This is a continuation of my coverage on council's proposed security measures. You can view the last post here.
I've written previously about the need to justify security measures before they're implemented, however my arguments were mostly theoretical in nature. I believe it's important to do everything we can to protect our rights, and any erosion should be clearly warranted.
However, since then administration has released the results of their consultation via the Edmonton Insight Community, and with that data we can easily draw conclusions.
Adding bag searches, and metal detectors to City Hall will have a massive impact on democratic participation
The city's survey was completed by 2,067 people. In administration's summary, they state that "only 20% agreed they would be less likely to participate" if they knew bag searches/metal detection was being performed. The only conclusion drawn from the report is that, therefore, these changes will have minimal impact on participation.
However, I disagreed. In my comments to Executive Committee urging them not to proceed with these measures, I mentioned that it was probable that those 20% of respondents could represent a significant proportion, or even a majority, of the people who actually do participate at council meeting each year.
Using the data in the Open Data Catalogue, and a few pieces of custom software I wrote, I was able to extract the names of all the people who spoke at Council and Committee each year. The 20% of respondents that the city described with the pejorative only, actually represent 80% of the total number of people who participate at City Council annually. 2015 saw the highest participation this council term, and still only had 575 individuals. The number of individuals who said this would negatively impact their participation was 413.
While some councillors like Dave Loken and Mayor Iveson state that the Corporate Security team are the experts and their judgement should be trusted on these matters, that's not the whole story.
The city's security team will only present one side of the argument. It's not their job to protect our democratic processes. It's their job to increase security.
Likewise, it is the job of our city council to provide oversight to the city. Council needs to stop trying to pass the hot potato of this issue back to administration, stand up, take leadership and say no to security theatre.
City Council will put the implementation of these measures to a vote at the Tuesday, March 21st City Council Meeting.