Mayor Frank Leonard slammed the brakes on the roller-coaster issue that is the Cedar Hill Golf Course after the contentious topic arose again at parks and recreation budget meeting Tuesday night.
The Saanich mayor made it clear to vocal residents and councillors who wanted to talk about the municipally-owned course’s ongoing financial struggles that the conversation they wanted to have wasn’t going to happen.
“We’re not reliving last week’s meeting,” he said, directing them to read meeting minutes when they asked for clarification on a decision made at a heated open house last week.
But councillors Vic Derman and Dean Murdock vocally sided with the speakers, telling the mayor that Saanich isn’t looking very open and transparent in this process.
“It appears speakers are coming up and just shouting into an abyss. There’s no record of any answers to their questions being given,” Murdock said.
Two budget open houses held in February focused on green fees and pass-holder costs at the financially crippled golf course.
At the end of a Feb. 21 meeting, four councillors and the mayor voted to increase fees at the golf course, and then engage with the public to provide input. The four other councillors wanted to see the input come before making any more decisions on the golf course.
At both meetings, Leonard told speakers who posed questions that answers will be provided.
“Quickly moving on to the next agenda item doesn’t give (the public) confidence that their input is being valued,” Murdock said.
Derman said it is a “reasonable expectation that when the public asks a question, they will receive an answer.”
But Leonard said most people who asked questions at the meetings have been able to subsequently pose more queries to council and Saanich staff.
“They’re quite capable of sending their questions to (firstname.lastname@example.org), and will get written responses,” Leonard said. “In some cases the responses aren’t specific because the questions are as much a commentary as anything else.”
Murdock asked that a list of all the questions posed at the meetings, and their answers, be created and shared with the public.
The mayor also said that, while chairing the formal meetings about the golf course, he had tolerated a number of breaks with procedure, allowing such things as personal attacks on staff and council members, and letting speakers talk about issues that were not on the agenda.