Last week, The Voice requested comment from each Pelham Town Councillor, and CAO David Cribbs, on their views regarding adopting proxy voting. Mayor Junkin, Councillors Stewart and Olson, and the CAO replied. Councillor Wink referred the newspaper to his comments before council on Feb. 1. Councillors Hildebrandt, Haun, and Kore did not acknowledge our request.
Mayor Marvin Junkin
I cannot see a situation where I would ever find myself voting to allow voting by proxy to be adopted by our council. I do not believe that there is a place for proxy voting in any democratic forum, much less a municipal council. I strongly believe that the residents want their elected representatives to be in council chambers debating whatever issue is on the agenda that particular meeting, and hearing whatever points are raised, either for or against, the article before council.
Councillor Marianne Stewart
I am not advocating [proxy voting] as an excuse to not attend meetings. This should only be used in extenuating circumstances, when a councillor is unable to attend, for example a death in the family or unexpected illness. In every meeting there are a number of items to be voted on, some are simply items that need acknowledgment such as receiving correspondence. Councillors don’t simply “show up” for meetings. Once the agenda is published there is a lot of reading to do, and issues to understand. If council decides to allow proxy voting, strict parameters must be put in place to govern its use. It is not to be used frivolously but only for extenuating circumstances. I was somewhat taken aback that some of our councillors immediately rejected the idea without further investigation or consideration.
CAO David Cribbs
The staff report accurately reflects the professional opinion of both the Clerk and CAO. Staff have no further commentary to offer on the issue.
Councillor Wayne Olson
There is such a thing as a leadership presence. I just don’t know how you can lead if you are not present. If one were able to use a proxy, presumably one would give the proxy to a councillor who agrees with you. That smacks of back room dealings and predetermination. Most voters would be offended by the lack of transparency. In principle, I value discussion, disclosure and debate. I do enjoy my role and I am very happy to stand in my place and be accountable. Proxy voting reduces the opportunity and quality of debate and lack of full transparency required for the democratic process.