Council transparency: Appearance or substance?

When it comes to efforts by Kitchener council to improve accountability and transparency, appearance of change is not enough.
Such efforts must have clear, meaningful results and a motion from Coun. Scott Davey last night achieved no such thing.
The motion about cash donations to municipal candidates piggybacks on a typically fuzzy Liberal exercise being considered by the province that will also create the appearance of transparency. Davey’s motion passed but it does nothing to change the unfair financial status quo in municipal elections.
Crowing about the preservation of democracy and equality, the motion bans union and corporate donations in municipal elections. It permits individual donations only but does nothing to define “corporate” and little to stop any union or business boss from having scores of members or employees making multiple donations that could then be repaid.
Because council made no attempt to invite any local unions or businesses to debate the issue and, other than the weekly Kitchener Post, our absent and decimated local media ignored the subject, I tried without success to defer the matter for a few weeks to allow those affected a chance to learn about and comment on the issue.
On a more positive note, another successful motion last night from Coun. Dave Schnider involved councillors’ home-office and technology expenses that cost taxpayers at least $25,000 a year.
Schneider’s small but important change to the policy means, every year, councillors will now have to itemize each expense for items that range from office furniture and cameras to laptops and iPads.
Speaking as someone who, with slight success, has repeatedly tried to cut those home-office expenses for the past six years, I’m hoping Schnider’s efforts will discourage excessive, repetitive purchases by a few councillors.
Instead of vacuous political optics, his motion could have meaningful results.

This entry was posted in Journalism, Perks and Expenses, Transparency. Bookmark the permalink.

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