Windsor City Hall Photo Jon Liedtke Windsor City Hall Photo Jon Liedtke

March 2023
Rose City Politics
Biz X Magazine

For March 2023, Rose City Politics investigates — with the assistance of two new panelists — if council committee composition reflects the community we live in and how decisions of committees impact decisions of council in many cases.

Jon Liedtke

Jon Liedtke

Ultimately, like a budget, city council committee composition comes down to the priorities of your elected representatives.

Don’t feel represented? They didn’t think you were a priority.

See one group over-represented? That’s the priority. What more is there to say?

Jon Liedtke is a fill-in on-air host for AM800 CKLW, Co-host and Producer of Rose City Politics, a member of the Canadian Association of Journalists and SAG-AFTRA, and plays trumpet in Windsor’s The Nefidovs.

Melinda Munro (Melinda Munro)
Melinda Munro

Melinda Munro

After every election, City Council gets the opportunity to appoint members of the community to Agencies, Boards and Commissions/Committees (ABC).

These ABCs do a few different and important things.

Some are required by statute (i.e.: Committee of Adjustment, Windsor Utilities Commission, the Windsor Accessibility Advisory Committee); some are required by contracts (e.g.: Windsor Essex Community Housing Corporation, Your Quick Getaway (YQG), Windsor-Detroit Tunnel Corporation); and some are volunteers who provide expertise or advice (e.g.: International Relations Committee, Diversity Committee).

Also, it should be noted that some exercise completely independent authority, (i.e.: Windsor Police Services Board, Windsor Utilities Commission) and others are merely advisory (e.g.: International Relations).

Choosing the members of these ABCs is very important.

In all cases members should have expertise, a commitment to the work and broad reach into the community. They are exercising authority delegated from elected officials. They represent us, the taxpayers and voters.

I want to congratulate those who applied and were appointed. However, it would be remiss not to point out that of the 57 appointments made in January only 11 were women. Fewer than 20%.

Windsor has been called out, over and over, as a difficult place to live and work as a woman and here we go again.

It is entirely possible that women did not apply for these jobs. One thing we know from work done on women’s participation in politics is that the environment is not welcoming or conducive to women’s lives. But it is at the committee level that people are mentored into future roles as elected and appointed officials. We are missing opportunities.

I know of at least three very capable women that applied and were not appointed to any of these ABCs.

I trust that all of them will be very outspoken and engaged through this term of council anyway.

However, their voices would have been so much more effective and useful to all of us on the inside rather than always on the outside!

Melinda Munro is a Windsor consultant who works with local governments and not for profits on strategy and service excellence. 

Kiemia Rezagian
Kiemia Rezagian

Kiemia Rezagian

The City of Windsor’s ABC appointments happen in private — they shouldn’t and they don’t have to.

The private process risks community trust in a fair, democratic process, and excludes the public from decisions that influence their lives and dollars.

City Council plays an important and challenging role. While many people have one focus area at work, Councillors have many — from how to plan our streets and buildings, to public transit, to policing, to waste and recycling management, to name just a few.

Within each of those focus areas are many considerations — expenditures, community consultation, accessibility, and diversity, among others. With so much to focus on, Councillors can’t be experts in everything.

This is why Agencies, Boards and Commissions/Committees (ABCs) are important — they provide expert advice.

Yet in some instances, ABCs have independent decision-making power.

There lies the conflict: ABCs are made up of citizens appointed by Council, so there is a risk of politics and bias informing appointments. In Windsor, appointments are made in private.

Non-elected individuals are appointed by non-expert politicians and can exercise great power over public spending and public services.

Without seeing how decisions were made, how can the public trust that the appointment process was fair and representative? Or that Council chose the best people for the job, with little bias?

The public expressed frustration with the recent round of appointments.

In the case of the Police Services Board, the community is asking why Council didn’t appoint a Black or Indigenous person whose community is disproportionately targeted by policing, when numerous qualified candidates applied.

In the case of the Development and Heritage Standing Committee, individuals with decades of experience and international recognition were not re-appointed.

The public deserves to know that these roles were replaced by people with equivalent expertise or different and valuable perspectives.

This is not how it has to be — the Town of Tecumseh holds a public process and posts it to YouTube. The public can see the names of all the applicants, hear Council’s discussion, and see how they vote.

You’ll hear Councillors disclose conflicts of interest — instances where their family or friends have applied.

This is not unique to Tecumseh — the City of Kitchener also holds a public live-streamed meeting, and the City of London publishes minutes detailing who applied for each committee and how Council voted.

Windsorites deserve the same transparency.

Kiemia Rezagian is a community advocate who focuses on fair access to decision-making and meaningful community engagement. She is a program director at the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE).

This article first appeared on Biz X Magazine