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LETTER: Langford tree bylaw cuts public out of the process

It’s evident that good governance of a city includes letting the taxpayer weigh in thoroughly on bylaws that impact their lives. The new Langford council knows this especially after a recent election when lack of public consultation and transparency were major issues and arguably a reason they were elected.

So it’s alarming that council took less than three days to introduce, discuss, and consult residents before adopting a new bylaw. Choosing to blindside the public with a restrictive bylaw on tree cutting with harsh penalties after only weeks into a new mandate is both shocking and disappointing.

On Dec. 19 the introduction of a last-minute agenda item for a ‘special’ afternoon council meeting caught taxpayers off-guard. Until then the meeting itself was largely ignored by the public since there was only a closed-door item on the agenda.

On Dec. 20 council quickly fired off a press release on the proposed bylaw to supposedly allow for adequate public input.

On Dec. 21 a second ‘special’ council meeting was set and then after a couple hours of public discussion, the bylaw was adopted that afternoon. Presto, all in less than 72 hours.

There are usually weeks before a proposed bylaw, temporary or otherwise, is adopted to allow for thorough public input and for council to consider its ramifications carefully. There are usually council procedures to prevent agenda items from being inserted into the agenda at the last minute.

Never mind that council knew residents were given inadequate notice about the bylaw a few days before Christmas and during holidays when many are travelling and staff needs a break.

Never mind there was a school break and the city was coping with a once-in-a-quarter-century blizzard.

Never mind that there are no other jurisdictions that we know of which does the public’s business this time of year.

Langford council needs to amend its procedure bylaw so this alarming precedent of fast-tracking a bylaw in less than three days without thorough public input never happens again.

Shaping public policy is a serious business and must never be done at the expense of democratic principles.

The end doesn’t justify the means.

Stan Bartlett, vice-chair

Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria

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