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Coquitlam City Councillor concerned with closed-door committee meetings

A Coquitlam councillor is raising concerns over what she's calling a committee of developers - which other councillors say isn't entirely accurate.
A Coquitlam councillor is raising concerns over what she's calling a committee of developers - which other councillors say isn't entirely accurate.

A Coquitlam city councillor is voicing her concern about the City’s economic committees.

Bonita Zarrillo said she posted her concerns on Facebook around gender equality and transparency.

Zarrillo claims her Facebook posts were then criticized by another councillor at the council meeting on Monday and she felt insulted.

“A member of council took offence to one of my Facebook posts and brought forward what I would call insults.”

But she said one issue that has come to light is transparency around the committee, which consists of developers and industry experts that meets behind closed doors.

“[It’s] unbelievable to me, and you know what I’d really love to see is if we’re going to have a conversation around development and about housing and about economic development at the city of Coquitlam, it certainly shouldn’t be behind closed doors. And it certainly shouldn’t be a club of hand-chosen developers, industry insiders and real estate agents, I think it needs to have a balance.”
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“I think that’s a conversation that’s – that has come out of this, around the transparency of that meeting and what kind of influence that is actually happening on affordability in the city of Coquitlam.”

Zarrillo said the city has a housing crisis, and the group needs to be transparent with taxpayers.

READ MORE: Coquitlam tries to tackle issue of ‘monster homes’

However Mayor Richard Stewart said there was no attacks made at that council meeting, and if there had been he would have shut it down.

He said councillors were correcting what she had said online.

Stewart said for example, the suggestion that the committee is made of developers is wrong, because council wouldn’t allow anyone doing development work in the city be on it.

“And if any of those people on any of our committees ended up coming to the counter with a development proposal, we would immediately replace them on the committee because we’re very careful that way. So to refer to it as a committee of developers with kind of a hidden or backroom deal sorts of implications was really – it offended members of council, and every single member of council.”

Stewart adds it’s a council that gets along well, but Zarrillo’s colleagues take issue with her criticizing a plan that she voted in favour of.

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“Just six weeks ago, and is now critical of, in a way that isn’t entirely accurate, so we’re – her colleague Councillor Mae Reid was setting the record straight, and I think she did so respectfully and politely and I’m surprised that we’re at this point.”

Councillor Reid is the Council representative on the Strategic committee, which she said is made up of reputable people from the province that helps the city make big decisions.

READ MORE: $7M upgrade to popular Coquitlam Crunch trail headed to council

Reid said she heard about the Facebook posts and raised issue with them because Zarrillo voted for the plan.

She said she challenged the one she found offensive in a respectful way.

“And now making a statement that, ‘in my opinion, any meetings where only some of the elected official are allowed have a hidden agenda,’ – you don’t go out and tell people that there are hidden agendas. The general public doesn’t need to have that idea of what their city hall is doing, that’s just – that’s just not right.”

“I [also] don’t think that’s very fair for people who are donating their time and expertise to try and help us out.”

Reid added there is no hidden agenda, and that council has been aware of the committee for a decade and has voted on it.

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