REPORTING · 21st February 2011
On January 17th, Council went through a lot of motions. One of the motions was brought forward by Mayor Joanne Monaghan who stepped down from the chair to make it. Councillor Randy Halyk became acting Mayor.
The motion was: “THAT Council re-establish the Advisory Commission for Persons with Disabilities by amending the Advisory Recreation Commission Municipal Code provisions to remove this responsibility from that Commission and subsequently adopt Municipal Code provisions to re-establish the Advisory Commission for Persons with Disabilities.”
“The reason I put this forth is because I have had quite a few people with disabilities that have come to me and say that they feel that they would sooner have a stand-alone committee, they feel that they are better served, that they can bring their requests then directly to Council,” said Monaghan.
She expressed she received a letter from someone with disabilities endorsing the motion earlier that evening.
Halyk stepped down from the chair to speak. “This scenario has only been in place for a very short time. As a part of the ARC, as the Council representative at the [Advisory Recreation Commission] (ARC), I know that we just recently started working towards some plans for this and we had a presentation from a member of the community that is handicapped and she has come forward and questioned us about different things and to be honest with you, we at the ARC were very engaged in this,” said Halyk.
Halyk said he was appointed to both committees in his first year of Council at the Advisory Commission for Persons with Disabilities (ACPD) did not exist. He said the ARC had started working on the concerns raised by people with disabilities, such as the repainting of parking lots. He was under the impression the reason the ACPD no longer existed was because of a lack of interest.
Monaghan stated it had been over a year since the ARC had taken the responsibility. The ARC was given the responsibility of the ACPD on June 7th, 2010.
Councillor Corinne Scott stated she had talked to 6 individuals who appreciated the efforts of the ARC but they would prefer a stand-alone committee. They had explained they wanted a councillor specifically for their committee who could bring their concerns forward without being in conflict with the recreation committee.
She also explained the meetings of the ACPD were being held in the evening and they could not attend these meetings. “These are all people with various degrees of disabilities and find it very tiresome at the end of their day. They want to rest. What they said was if their meetings were in the afternoon, when the handi-dart busses were running, they would all be very happy to attend any of the meetings that were scheduled,” said Scott.
Councillor Mario Feldhoff was opposed. He said there were opportunities for people with disabilities to bring their concerns to the ARC and have them be heard. He said it was not necessary to re-look at the commission.
Municipal Manager Trafford Hall went through the history and explained they were having difficulties finding volunteers. He said the Council needs opportunities to ask people about the concerns and opinions. He said they need the forum and they need it staffed and active. He said a stand-alone committee was not working so they brought it into the ARC.
Martin Gould, head of the Recreation Department explained the ARC had only met twice since receiving this new mandate; once in September and once in November. The ARC meets 5-6 times a year.
Hall added the ARC was their most successful committee. He added staff had received no complaints about the committee and he wanted to see what the ARC could do with the committee.
Monaghan said there was not a lot of thought put into it; it was done on a whim to get rid of the commission. She did not know who was talking to the manager but the people who have come to her were not happy with the commission as they feel they were not being heard because other issues around recreation are drowning them out.
Councillor Gerd Gottschling spoke in favour of the motion because of the availability of the bus. In addition, the most knowledgeable about special services are people in need of those services. He suggested if people were willing to do this, it should be a separate commission.
Councillor Rob Goffinet suggested tabling this until the next committee of the whole where people with disabilities could inform Council of their wishes. However, it was pointed out by Scott the disabled did not have the ability to attend the COW meeting because of the lack of transportation.
Gottschling suggested consulting with the people would be reasonable. Feldhoff was also against the tabling motion as there was nothing preventing the ARC from having their meeting in the afternoon with people with disabilities and deal with them in future meetings.
Scott said she had contacted people with disabilities because she did not want to debate this without the input of the disabled. She explained it came down to respect and what the issues are. She was uncertain how many disabled people lived in Kitimat but 6 out of 8 were in favour of the stand-alone committee.
Monaghan said she could not see the ARC meeting at noon. Halyk turned the meeting over the Monaghan so he could speak. He said he met with the ACPD once at Riverlodge and there were no further meetings after that. He heard the funding for Measuring Up Kitimat had disappeared.
Goffinet withdrew his amendment. Gould explained there was a person with disabilities and they have had one member of the public make a presentation on this topic. No one else has even contacted them about the ACPD. The person who presented wanted to know where they were with the Measuring up Kitimat. After this, a motion was brought forward to Council to bring up Measuring up Kitimat related motions during the Budget for 2011. This is where they were going to proceed.
He added: “If a member of the public with disabilities wanted to come to a commission meeting or was unable to come to a commission meeting, I am more than willing as a director to sit down with them during the day, bring forward their concerns or their questions or whatever to the commission and advise why they can’t attend the commission and our person with a disability on the commission is more than willing to champion their concerns or questions at the same time.”
Scott said that none of the people she spoke too had anything bad to say about the ARC. She said 3/4s of them were unaware the ARC had taken the responsibilities of the ACPD. She suggested it should have been better communicated to the public. If it stood alone, they would all be aware who to go to.
The motion was called and carried to come back as a bylaw. Corless, Feldhoff and Halyk were opposed.
This came back to Council as a bylaw on February 7th. Feldhoff was opposed because Council was bringing back a commission which he thought could have been handed through the ARC.
Halyk agreed with Feldhoff and stated the ARC could have handled the additional responsibility. Goffinet however said this was not a vote against the ARC and felt the ARC did an excellent job of handling the responsibility. Goffinet said he has talked to people in the disabled community and they want the two committees to be separate.
Scott agreed with Goffinet as this was at the request of people with disabilities and they want it back. She added she would like to make further changes to the bylaw before it reaches final adoption. She pointed out once again the ARC meets at a time when the Handy-dart does not run and the disabled want afternoon meetings.
Halyk expressed concerns about how they were constantly changing the responsibilities of commissions such as the ARC and the ACPD had changed less than a year ago and it had received a lengthy discussion. He expressed the ARC had plans to assist the Handicapped, a short time to develop and suddenly, there is a new group that has to start from scratch, although the ARC will be willing to help. He wanted to know how many people Goffinet and Scott talked to.
“This new commission will be the same people involved but more than what are currently involved in the recreation board. It’s not a different commission, It’s the same people in a stand-alone meeting. The only difference is the staffing from the recreation board. This is a group of individuals who have not been able to attend meetings at the recreation board, there are one or two from the community that have been able to get to the meetings and they are a part of this new commission. It’s not a new commission, it’s a continuing commission standing alone,” said Scott.
Feldhoff was now confused. He thought this was a new commission with new appointees and the same staff support, not the ARC meeting with people with disabilities at a new time. Monaghan said people would have to apply like everyone else.
Goffinet pointed out they were not accepting it in totality. He considered asking the community what the wishes of the community were. He wanted to reflect the wishes of the community. They considered asking the chair of the ARC to speak as well. Corless pointed out Council would have to hold this meeting during the day. The bylaw was given first reading.