City agrees to review polices and report back
Ward 3 Coun. Claude Berthiaume said he supports new security measures meant to protect staff working in Tom Davies Square, but questions the restrictions being imposed at public meetings.
“We had the operations and the community services and operations committee meetings last week, and we had a security officer at the meeting,” Berthiaume said Tuesday. “There was no one there except for our media. I know they might be vicious, but I'm just wondering if we're going overboard on this security issue.”
“Some citizens like to come to our meetings, but I know at some of the meetings, our citizens were asked what they were doing there, why they were coming here,” Berthiaume said. “Our meetings are open to the public, and we should be more relaxed on this issue. We should have a review of these measures.
“I understand that we want more security for our staff. And we were probably lax in the past … But to put the imposition on the media – make them wear cards identifying themselves, especially when they've been covering the meetings for years. We recognize these people. For new media people, I could see it. But for people who have been coming for years, to put this kind of imposition on them, I think we have a problem.”
Berthiaume said if there was a large crowd at a meeting, he could see the need for a more visible security presence. But he questioned the wisdom of imposing blanket restrictions in the name of improving security.
“I understand, for staff, no problem. We were lax and we needed to do something about that. But for council meetings? Committee meetings? I'm not sure.
“If there's a large crowd, I can see the need to have a security officer there. But when there's hardly any people like tonight? I can't see why we need the presence of security.”
Doug Nadorozny, the city's chief administrative officer, said there's some “flexibility” when it comes to the new rules, and agreed to take another look.
“We can certainly take the councillor's comments back and see if there's something we can adjust,” Nadorozny said. “We had a discussion about committee meetings earlier, so there's certainly some flexibility there. So we'll get back to council.”
In an interview in early March, Nadorozny told Northern Life that the new measures were driven by staff concerns expressed in employee surveys. They began by requiring staff to wear ID cards, to give employees a safe way to identify whomever they are dealing with.
“We do not want it to appear that we're living in fear or a lockdown -- it's none of those things,” he said. “It's just a good, prudent way to manage our building and to manage our relationships with our employees.”
When asked why the city wouldn't just boost security presence for meetings expected to be controversial, Nadorozny said suddenly adding guards or police might aggravate the risk of problems. But heightening security for all meetings sends the message that they're taking the issue seriously.
“Not to say if there was a serious threat, we wouldn't do whatever we had to if we did have to enhance security, but I think what we'd prefer to do is slowly set a new tone for the way were going to manage all of our meetings.”
Since the interview, the city withdrew its requirement for media to divulge their Twitter and Facebook IDs. However, the city still reserves the right to define who is media and who is not, and to withdraw accreditation at any time for any reason. Nadorozny said that's standard language, but doubted there would ever be problems.
“I don't want you to think we've done anything that leads you to believe there’s a risk of you showing up at a council meeting and all of a sudden saying, 'oh, sorry, your accreditation has been pulled.'
“It's not the intent to be intrusive.”