Photo: Town of Osoyoos
Osoyoos Council Meeting December 12
The city of Osoyoos is working on a compromise with a group of citizens in growing unrest considering moving its council meetings to an evening schedule.
During the council's committee of the whole meeting on Tuesday, resident Ron Sargean spoke up to question the mayor and council about the lack of citizen attendance at town hall two weeks ago to discuss the roughly 40 percent tax increase. which the council approved in October.
Only Cond. Johnny Cheong was present.
Sargean highlighted that he received only one response to the seven invitations he issued to the council, specifying that the sole council member responded that he would only attend the meeting if security was provided.
At a previous council meeting, some councilors expressed concern about discontent in the community, alleging harassment of themselves and city employees. A bylaw officer was assigned to Tuesday's meeting and a limited number were allowed in the chamber's gallery.
Mayor Sue McKortoff previously said the “harassment and discrimination” has been “disheartening.”
She clarified her reason for not attending the town hall organized by citizens.
“I was worried about that [myself and] other people going to a meeting where it wasn't in the council chambers, it wasn't on my terms, I was an easy target,” she said.
“And I didn’t feel like I needed to put myself in that position. So it was my choice not to attend.”
Protesters spoke outside the chambers on Tuesday, mentioning that they had been warned to be on their best behavior following previous incidents.
Many members of the protest group, known on Facebook as “Osoyoos does not accept taxes without representation”, condemned those who act inappropriately.
Sargean requested that the council hold evening meetings as an option for more citizens to participate or watch.
“I mentioned this before, we should have a monthly town hall meeting so we can ask questions and do it at night. If we can't do it at night, we should at least have a board meeting at night,” Sargean said.
“At that time, there was a response that it would mean overtime and stuff, but no one seems to go beyond 'Well, it might be over time.' I would be more than happy to pay a little bit of taxes so we can have a board meeting at night so that we can express and hear our voices, but we can't do that and those are my main concerns, having communication with the city.”
Citizens will have the opportunity to discuss the tax increase in January at an advance informational meeting with city officials.
Meanwhile, council has asked staff to compile a report on moving council meetings to the evening, which will be presented at a future council meeting for discussion.