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Policy issue

The decision by Deputy Reeve Al Schule and Coun.

The decision by Deputy Reeve Al Schule and Coun. Samanntha Wright to deny requests for recusal and participate in a public hearing for a Bearspaw-area development may not violate Rocky View County (RVC) council’s code of conduct, but it certainly calls into question the effectiveness of the policy. It’s difficult to put yourself outside of a situation, especially when your job is to approach it head on – it’s something we’re forced to deal with all the time, as journalists. And it’s understandable that a councillor would feel they weren’t fulfilling their commitment to constituents if they chose to sit out of a discussion on an item that may impact a significant number of those citizens. Which is why it might be a good idea to include more specific provisions within council’s code of conduct policy, instead of allowing councillors to decide for themselves whether they feel able to evaluate an application in an unbiased way. There are some circumstances – like when the application in question impacts the property right next door to a sitting councillor, whose spouse has voiced opposition to the proposal – where no matter how much effort someone makes to remain impartial, it’s almost impossible to be completely bias-free. And while that may be just one vote on a council with nine members, it’s understandable to see why it might raise concerns – particularly for applicants who have invested time and money into their proposals and expect a fair decision. So, instead of leaving this responsibility to councillors, who feel obligations to represent all their residents, perhaps some amendments need to be made.