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Drag queen Betty Confetti's book reading for kids in Orange triggers a demand for change

September 28, 2023

By Peter Holmes

"Controversial" events in Orange should be voted on by councillors before being approved, according to a motion to be moved by councillor Steve Peterson at next Tuesday night's meeting (October 3, 2023).

Peterson's motion is in response to council hiring drag queen performer Betty Confetti to perform in Orange. On Saturday September 2, Confetti read a book to children at Orange Library, and then hosted a trivia and bingo night.

"The recent Rainbow Story Time event paid for by Council has generated a variety of opinions within the community," reads the background to Peterson's motion.

"As the elected community representatives it is the role of councillors to vote on controversial events not unelected staff members."

Peterson said that an email was sent from staff director Scott Maunder to councillors on August 2, 2023 to inform them the Rainbow Story Time event would occur.

"He was informing Councillors as he deemed ‘sensitivities around this type of activity’," said Peterson's background to the motion.

"This demonstrates to me that events can be identified as controversial and the director saw that informing council was important".

Peterson's motion to be put to councillors on Tuesday night reads: "That Council events that are likely to be controversial be voted upon by Councillors prior to being approved."

"As I have not received any similar communication from Council staff before, it suggests the number of events that would be needed to be voted on would be minimal," the background states.

"A democratic system relies on the community being able to submit concerns to their representatives, for representatives to be able to vote, and then be judged on their performance at an election."

Peterson said that "councillors, not staff, are the ones the community should be expressing any concerns they have towards".

He said it "isn't right for councillors to be held responsible for something they did not approve".

"Dismissing community concerns without having a debate is not what this chamber is collectively paid about $400,000 a year to do.

"Discussing some controversial events in a public forum may not be appropriate so could be held in closed meeting or online. I’m sure we could find a way to discuss events appropriately as mature adults if we desired to."

The staff response to Peterson's motion and background states: "Staff will need to alert the CEO to matters that may be controversial and he will need to decide as such. Councillors will need to understand that this method will not always be perfect and may lead to excess reporting."

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