Public hearing changes in Surrey stir controversy
Changes to the amount of time the public gets to voice their opinion during Surrey City Council meetings has caused controversy among former councillors.
On Monday, council agreed to decrease the amount of time each resident receives at public hearings from five minutes to three.
In response, former councillor Laurie Guerra called the move an attack on democracy.
"This arbitrary limit on citizens' ability to voice their opinions and concerns on civic matters effectively silences their voices and dismisses the fundamental right of free speech," said Guerra.
Mayor Brenda Locke responded on Wednesday, saying: "It seems to me this is a case of the pot calling the kettle black," and adding that it was the Safe Surrey Coalition that banned members of the public from council meetings in the past, when it had a majority on council under former mayor Doug McCallum.
"It's important to note the two (current) Safe Surrey Coalition Councillors also voted in favour of the decision to switch to a three-minute time limit. In fact, this was unanimously approved by Council," said Locke.
Guerra believes reducing the time for the public to speak is political posturing and questions Locke's commitment to her campaign promise of transparency.
Locke said the decision was to ensure fair opportunity for all to speak and prevent meetings from being dominated by a handful of residents.
"The bottom line is that anyone interested in speaking at public hearings will be heard. No one will be excluded or prevented from speaking. Written submissions are also welcomed, and they carry the same weight as appearing in person," said Locke.
The time reduction will come into effect immediately.
The changes to council meetings will also include an 11 p.m. end time, with unresolved matters moved to the next day.
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