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Sharon Collingwood: The latest on the City ban of residents

You probably know a lot  of the story by now… our own Mike Sullivan has been banned from all City buildings in Stratford, and he can only communicate with City employees through the City’s lawyer in London. He is banned for something (we’re not sure what) that he said during his deputation at a meeting on February 26, and two other Stratford residents who made deputations at the same meeting have been similarly disciplined.  Jane Marie Mitchell received a warning for arguing that climate change items should be reinstated in the budget, and Barb Shaughnessy was banned for three months because of her deputation against turning residential units at the Bradford Lofts into short-term rentals. All three asked for details of the complaints. Mike even asked using a freedom of information request. The City has refused. You can see the whole meeting on the City’s recording — there were strong deputations, but they were reasonably civil.

The banishment letters all three received were identical, with the exception of Jane Marie’s letter, which had a paragraph that reduced her punishment to a warning.

While we are glad to see that the City is not wasting the time of the secretarial staff, it does seem a bit harsh to use a form letter to exclude someone from the farmers market, the hockey arena, the library*, and City events for three months. Also, imagine if a banned person has a problem with their garbage collection. How embarrassing to have to discuss this with a lawyer!

And we now have a police guard at every Council meeting — we have to wonder how much all this is costing the City.

Get Concerned Stratford has worked hard to establish that the City broke the law during the Xinyi controversy. We raised funds for freedom of information requests and other documents needed to provide proof.  The Closed Meetings Investigator confirmed the City’s errors. It was very important to establish what the errors were, and to learn how the City could improve the way things are run.

The City resisted these requests every step of the way.  How much simpler and less expensive all this would have been if they had just said “We were wrong, and we’ll get to work figuring out how not to make these mistakes in the future.” No legal punishment for councillors or staff was involved, but a change in the culture of City Hall was badly needed.

Now the City continues with its old ways, resorting to a ban on citizens who are asking for better government. We believe this is illegal, and we will ignore it. If you’d like to follow our reasoning on this, please read this article.

We hesitated before we hired a lawyer, because we are concerned at how much money will be wasted by the City. After all, we’re taxpayers too! But finally, we realized that if we didn’t proceed, we would not be able to have our case adjudicated before the next election, and that’s pretty important. So we’ve hired the fiery David Donnelly, who is gratifyingly passionate about democracy.

We’re planning a public meeting soon to discuss these issues, and I’ll write again soon when we know the date.

 

*We have been informed by the Stratford Public Library that the library is wholly owned by the SPL library board and is not a City of Stratford building. Thanks for the correction!

 

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