In recent conversations with Sun editors, a few people have questioned whether the residents of Rosser ward should be concerned that their interests were not represented during recent budget deliberations, due to the fact that Coun. Corey Roberts was absent due to an illness.
Roberts told the Sun in 2012 that he suffers from diabetic issues and in the midst of financial difficulties he was experiencing as owner of the former Clancy’s Eatery and Drinkery that year, he had been hospitalized for several weeks. Though we don’t know the full particulars of his current situation, through the grapevine we understand his illness is quite serious, and we at the Sun offer our best wishes to the councillor and his family for a full recovery.
However, to answer the concerns raised with us, under the Manitoba Municipal Act, all councillors are expected to act in the best interests of Brandon citizens as a whole, not just those in their ward. Even without Roberts at the table, ideally council should still consider the impact of its decisions on residents and businesses in his ward.
In practice, that ideal generally held up during last weekend’s special budget meetings, after a motion moved by Coun. Stephen Montague to reduce the annual grant to Renaissance Brandon by $100,000 was roundly defeated.
Nevertheless, Roberts’ voice, vote and expertise were certainly missed during the budget process, as many motions came down to tie votes and prompted the need for Mayor Shari Decter Hirst to break the draw.
According to Brandon city clerk Con Arvisais, Roberts also missed the Jan. 6 regular council meeting and will be absent from Monday’s regular meeting, too. Arvisais said he has completed a report that he will take to Monday’s meeting to ask council to excuse Roberts for two regular meetings in February as well because of his ongoing illness.
Under the Municipal Act, councillors who miss three consecutive regular meetings of council — special meetings don’t count — are automatically disqualified from their elected positions, and must resign their seat, unless they have received permission from council to be absent.
Roberts’ council meeting attendance record for the past year has been very good, save for one missed meeting on Jan. 21, 2013 — and that’s not irregular in the least, as several councillors miss a meeting or two every year for vacations, illness or other reasons.
We can only assume council will act in sympathy with the councillor’s plight.
But for the sake of argument, in the event that Roberts, or any other councillor, decided to step down before their term of office expired, council has the right to decide whether to fill an empty council seat by calling for a byelection. Generally that would happen if there are more than six months left before the next municipal election, but council is not bound by that.
While Roberts recuperates, Arvisais says his fellow councillors and the mayor have pitched in to help answer calls and concerns from Roberts’ constituents, especially those elected officials whose own wards are fairly close to Rosser.
“I suspect the mayor will invite any of the Rosser ward residents to contact (other councillors) —and she may specify the actual councillors, and herself,” Arvisais said.
As per his online profile at Brandon.ca, Roberts is involved in several city committees, boards and community organizations, including the Brandon Municipal Heritage Advisory Committee, the Poverty Committee, the Taxi Appeal Committee, the Building Standards Committee, the Brandon Downtown Development Corporation, and the Brandon General Museum and Archives.
This is on top of holding down a private job, performing his duties as a city councillor, as well as his duties as a husband and father.
In short, he has been a very busy and active member of this community, and clearly has a vested interest in making downtown work.
The stress of such a busy schedule cannot be good for a man in his condition, and if the large responsibilities he has taken on are making matters worse, perhaps he needs to consider stepping back from the fray for awhile so he can focus on his health.
But that’s a decision only he and/or council can make.