OPINION: Guards not enough

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Apparently, security guards for council meetings are not enough for municipal administration and council (see page 17).

As a result, council rubberstamped a recommendation from administration to pump $30,000 into council chambers that they will vacate in a couple of years or so.

Those chambers sit on the second floor of the Civic Centre. The municipality has acquired the former Sears building with the intent to move operations there. Even if that does not proceed and renovations are instead done at the Civic Centre, council will move downstairs.

In other words, this is a short-term expense, and a sizeable one.

Talking with numerous councillors in recent months on how raucous things have been getting in council chambers, all have said some members of the public have gone too far at times. But those same councillors add they at no time felt outright concerned for their safety.

We did not speak to every councillor on the matter, but enough to take a decent litmus test.

CAO Michael Duben declined to let the public know which councillor, or councillors don’t feel safe, as it came up in a closed session meeting. However, several elected officials spoke about having to be escorted by police to their vehicles, or getting verbally accosted by citizens.

Everyone has a right to feel safe when on the job. That includes politicians and support staff. The public has a right to disagree, for sure, but discourse must remain civil. Spitting on councillors, threatening them, cornering them in a hallway while wearing a disguise – that’s all way beyond the bounds of civility.

But will $30,000 in waist-high Plexiglass and a game of musical chairs protect council and staff? We seriously doubt it in the case of a full-blown antagonist.

The presence of security personnel will have a far greater impact. And security guards, unlike the barriers, are mobile. They can not only react to a situation, they can also move to the new location of council chambers, be that in the Sears building or down a flight of stairs.

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