The Coalition of Kingston Communities has released its annual report card evaluating the city’s accountability and reliability when it comes to addressing issues and communicating with the public. This year’s report has no letter grades, a move the coalition made in acknowledgment of how stressful the past year was due to the pandemic.
“There’s a loss there, because I think that really grabs attention, the letter grades, and makes it clear when there’s unhappiness. But I think at the same time, everyone appreciates a little more tact and diplomacy in these challenging times,” says Christine Sypnowich, the chair of the coalition.
The coalition is made up of over two dozen community groups, which raise concerns about the way councillors conduct business.
This year’s report outlines 10 concerns raised by the city hall watchdog group surrounding topics such as public engagement and the way meetings are conducted. Sypnowich says that while the move to online has been fast and impressive, the loss of face-to-face contact has brought up issues surrounding mutual respect.
“One thing that we’ve raised before that’s been somewhat controversial is the extent that councils are in touch with each other through private means, such as texting or emails. Normally in person, anything that was said is said to the room as a whole,” says Sypnowich.
The report urges Mayor Bryan Patterson to take action and preserve the integrity of open conversations between Kingston’s city council and the community.
“I’ve been pleased by the response from some councillors, that said these are helpful, so that’s very encouraging,” says Sypnowich.
“The City will review the suggestions noted in the Coalition of Kingston Communities report card to identify possible ways to improve processes and engagement. Staff intend to provide the Coalition with feedback in the next two week,” says Lanie Hurdle, Chief Administrative Officer for the city of Kingston.
The coalition believes more attention could be paid to how virtual meetings are conducted. The chair brings up concerns with how votes turn out, transparency about how many people are in attendance of these meetings, the role each attendee plays (e.g., city planner) at these meetings, and open communication.