Surrey city council’s bi-weekly public hearings, held digitally on account of the pandemic, gives Surrey residents an important arena in which to express their concerns to council on project applications both great and small, be they about a single-detached residence or a multimillion-dollar tower project.
Ideally, council members will carefully weigh what callers have to say about how a proposal will affect themselves, their neighbours and the general public, in ways good or bad. This exchange is important not only to the democratic process but also in making important decisions, which should never be done in a vacuum.
Even Solomon gave audience before deciding which peasant got to keep a cow.
Unfortunately, Surrey public hearings of late have been devolving into something less than intended.
On Monday night, nine callers were cut off by Mayor Doug McCallum. The aggrieved callers undoubtedly feel roughly handled. The mayor will likely tell you they had it coming because they weren’t staying on topic, which is the purpose of a public hearing in the first place, and something he as the chair explicitly warns callers to do at the outset of each of these hearings.
While both sides might well claim righteous ground, as with most things, the truth often resides somewhere in the grey middle.
The purpose of a public hearing is not to provide callers with an opportunity to goad the mayor.
Nor is it to provide the mayor with his own personal trap door.