Interview #84: Vancouver, BC Councilor Andrea Reimer (with podcast)

This podcast interview is available on iTunesStitcherPlayer FM, and right here:

Andrea Reimer has been a councilor since 2008 and has witnessed a significant rise in points of order at her council meetings. We talk about why that is, as well as why some speakers acknowledge indigenous territory.

Q: In the Vancouver council meetings, I noticed a lot of people acknowledge that you are on native territory. Are you obligated to do that?

A: We have a formal protocol that the chair of the meeting needs to acknowledge we are on the unseated homelands. But it’s up to each speaker to decide how they want to engage with that. It would be a rule for the mayor or myself when I’m chairing. For Vancouverites, though, who come to speak to council, it’s totally up to them. Many people do make that acknowledgement.

Q: You posted this last year:

sugar

Is blood sugar any different now than it was when you got on council in 2008?

A: The main goal of the chair is to get people out of that room by 3:30 in the afternoon. If they don’t, we hit the low blood sugar zone. We do have a brand new council member who just joined us in October who has introduced some activities such as slapping desks. We see that in our parliament–I don’t know if you guys do that in your national government. But we generally don’t do that at municipal council because we’re sitting maybe ten feet away from each other at most. We don’t really need to slap tables to signal that we’re happy or unhappy with something!

Q: I have not seen a city council raise the volume of points of order that I see in Vancouver. Why do you think that is?

A: On my first term of office, 2008-2011, I think we might have had one point of order in the entire three-year period. Then one of the individuals was elected and suddenly we skyrocketed up in number. And then another one, Councilor [Melissa] De Genova, got elected in 2014 and she can do that many before lunch in some meetings. So I think it’s just, different councilors have different styles. Your president’s really into Twitter. We have a councilor who’s really into points of order.

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Vancouver, BC Councilor Andrea Reimer

Q: I heard that last year, a lady fainted in your public comment. Is that true?

A: Oh, yeah. We’ve had a few. We’ve had fainting. We had a medical emergency. We had a fire once while I was chairing. I was the only one who didn’t notice it because it was happening behind me!

Q: Has anyone called point of order on that fire?

A: You know, it’s funny. Those were never points of order! We actually completed the council meeting outside. I’m such a stickler for rules because I’d hate for all of the decisions to be overthrown because some procedural breach happens. I made us go outside and formally adjourn the meeting correctly.

Q: During a public hearing about a proposed development in Chinatown, I heard there was some poor behavior. What did you see that concerned you?

A: It sounds like there was some attempts to intimidate [speakers] either verbally or in one case, physically. We definitely heard booing. Probably the most difficult moment for me was we had two members of the Musqueam nation, one of the three indigenous nations, who came up to the microphone to speak and they were booed by a crowd that had used indigenous issues to try and justify their case. It had such a deep-seated disrespect for the issue. I talked to the organizers and they’ve since reached out to the individuals involved on the Musqueam and I understand there has been reparations made. They’ve apologized.


Follow Councilor Andrea Reimer on Twitter: @andreareimer 

#133: Anderson, SC 9/25/17

There are two things that are universally beloved: cute babies and the fire department. And the Anderson city council meeting had plenty of both.

“I’m gonna ask Chief Bratcher to come up with his wife,” Mayor Terence Roberts beckoned the interim fire chief to the stage.

City staff, meanwhile, wheeled around in front to ogle the talkative toddler bouncing on his dad’s knee.

“Sometimes we get so busy and the chief was doing such a good job being the interim chief, we kind of forgot to recognize him,” the mayor smiled sheepishly.

“I’m going to do the oath of office and I think his wife is going to have a role in this too.”

He looked down at his script and quoted the oath. “I do solemnly swear–”

“I–” began the chief before his quick-thinking wife nudged him to raise his hand. Immediately, he sprung his right arm upward. The mayor was right: she saved the swearing-in!

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Good rescue

After accepting his badge and shaking hands with the city council, the chief invited eight of his men to the front for their own promotions. The baby gurgled and cooed while they all stood silently and were pinned with their shimmering badges.

Now came an interesting assembly line: with eight council members plus four city employees, a whopping 96 handshakes were performed in the space of minutes. The microphones picked up a rapid-fire volley of “congratulations, congratulationscongratucongratcongrats.”

If they could handle that onslaught, they can certainly handle a three-alarm blaze.

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Stay close, boys–there’s a lot of wood here.

As the mass of family, friends, and–tragically–the baby mobbed the exit, the police chief strode to the lectern. He had his eyes on a new set of wheels or two.

“The Interceptor is very handy,” he praised his preferred secondhand purchase. “It’s something different from what we already have. That vehicle will be equipped with lights and a siren.”

His other wish list item was a Dodge Ram. “That vehicle will be an unmarked vehicle,” he explained. (Oh, crap–should I have printed that? Forget I said Dodge Ram. It’s…a Suburu Outback. Yeah.)

“The old cars that you put up for auction,” Council Member Beatrice Thompson raised her hands quizzically, “is anybody buying those?”

The chief let out a light chuckle. “Yes, ma’am. I’m really surprised. We had one of the cars and I drove it from the PD on its last journey. I gave it some gas and it coughed.”

Council members laughed. Then the chief hit them with the punch line. “I believe that car sold at auction for $1,300. I was amazed.”

Murmurs of astonishment flitted across the room. I’m surprised as well: a sentient, coughing police car?! I’d empty my savings account for that modern-day Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

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*cough*

But it was the fire department that had the last word.

“We’ve had interest from citizens about the Veterans Parade,” city manager Linda McConnell reported to the council. “You will remember the group that normally put on the Veterans Parade was unable to do so last year. Our own Fire Chief Randy Bratcher rallied the troops and the parade went off without a hitch.”

Apparently, all that previous time spent not being sworn in was put to good use because, she disclosed, “Randy and his group are once again spearheading that effort, which is scheduled for Sunday, November 5.”

To reassure citizens, she added, “the chief’s wife is assisting with that as well.”

Whew! The parade is in capable hands, indeed.

#91: Reading, PA 3/13/17

Dateline: Reading City Hall.

A snowstorm was hours away from besieging the area. Inside the council chamber, city leaders were calm. But they were nervously watching the clock.

“I believe we have one speaker,” Council President Jeffrey Waltman scanned the crowd.

“Two,” the clerk corrected him.

“Chris, do you mind reading our public comment policy?” requested Waltman with a polite nod.

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I hope the snow doesn’t interrupt this video broadcast from, apparently, 1969.

Surprisingly, the policy was more detailed–and considerably harsher–than I am used to.

“Citizens may not approach the council tables at any time. Any person making threats or becoming unruly may be barred from speaking or cited,” a staffer read solemnly. “Failure to abide by these regulations could result in removal and/or citation.”

Wow. I could only imagine the kind of person who would’ve made those rules necessary. Luckily, I didn’t have to imagine–she was already standing at the podium.

“Greetings from your favorite, no-good, dirty, evil landlord,” a short-haired woman in a poofy jacket boomed at the council. “That’s the stereotype, so I just roll with it.”

She bulldozed straight to the point. “My housing permits WERE paid. The city HAD my money. They didn’t give me credit for it. What you got was FAKE news. BOGUS facts.”

Brandishing a newspaper, she ranted, “you know, the great freedoms we enjoy in this country allow people to be pretty slovenly with them. And I am referring to this word right here.” She jabbed a pen at the offending headline. “What happened here is NOT an error. And I think everybody knows it.”

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Oh

As she plopped back down, Council President Waltman glanced at Reading’s city auditor, who had a lighter, less bogus piece of news.

“I was able to attend the 12th Annual Battle of the Badges. It was Reading police and fire working as a team versus the Allentown police and fire.” Everyone inched to the edge of their seats in anticipation of the score.

“Reading’s team won by 7-6. Officer Pete Karpovich was the star of the game for Reading,” he announced with the enthusiasm of…well, an auditor.

Managing Director Glenn Steckman quickly cut in. “I think David failed to acknowledge the outstanding coaching of the game by the chief,” he said, prompting light applause for the fire chief sitting contentedly in the back.

“I was at the game,” Council President Waltman mused. “I was worried. If the police and the firemen are playing the police and the firemen, what do you do if a fight breaks out? Who do you call?”

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You call their mothers, obviously.

Speaking of fights, something was irking one of the city’s employees sitting up front.

“I have to respond to [the public commenter’s] point where she complains about a ‘bad neighbor’ who has not kept up their property. The neighbor is the Centre Park Historic District.”

The District, he spat, “has tried repeatedly–REPEATEDLY–to reach some accommodation so they could put ladders to make the repairs. She has been extremely difficult to work with.”

Immediately, Councilwoman Marcia Goodman-Hinnershitz deftly steered to less choppy waters. “I think the point about being a good neighbor is what’s gonna help us get through the next day and a half as far as the snow goes.”

She added, “I have a little bit of money–if people want to shovel, they can come to me. I will pay for individuals to help shovel out our seniors.”

#60: Spokane, WA 10/17/16

I can’t believe I am saying this.

This week’s Spokane city council meeting was b

Oh, god, I almost hurled. Okay, let’s try it again: the Spokane city council meeting was bo

Sorry. Bor

BORING. There, I did it.

Mind you, I never find council meetings boring. But for the love of Pete, just check out what was on the docket.

“The Friends of the Library has been a treasured supporter of the Spokane Public Library since 1973, and the Spokane Public Library is deeply grateful for their support,” read librarianly Council Member Karen Stratton.

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Council Member Karen Stratton was runner up in the Librarian Lookalike Contest.

Terrific. Council Member Mike Fagan, you chaired the Public Safety Committee today?

“You bet. There was a wonderful article in The Spokesman regarding how the fire department is looking to include not only men but women and minorities,” he said.

Again, terrific. Is anything WRONG in this city? You, sir! Public commenter in the bad-to-the-bone leather jacket! Have you got something stuck in your craw?

“I started on a project that–I didn’t know what I was doing–to build my garage in [my wife’s] garden,” he led in while gripping the podium. “TOTAL compliments to your inspectors and the Planning Department! They’ve been wonderful in helping me–not knowing what I’m doing.”

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“Did I mention I don’t know what I’m doing?”

Well, that about does it, folks. We’ve got five minutes left–all for a basic emergency ordinance to refinance some park bonds.

“This is just your basic refinance of some park bonds,” explained Council President Ben Stuckart, “so we can pay them off and it’ll get us a lower interest rate. We have one person signed up for public testimony.”

A blonde-haired woman with a long skirt and sandals breezed up to the podium. I wonder which city department she’ll compliment this time.

“I’m not a whole lot familiar with bonds, but it seems to me it’s a lot like payday loans. It’s for like, you know, rich politicians in the city,” she grumbled, waving her arms in the general direction of the council members. “It’s hypocritical that you guys–the council doesn’t have any regulations like that and–

Council President Stuckart bristled at this suggestion. “No. This is part of the park bond that the citizens voted over 70 percent for,” he interjected during her criticisms. “I’ll let you have more time, but it’s NOT something we’re just doing without a vote of the citizens.”

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Note to public commenters: stop. wearing. black.

The woman, unfazed, parried to a different line of attack. “But it’s not an emergency. It should be just like the poor man. If you can’t go out and borrow five different payday loans or whatever, why do you get to call a park bond an emergency?”

“You want me to describe it to you?” Stuckart again interjected. This time, she blazed ahead.

“REAL emergency is creating homeless people! Tearing down neighborhoods and not letting them get a payday loan! That’s my comment.”

As she walked away, President Stuckart could not resist one more retort. “It’s called an EMERGENCY ordinance because it requires five votes instead of four,” he called.

But she was already gone.

Final thoughts: I have to admit, the meeting turned out to be electrifying after all. I’m suddenly interested in bonds and payday loans! 10 out of 10 stars to both.

Shout-out #1: London, OH

A few weeks ago I chronicled the London, Ohio city council meeting. To refresh your memory, it was a real humdinger, with the mayor’s “fun fact” being that he lit a barrel on fire downtown. You know–the People’s Business.

Well, a little Buckeye Birdie told me that London City Hall took notice.

Sure enough, during last week’s city council meeting, His Honor the mayor had a few choice words for the Chronicles:

Mayor: Now on to the mayor fun fact. Some of you already know we’re starting to get some national attention. There’s a man out there by the name of Michael Karlik who has a hobby of reviewing city council meetings from all over the United States…everybody has their own hobbies, I guess.

[Collective sigh from council members. One councilwoman lays her head on the desk.]

Hobby? I think you meant “public service,” sir.

Mayor: I’m not sure how he stumbled upon ours, but he did. And he wrote about us and tagged me on Facebook and Twitter. And it was about our June 16 meeting. Most of the focus was on my mayor fun fact last month, which I talked about lighting a barrel on fire in downtown London for the movie. So I thought I would pay him the ultimate compliment by making him my mayor fun fact for this meeting.

I am genuinely honored, Your Honor! I’m sure the flaming barrel feels the same way!

Mayor: The writing was actually very witty and well done, I thought. I got a good laugh out of it and it was pretty interesting, so if you guys want to go back and look at it, most of you guys were mentioned in the article. It’s under councilchronicles.com. So you guys can check that out. I just thought it was pretty funny.

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Is anyone else crying because they have something in their eye?

I am deeply grateful to the mayor for his shout-out at the city council meeting. So much so that I am officially naming London, Ohio as a “Friend of the Chronicles.” With that status, of course, comes the right of prima nocta over all other city councils, plus this trophy.

TROP

Readers, if you ever find yourselves passing through London, remember to stop and give the mayor a pat on the back and a smooch on the cheek. Then gently whisper in his ear, “You’ve been chronicled!”