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Special council meeting on Wednesday to serve as catch-up

Wednesday’s loaded agenda includes a motion regarding KED partners, extending a downtown security pilot program and adopting a social media policy for elected officials
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A special meeting of Greater Sudbury city council has been scheduled for Wednesday as a means of catching up on outstanding agenda items. 

First on the agenda will be Ward 4 Coun. Geoff McCausland’s motion seeking assurances from Kingsway Entertainment District partners.

Although site preparation work is proceeding on the Kingsway Entertainment District project, there have been no written commitments to the project beyond this initial work — a gap McCausland’s motion strives to fill. 

This motion was first introduced at the end of the Sept. 28 city council meeting but timed out when the meeting hit its three-hour mark and city council declined to extend proceedings. 

McCausland was among those who voted against extending proceedings, explaining later that there appeared to be a number of questions about his motion and that he wanted to give his colleagues more time to mull it over before bringing it to a vote. 

More than a month later and after it timed out at two additional city council meetings, the motion is poised to finally face a vote on Wednesday.

Also on Wednesday’s agenda is an update on a downtown security pilot program for which staff recommends the development of a business case for consideration during 2022 budget deliberations to make it permanent.

The program has a team of two security enforcement officers on shift seven days per week between 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 a.m.

A staff report classifies the pilot program as a success, noting, “Downtown businesses and residents are reporting enhanced confidence when security officers are present.

“The pilot program has reduced non-urgent response by GSPS. Officers have been deployed quickly to emerging security needs and working with Community Development Department colleagues and partner agencies, officers have supported enhancements to services for homeless and addicted individuals, in particular in the downtown.”

The meeting will cap off with five members’ motions, including Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan and Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc’s motion to have staff recommend “how best to ensure the existing Community Arena and/or the property on which it resides, fully contributes to downtown renewal efforts, and sustains community vibrancy that includes, among other more technical steps, a plan for extensive public consultation.”

The Sudbury Community Arena has received added attention in recent years as a result of a debate surrounding whether the city should have invested in the old arena instead of the KED.

Although the KED is moving forward, the city still maintains the aging downtown arena, which world-renowned architect Jason McLennan, who is originally from Sudbury and specializes in the green building movement in arenas, said there’s plenty of potential for. 

Capping Wednesday’s meeting will be a motion presented by Ward 6 René Lapierre and Ward 1 Mark Signoretti that requests staff to present recommendations regarding a social media policy for members of council and local boards. 

Outside of the city’s Code of Conduct, which makes brief mention of social media by stating members are not allowed to disguise or mislead their identity on social media, there is no specific social media policy governing the city’s elected officials. 

Signoretti first suggested introducing the motion in September in response to Kirwan drawing public ire with his social media activities shortly after his colleagues on city council voted to reprimand him for a fake Facebook account under the “Jessie Timmons” moniker used on the Valley East Facebook account he manages with his wife, Valerie. 

Kirwan has already spoken out against the motion in a post made to the Valley East page.

“City Council cannot set the standards. Facebook sets the standards and administrators are expected to make sure that those standards are met or the site could be shut down,” he wrote.

“This motion is clearly not needed and if it is approved, it will lead to some uncomfortable public discussions about what Councillors should and should not be able to do in representing their constituents.”

Wednesday’s special city council meeting follows a series of meetings that timed out at three hours in recent weeks, which prompted last week’s discussion about limiting councillors’ statements to 10 minutes. 

During last week’s city council meeting, Mayor Brian Bigger invited members of council to return to council chambers for hybrid in-person and virtual city council and committee meetings moving forward. 

The public has yet to be invited back into Tom Davies Square, but Wednesday’s special city council meeting will be livestreamed beginning at 6 p.m. and can be viewed by clicking here

A finance and administration committee meeting at 4 p.m. Tuesday will also be livestreamed and will centre on a draft 2022 budget presented by city administration to launch council deliberations later this month.

City council has asked staff to introduce a tax increase no greater than three per cent, which doesn’t factor in the numerous business cases already approved for debate and whichever business cases are approved for debate during Wednesday’s special city council meeting. 

In advance of budget deliberations, Ward 8 Coun. Al Sizer has expressed concern about city reserves lagging far behind the average for Ontario municipalities and the city’s ballooning debt