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Victoria council rethinking public advisory committees

Victoria councillors are in the throes of trimming the fat from their governance model, mulling over whether or not to re-establish citizen advisory committees or use them on a case-by-case basis.

About 30 recommendations were adopted in total, while the most controversial choices on citizen advisory committees will be debated Thursday (Feb. 7).

"Most of the easy decisions were made (last week)," said Coun. Lisa Helps. Those decisions included defining the roles of elected officials, creating councillor education programs and streamlining staff presentations to council.

Helps is advocating for time-limited, task-specific citizen advisory committees.

"It's a really effective and responsible way to use people's time. One of the complaints of standing committees in the past is that their time hasn't been respected," she said.

But council remains split on the issue, said Coun. Ben Isitt, who hopes to see a return to a more robust use of public committees.

"The issue is whether council should make all of these decisions on its own, based on the input of staff or one-off citizen engagement, or is there a benefit of having an ongoing connection to citizens through advisory committees," he said.

The advisory design panel and heritage advisory committee will remain intact regardless, Isitt said.

Helps said the city is already undertaking unprecedented public consultation outside committees, particularly around its three-year budget plans.

"The world is changing. If we're not going to do public engagement, then the citizenry is going to do it for us, on Twitter and online," she said.

To fill out an online budget survey and add your voice to the conversation, go to victoria.ca until Feb. 8.

dpalmer@vicnews.com

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