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New start time proposed for city meetings to improve ‘openness’

Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
By Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
December 5th, 2022

You will likely have to hustle out of work a little early to catch the start of city council meetings after the elected officials voted to begin moving to an earlier start time.

City council passed third reading on Nov. 22 on a proposed amendment to the Council Procedure Bylaw that will change the monthly regular and committee-of-the-whole (COW) meeting time from 7 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Council’s previous practice has been to include a special meeting with an in-camera session before every regular and committee-of-the-whole meeting.

The meetings will be split into two sections, noted city manager of Corporate Services, Sarah Winton, with a city manager’s report, council reports, possible staff workshops or education sessions coming at 4:30 p.m., followed by a business portion of the meeting at 7 p.m. — which includes bylaws, requests, staff reports, as well as the regular presentations for COW.

The move was something the incoming mayor requested and had spoken frequently about during the recent municipal election campaign, and had suggested she would implement once the new session began.

Mayor Janice Morrison said there had been some previous difficulty with council’s communication and public perception of when the meetings actually started.

“(W)e need to spend less time in camera and be making sure we are really focussing on the particular sections of the Community Charter which allow us to be in camera,” she said. “If and when they are necessary, in-camera meetings will be held at the end of meetings, not at the beginning of meetings in the hope of keeping them on task and brevity.

“Hopefully, the community will find this a more open and engaging and transparent way of doing business here at the city.”

In a nutshell

The Council Procedure Bylaw sets the foundational parameters around how council meetings operate, noted a city staff report on the amendment, and includes meeting start times as well as what each meeting agenda should include.

The proposed changes include:

• The regular meeting agenda would include, near the beginning, additions of city manager’s verbal report and council reports;

• The committee-of-the-whole meeting agenda would include, near the beginning, additions of city manager’s verbal report, council reports and also workshop/educational session; and

• The bylaw would clarify that council is able to enter into a closed session of council from any meeting of council — regular, special or committee-of-the-whole — consistent with the Community Charter.

Source: Nov. 22 council agenda staff report

The process

Under the proposed framework, council’s regular and committee-of-the-whole meetings would begin at 4:30 p.m. and allow time for the city manager to provide an update on happenings at the city, and also for members of council to update the public on their work.

At the committee-of-the-whole meeting, workshops or educational sessions that have typically been held before council meetings could now be held as part of the committee-of-the-whole meeting.

Council would then recess its regular and COW meetings for the dinner break and resume at 7 p.m. At a regular meeting, council would then handle its business items, while at the committee-of-the-whole meeting it would receive delegations.

Following these items, if necessary, council could then conclude these meetings with an in-camera portion of the meeting.

Source: City staff report, Nov. 22

Categories: General

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