One of the disconcerting practices of City Council under this Mayor is the extent to which they resort to in camera meetings to discuss city affairs. There are, of course, numerous valid reasons for conducting city business in camera, including:
decisions on the direction and location of future developments which if made public knowledge would lead to land speculation at the ultimate cost to the taxpayers;
discussion of personal service contracts in which the actual remuneration of public employees should be kept confidential simply because personal income is considered a private matter;
matters which the publication of would either jeopardize or work against the interests of the general public.
Otherwise, the public affairs of the City should be open and transparent.
Under this Mayor's tutelage, the practice of in camera meetings seems unnecessarily broad and often appears to cover topics which for political reasons they consider it desirable that this information not become public knowledge. The terms and conditions of the Servus Place Coffee Shop transaction is an obvious example. Even when it was eventually published in a council meeting, obscurantism characterized the disclosure. I doubt if a majority of the general public has any clear idea as to the true cost of this adventure.
It is curious how often these projects, hatched in the secret bowels of city hall often produce a hostile reaction from a segment of the public. The Aikensdale Habitat for Humanity venture and the Lacombe bike skills park project are but two examples where the secrecy lead to public protests.
In St. Albert, where the electorate is educated and as capable of forming prudent decisions on matters of civic concern, this propensity to cloak public affairs in secrecy not only destroys the vitality of the democracy …. it necessitates the making of decisions by elected officials without the customary feedback from the electorate. It is small wonder that councils in the past few years have encountered public protests over their decisions. They reach a decision on a course of action and when it becomes public they find themselves in the midst of public turmoil because a significant segment of the public have not been able to provide input to the decision making process. If the process had been more open and transparent the council decision may have been different at the outset.
This Mayor and his advisers should revisit this whole in camera practice and bring it back within its proper scope. After all, the Mayor and those on council who habitually follow his lead, have never demonstrated that their ability to contemplate problems and make prudent decisions is in any way superior to that of the average voter.