chair of each of the city’s select committees, a move which some believe will quell any opposing voice to council’s objectives.
On Dec. 12, Surrey council held a closed door meeting where it was decided that councillors would chair each of the city’s committees.
That had already been the case in most committees, with the exception of the Agricultural Advisory Committee (AAC) and the Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC).
The EAC had publicly criticized council policies more than once.
On one occasion, committee chair Al Schultze appeared before council calling Surrey a “laggard, not a leader” in the banning of cosmetic use of pesticides.
More recently, the committee asked for, and was denied, an audience before council regarding Grandview 4 development plans which the committee would damage valuable habitat.
Committees agree having a council member as chair will be a change, but they’re reserving judgement as to whether it will be better or worse.
Outgoing chair of the AAC Michael Bose said it’s going to be strange, after 16 years as chair, to sit on the committee as a regular member.
He’s been told that council is making councillors chairs because it wants “consistency” amongst committees.
Bose says he understands what council is trying to achieve, but notes there will be hurdles.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how it goes,” said Bose, adding that keeping the committee motivated will be a challenge.
“It’s actually a lot of work to make sure there are new and fresh challenges for the committee.”
Schultze said he received a memo from the city clerk saying council has decided to appoint a councillor to chair his committee. Schultze said his term as chair was coming up, so it makes no difference to him.
“I have no idea whether they want to have more control over their committees or what, I don’t know,” Schultze said Tuesday. “It’s something to be determined.”
Former councillor Bob Bose was the council representative on the EAC, but at the time refused to sit as chair, for fear his influence would dominate the committee in an unhealthy way.
He said Tuesday it’s worrisome when a civic slate that has a monopoly on council, now has complete control of all its committees.
“It’s a really, really bad idea,” Bose said. “What I call the care and feeding of committees, demands that those committees be independent and feel free to offer their advice to council, whether council likes it or not.”
Acting Mayor Linda Hepner said she can’t recall discussion around making councillors chair of committees and she didn’t know she had been made chair of the AAG (now known as the Agriculture and Food Security Advisory Committee).
She said having councillors as chair has definite benefits.
“Being chair of the committee allows you to be fairly active with the administration at all times,” Hepner said Wednesday. “I don’t think that quells the importance of the committee members’ participation.”
Bob Bose said having councillors at the reigns of all committees is a disquieting thought. The select committee are there to give unbuffered input, whether council wants to hear it or not.
“When I go to a doctor, who only tells me what I want to hear, what’s the point of that?” Bose asked.