Changes coming to policy at City Hall

Changes to public meetings include cutting the amount of time given to presentations from the community in half

City council is moving forward with a list of changes to its public meetings, including cutting the amount of time given to presentations from the community in half.

At its Monday meeting, council gave third reading – one step away from adoption – to amendments that will limit how long and when public delegations will appear.

Once approved, the bylaw changes will reduce the current 10-minute time frame given to public presentations to five minutes.

Council would set aside 30 minutes at the beginning of the meeting to listen to as many delegations as possible and if at the end of that half hour there are delegations still left to present, they will be moved to the end of the meeting.

City Clerk Peter Wipper said by moving to that system, it gives council more time to focus on its own business.

“A fundamental tenet of any meeting agenda should be to debate priority issues first,” Wipper said. “This way council has sufficient time to devote to its strategic priorities. Council should not be placed in a position of having to rush important decisions at the end of a meeting because of the time taken by delegations at the beginning of a meeting.”

Wipper added that city staff has reviewed past presentations to council and has come to the conclusion that almost all could easily present and make their requests in less than five minutes.

In an effort to make presentations more efficient, anyone wanting to appear before council will have to complete an application form with their name, the name of the organization their representing and their position in the organization (if applicable), as well as their topic and discussion points, and the action requested of council.

In addition to those time saving measures, council is also attempting to reduce the number of people who absolutely have to address council by not requiring every person who applies for a development permit to present.

Instead, development applicants and/or their representative will only be allowed to address council if city staff is recommending that council deny their land use development application, or it has received some other negative recommendation.

At Monday’s council meeting, council was prepared to sign off on the changes but not before first checking on some of the finer details.

Mayor Andy Adams noted that a section in the bylaw states that, “the city clerk shall set and prepare an agenda of all business to be brought before council at the meeting.”

Adams questioned whether that should instead include the mayor.

“I know this is near and dear to Councillor (Charlie) Cornfield’s supportive comments but it is saying that the agenda, that it is the clerk that provides approval of the agenda and I’m wondering whether that should be the CAO and the mayor?” Adams asked.

Coun. Cornfield agreed.

“Yes, near and dear to my heart is correct,” Cornfield said. “I think yes the clerk should put the agenda together and collate it, I think it should be up to yourself (the mayor), working with the CAO, to approve it. It’s a good system that works. If there’s an urgent matter, I think the mayor should be apprised of it. You are our CEO.”

City Manager Deborah Sargent confirmed for council that what Cornfield said was correct – while it is in the clerk’s job description to prepare the agenda, the mayor still gets to sign off on it.

“That’s a typical duty of the city clerk to actually prepare the agenda, they’re essentially the business agent of the city,” Sargent said. “I think the question you’re asking though, does the CAO and mayor have insight and input into the agenda?

“Absolutely, but it is the city clerk’s function to actually prepare the agenda and all the business to be brought forward to council for the meeting.”

Adams thanked Sargent for the clarification and council subsequently went ahead with approving third reading of the procedural changes.