City looking at reducing time limit given to council presenters

City staff are recommending council make changes to how it conducts its public meetings, including cutting the amount of time allocated for presentations from the community.

City Clerk Peter Wipper said with the amount of delegation requests on the rise, more stringent regulations need to be in place to accommodate all of the applications.

“The increasing number of delegations appears to indicate that the general public is becoming more aware of and more involved with its local government,” Wipper said.

“That’s good news. It does, however, present a challenge because of the amount of time taken by delegations at the beginning of each meeting.”

Wipper said for a single meeting it’s not unusual these days to have more than five delegation requests, be it from an organization, developer, or an individual wanting to make a presentation to council.

With each delegation allotted 10 minutes to present, that reduces the amount of time that council has to address its own business.

Wipper said that restricting delegations to five minutes, instead of 10, would mitigate that problem.

“After reviewing past presentations, it was apparent that almost all delegations could present their information and make their requests in less than five minutes,” Wipper said.

“Many cities, including Victoria, limit delegations to five minutes; in fact some cities, such as Hio, Hawaii limit delegations to three minutes. Kelowna goes further by not allowing any delegations at their council meetings and only permitting them at COW (committee of the whole) meetings.”

Wipper is also suggesting that council consider moving delegations to the end of the meeting, with exceptions given to those presenting on an issue that is on the agenda and is to be considered by council.

“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.

Other changes recommended by Wipper include not allowing late delegations except in exceptional circumstances and delaying making decisions on a delegation’s request until the next council meeting, so as to avoid making a snap decision.

Finally, Wipper is recommending that delegates be required to fill out a form and put their intentions in writing.

“This application form would help to reduce the number of questions and allow council to better research the issue ahead of time,” Wipper said.

City council received Wipper’s recommendations at its last committee of the whole meeting but voted to defer making any decisions until its next committee meeting.