A day after slamming a proposed social media ban as a personal attack and waste of council’s time, Mayor Naheed Nenshi thanked a colleague for bringing the pitch forward and sparking a needed conversation.
Ward 10 Coun. Andre Chabot, who is vying for the mayor’s chair, proposed banning sites such as Facebook and Twitter in council chambers when members of the public are presenting — an idea he previously said was spurred by social media star Nenshi’s cellphone usage in council chambers.
But late Tuesday in council chambers, Chabot said the proposal to ban social media while citizens plead for a secondary suite or speak against a development was simply about respect.
“The reason I was targeting social media is because it’s outward facing,” Chabot told his colleagues. “Respect is what I’m targeting here . . . (The public) deserves the respect of councillors.”
Nenshi said he often sees colleagues on their devices in council chambers and hears about it from the public “all the time.”
“I think this conversation about respect is the right one . . . I just want to say thank you, actually, for bringing that up because I think it’s a conversation we have to have.”
While Chabot’s pitch to restrict social media during public presentations ultimately failed in a 9-5 vote, many agreed the conversation it sparked about looking away from screens while members of the public speak was important.
“Hopefully we’ll all continue to remember this conversation,” said Ward 14 Coun. Peter Demong.
A second notice of motion from Chabot, which Nenshi previously labelled “a particularly dumb idea,” failed in a 5-9 vote.
Chabot wanted to add a plebiscite question to the upcoming municipal vote asking Calgarians whether the city should automatically move into unused tax room from the province.
“We say it’s tax room, but it’s actually a municipal tax increase,” said Chabot, noting that adding the question to a plebiscite would educate the public on the issue.
Occasionally, as was the case this year, the province takes less education tax than what the city budgeted, leaving what’s known as tax room — funds that were grabbed by the city from 2011 until 2013, when council rescinded a motion to instantly absorb the money.
Ward 11 Coun. Brian Pincott said a plebiscite is the stupidest way to make capital decisions, while Ward 1 Coun. Ward Sutherland said it wouldn’t be legally binding.
“It’s not like we’re taking the money and just throwing it in the garbage, it’s going to investment in projects,” Sutherland said.