Dear City Clerk: You Never Call…

I’ll try to keep this short, I swear.

Remember that bit in the Cities Act about who the city clerk is supposed to contact if they have questions about the petition? It’s section 107 and I mentioned it in that post about phone calls to petitioners

(4) The petition must have attached to it a signed statement of a person stating:
(a) that the person is the representative of the petitioners;
(b) that the city may direct any inquiries about the petition to the representative;

Okay, so that pretty clearly indicates that if there is anything inquiry-worthy about the petition the city clerk should ask the petition organizers about it. And on every single sheet of the petition there will be a name that the clerk can contact.

Well, I phoned Jim Holmes, the spokesperson for Regina Water Watch, tonight to double check something he’d said at the petition press conference on Friday. Holmes had pointed out that RWW could have provided affidavits to the city clerk’s office indicating that the petition sheets weren’t even printed until late March of 2013.

So, if the clerk had taken section 107 to heart and, seeing those 2,834 signatures without years in them and deciding this was a problem — something “inquiry-worthy” you might say — had phoned up the people who were collecting signatures and, you know, asked about this, they could have had proof in the form of Legal Documents! that showed that, when in doubt, the only possible year petitioners could have meant when writing the date was 2013.

But that isn’t what happened.

Instead, the clerk’s office contacted RWW and merely informed them that they’d be excluding dates without years in them. Holmes says that he emailed back to say that the sheets were made in 2013 so the year should be obvious. But he never heard back and has had no other contact with the clerk’s office.

They only “communicated through the media” from then on, he says. And then, he points out, shortly after that the clerks even stopped communicating with the media.

Which is true. For Prairie Dog, at least. After the interview I did with Joni Swidnicki for the July 11 issue, I attempted to arrange a follow up interview to discuss a few things that came up — some of which I’ve raised in the blog posts I’ve written today. But I was informed by the city’s communications department that the city clerk was not going to be doing any more interviews because everything had been covered already.

Which you could argue wasn’t true seeing as I still had questions.

So there you have it. I could probably find more to write about tonight but I’m out of steam.

Remember, if you’re pissed off about the petition being rejected and want to vent to council or if you’re really happy about that and want to say, “Great job, city clerk, have a trophy,” you can still get on the agenda for tomorrow night’s special council meeting. Briefs have to be submitted by noon Monday to the Office of the City Clerk. Maybe you’ve heard of it?

And at the top of your cover sheet, make sure you date it with the day, month and year, otherwise they could claim they received it a year too late.

Author: Paul Dechene

Paul Dechene is 5’10” tall and he was born in a place. He’s not there now. He’s sitting in front of his computer writing his bio for this blog. He has a song stuck in his head. It’s “Girl From Ipanema”, thanks for asking.

You can follow Paul on Twitter at @pauldechene and get live updates during city council meetings and other city events at @PDcityhall.

5 thoughts on “Dear City Clerk: You Never Call…”

  1. Just an FYI – I was lucky enough to actually get her on the phone one day (can’t remember what day, since the date of the legal action, it seems she’s been instructed only to communicate to me through email), and the excuse used for me was that she wasn’t allowed to talk to anyone outside of City Hall, so she can’t be “unduly influenced”. Uh huh. Whatever Joni! So, I guess when you, the media, want to ask them questions, you are apparently also subjecting her to possible “undue influence”.

  2. In the comment http://www.prairiedogmag.com/city-rejects-rwws-petition/#comment-115281 a few days ago about signers rejected in an Edmonton petition, the rejections are summarized in a table on page 3 in the linked report, such as

    “Number of addresses that are not included or are incorrect … 13,820”

    “Number of signatures excluded because they were signed outside of the 60 days preceding the date on which the petition was filed (received August 26, 2010; first acceptable date June 27, 2010) … 692”

    so they weren’t as fussy about the date there. The quote from the clerk here reported in http://www.newstalk650.com/story/more-petition-problems-between-city-reginaregina-water-watch/117802 was


    “In the act which governs petition in Saskatchewan it states: “the petition must indicate the date on which the petitioner signed the petition.”

    But Swidnicki said there is no real definition of what ‘date’ meant.

    “I went with the definition out of the dictionary which is that it needs to include the day, month, and year.”

    One wonders which dictionary. The two of college size I have handy at home make no mention of year and are content at saying that a date names a point or period in time.

    I’d bet that all of the current councillors have been filing documents, starting with their campaign papers, with less than their full (first / middle / last) legal name.

  3. **WARNING: MATHEMATICAL NITPICKERY FOLLOWS**

    Paul, word on the street is that you are speaking with some mathemagicians about this result. Here’s an important question you should be asking them: “Is it possible to set a 95% confidence interval on a statistic of a population when you can only sample from a subpopulation consisting of 80% of the members of the larger population?” The answer you should receive is: “Well… yes, it is possible, given certain assumptions about the relation of the subpopulation to the whole. Specifically, if the subpopulation is drawn randomly from the larger population or if you have some reason to believe the subpopulation is representative of the larger population then you may be able to achieve 95% confidence intervals. Otherwise, no, not really.*”

    Then, you should ask a social scientist or pollster: “Is the set of people with landlines representative of the population as a whole?” and they will answer: “Absolutely not.” Here’s a fun Nate Silver article: http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/19/obamas-lead-looks-stronger-in-polls-that-include-cellphones/

    *Technically you can, but you need work with extreme values for the portion of the population that can’t be sampled, which leaves you with a very large interval.

  4. I just ran the numbers on my nitpickery from the previous post. Even assuming every single person who was unreachable or unwilling to reply to the City had a valid signature, the upper edge of the confidence interval can only reach 18,848. While I am still uncomfortable with some of the assumptions made by the statistician, the math was not a decisive factor.

  5. Just got off the phone with my mathematician source and that’s his feeling to. I’ll try to write something up in a bit but as far as he can tell, the statistical sample was completely kosher and the petition failed based on the math.

    That doesn’t include the names that were removed because the year was missing though. He can’t comment on that.

    If you throw those names back into your calculations, the petition is completely acceptable.

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