By Trevor Busch
Taking a shot across the bow at the local media, Coun. Jack Brewin would like future news stories to reflect why a town councillor was absent from a previous meeting.
During the council requests portion of the June 12 regular meeting, Brewin explained his recent absence from a meeting in late May had been due to town business.
“I would just like to let council know that the reason I was absent from the last meeting (May 23) is I was on town business in South Dakota looking at fire trucks. I was absent because I was working for the town in South Dakota. Very good trip, saw how fire trucks are built from the ground up, at no expense to the town — it was out of my pocket and my personal expenses. It was well worth it.”
Although this information has only rarely been recorded at any previous council meeting, Brewin was critical of the local media for not providing an explanation for a councillor’s absence.
“But when I read the paper (The Taber Times), I see ‘Councillor Brewin absent, councillor whoever absent.’ Usually there’s a good reason we’re absent. It comes across in the paper that we’re just absent. I’d like to see an explanation sometimes as to why we’re absent. We’re here to serve the community, and when I read just a councillor’s absent, I don’t like that. People ask why you were absent, and you explain it to them, then they understand. So that’s also something I’d like the paper maybe to note, sometimes why councillors are absent.”
From an editorial perspective, councillor absences are recorded in order for a reader to determine the numbers involved in a specific vote, as well as the fact that a councillor did not attend the meeting.
It is not common practice for the media to provide an explanation for why an individual councillor did not attend. However, this information is sometimes officially recorded in the minutes of a council meeting.
When questioned on the issue, CAO Cory Armfelt declined to comment on the editorial practices of the local media.
Coun. Randy Sparks, on the other hand, agreed with Brewin’s assessment while suggesting councillor absences are often noted by members of the public.
“Councillor Brewin brings up a good point, because generally, council members just won’t miss council because they don’t want to be here. Generally, there is a reason for them not being here. It certainly could be noted why, because generally the mayor knows why they’re not here, and that they’ve asked to be able to miss. That is a very good point, because I’ve had comments before, ‘So and so has missed this many meetings this past year.’ So people do pay attention to it.”
Making reference to recent health-related issues which prevented him from regular attendence at council meetings in 2016, Brewin asserted he was still working for the betterment of the community.
“Especially in my situation, I missed a couple meetings, I was a little sick. But I was online, I was checking the minutes of every meeting. I was absent here in person, but I was watching, I was engaging with other councillors here when I was in Edmonton. So I’d appreciate a reason why, because I think the public perceives it as you’re absent because you were not there. You don’t know why you’re not there. There’s good reasons for councillors to be absent, because we’re all here because we want to be here.”