Council not ‘rubber stamping’ items: McCaig

While it may seem like most town council meetings move along smoothly with little discussion about many agenda items, the public has to understand how thoroughly each item is considered before given council’s final approval.
That’s the message Fort Frances CAO Mark McCaig delivered during Monday night’s regular council meeting in response to a comment by Coun. John Albanese that some members of the public feel council seems to “rubber stamp” agenda items too often.
McCaig noted when he hears a comment made about “rubber stamping,” that implies some people believe administration is telling council what to do.
“Nothing could be farther from the truth,” he stressed. “It’s probably from a little bit of a lack of understanding of the structure of our process, with the committee of the whole and the consent agenda.
“When an item comes to council and it gets referred out to the appropriate committee or committees, it goes through a pretty thorough process. I would call it a ‘hands-on’ process,” McCaig explained.
“If I could use a sports analogy, when an issue comes to the consent agenda, it’s like a brand new baseball glove. It’s stiff and you really wouldn’t want to use it out there. But it gets referred, it goes to an executive committee.
“Management does the proper research and follow-up in regards to the referral and it is brought to the executive committee, where no fewer than three councillors are at that meeting,” added McCaig, noting quite often other councillors and the mayor attend executive committee meetings they aren’t required to be at.
“At that meeting, the data, the information, is brought forward from staff. Council thoroughly discusses these issues . . . and they make their recommendations in a thoughtful manner,” he stressed.
“To feel it’s done in a vacuum, and staff puts a recommendation forward at a council meeting where we’ve got a stamp and we put them through, is not accurate in the least.
“When these recommendations come forth to council and they appear on a consent agenda, everybody’s had a pretty good go at it.
“If they haven’t had a go at it because they weren’t on the executive, usually they follow it up with questions of the other members who sit on the executive or of the respective manager.”
If an item comes up at a meeting and there’s no discussion, noted McCaig, it’s because everyone’s well aware of it or was an active participant in the formulation of the recommendation—the furthest thing from a “rubber stamp” as possible.
“If we were to take every issue to a council meeting, we’d probably be here until 4 a.m. while we hammered out all the recommendations,” he remarked.
The executive meetings are open to the public and council welcomes people to attend them. Any item not in-camera is available to the public.
The Administration and Finance executive committee meets every Tuesday prior to council at noon in the committee room downstairs at the Civic Centre while the Community Services executive committee meets every Monday prior to council at noon in the conference room at the Memorial Sports Centre.
The Operations and Facilities executive committee meets every Wednesday prior to council at 7:30 a.m. in the committee room at the town hall, with the Planning and Development executive committee meeting each Thursday prior to council at 7:30 a.m. in the committee room (or sometimes at noon, depending on committee members available).
Also at Monday night’s meeting, council:
•approved a request from the Alzheimer Society of Kenora-Rainy River Districts to proclaim January as “National Alzheimer Awareness Month” in the Town of Fort Frances;
•authorized the transfer of any 2007 surplus amount exceeding $200,000 to reserves to offset future capital expenditures;
•approved the 2008 user fee schedule, which includes a three percent increase across the board, with some minor variances;
•agreed to authorize the transfer of excess Fort Frances Network Services proceeds in the amount of $600,000 to corporate rolling stock and corporate building reserve funds (this is proceeds from the sale of shares held by Fort Frances Network Services in Norwest Mobility, as announced by the town last month);
•agreed to keep an additional $50,000 in the economic development line of the 2008 draft budget until comments on the Rainy River Future Development Corp.’s FedNor grant application have been received;
•received minutes of settlement for property located at 352 Third St. E.; and
•authorized the clerk to sign the final release document from the Estate of Myrtle Gaylord for a donation of $423.75 to the Sister Kennedy Centre (this is coupled with the $18,975.21 previously donated to the centre from the estate).