Windsor City Council – March 23, 2015

Last night began with one issue on everyone’s mind: Councillor Payne’s proposed motion that the Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation’s Board composition be reconstructed as follows:
1. Mayor and two Councillors
2. Warden and two Councillors
3. Four business representative
and that the CEO of WEEDC be full time.
The anticipation for the motion was made that much more palpable because Sandra Pupatello and representatives from WEEDC were in the room to give a presentation with the intent of providing an update on WEEDC’s successes and goings-on.
However, Councillor Payne asked that his motion be deferred, citing the Councillors only had a few days with the package and should have more time to consider their position on the issue. We’re going to have to wait a little bit longer to see how that plays out!

Even though Councillor Payne’s motion was deferred, the presentation by WEEDC was very thorough and the Councillors had many questions, far too many to sum up here. The Youth Advisors focused attention mostly around discussing whether we thought there should be Councillors on the board, if WEEDC should operate at arms-length, and how much information WEEDC should be sharing with Council and with the public.
I thought it was very obvious that Councillors want to be involved in WEEDC in some way, and Sandra mentioned that every time she’s asked a Councillor for help, they’ve never turned her down. One Youth Advisor suggested quarterly meetings or reviews between WEEDC and Council, an idea that was echoed in questioning from one of the Councillors.
There is absolutely confidential information that WEEDC needs to keep confidential, especially when it comes to strategy-based information. Sandra said it would be possible to share a scrubbed version of their quarterly report with Council. We were left wondering if that would be enough.

Although the crowd thought the WEEDC issue was going to be the hot topic of the evening, no one expected the outcome of the Wisdom Women Circles of Compassion delegation’s presentation. The group came to Council to ask that Windsor become a compassionate city by signing the Charter for Compassion.
A few Councillors raised questions to Administration around how binding the Charter for Compassion is, and if it would be governing their choices in the future. The City Solicitor and the CAO said that it had no legal binding and that it’s main purpose is to act as a “consciousness raising document.” It shouldn’t change day to day work because ideally, decision makers are already thinking in a compassionate way.
When it came time to vote, 5 Councillors supported and 5 opposed. The Mayor chose not to break the tie. The City chose not to sign the Charter for Compassion.
Our Youth Advisors were very taken aback by the outcome. One Advisor thought it looks worse to vote against compassion than to vote yes and have it fall wayside, which is what one Councillor was concerned would happen.

Although I agree it looks bad to “vote against compassion,” I can see why someone might be inclined to do so. The Charter itself is based on bringing together various faiths and religions, which is a good thing, but can cause issues when paired with a governing body. The presenting group, comprised of all women from various religious backgrounds, did amend the charter so that it included all people not just those who practice religion.
The relationship of religion and government is a tricky one. We say a prayer after the anthem at council, but religious groups can’t apply for flag raising. We hope that our local decision-makers are always acting with compassion, but if there is a charter telling them to do so that stems from a place of religion, could complications arise?