On Monday January 28, a public meeting was held to accept public input on Council procedures for their meetings. The original changes were suggested by Town Clerk, Brent Larmer but at the Committee of the Whole on January 7, Council made some changes (see report on 8 January – link below). The intent was to then listen to public input and perhaps make further changes and present a final version at the Regular Council meeting on February 4. At the Public meeting, there were 5 written submissions and 5 verbal submissions – details below. Although there were several suggestions to move the Council time for meetings, the bylaw before Council for approval keeps times unchanged. However, the Q & A “forum” will be instituted at every Committee of the Whole meeting.
Although there are a number of changes suggested by participants in the public meeting, I saw no evidence of any being implemented – see below for the bylaw up for approval and details of suggested changes.
Public Meeting suggestions from the Public (summary)
Written (links to full submissions below)
- Council meeting start time should be moved from 4pm to 6pm.
- Concerned that Clerk could still deny permission for a delegation
- Q & A’s at Committee of the Whole should be for an 18 month trial period.
- Council should have the “last say” on approval of contracts. After the Bylaw is passed a contract is prepared but currently Council doesn’t see it before it’s signed.
- Recordings of Council meetings should be kept in perpetuity and not destroyed after 3 months.
- “Electronic” meetings should be allowed – at least for questions and debates if not voting.
- Any delegation should be afforded the opportunity to speak again to Council, if Town Staff comments on the Delegation Submission, directly after Town Staff, in order to clarify any points raised by Town Staff.
- Town Staff should provide Council Members with more than one option to consider for Agenda Items or proposals. This will ensure that a thorough discussion of the topic at hand will occur.
- Council authority to review Contracts should not be limited
- Do not eliminate second confirmation vote at Regular Council
- The minutes of committee meetings should be available within one week – not as long as the four months it has taken in at least one case.
- All department directors must report to Council, through the councillor coordinator, any planned spending, including staff hours spent, in excess of $10,000. For example, sending out the RFP for the Water park would have exceeded this limit.
- Councillors should be restricted from using mobile phones / texting during meetings.
- All motions that warrant a discussion by Council should have a recorded vote. (Items that are “rubber-stamped” such as approving the national day of whatever need not be recorded.)
- When Council asks for a staff report there should be a time limit of 2 months for the report to be completed. Some staff reports that were requested, in the past, were never brought back to Council.
- Meeting start time should be 6 pm. or later.
- Amendment of this procedure bylaw should not require a 2/3rds majority.
- Dennis compliments staff and Council on having all committees open and subject to identical rules.
- Meeting start time should be 6 pm. or later. Public meetings can be held on another day or earlier at 5 pm. Regardless, items from the public meetings should not be on that day’s council meeting agenda.
- The number of delegates to a meeting should not be limited. The clerk should not be the one to decide to postpone or deny a delegation.
- Staff reports recommending an action should include alternatives
- Remove paragraph 19.14 (and 19.39 ii) that states that Council cannot reconsider an action if legal commitments have already been made.
- Allow delegations to speak on a Notice of Motion
- Don’t allow Clerk to choose correspondence for the Agenda
- Don’t implement a confirmatory by-law at a Committee of the Whole meeting that would eliminate the need for a confirming vote a week later at the Regular Council meeting.
- Despite a resolution in Council in May 2018 by Aaron Burchat that Staff should consult the public and report on the conduct of “Public Planning Meetings”, this has never been done but is now section 32 of this procedure. Dennis wanted this section to be considered as a separate bylaw or policy, after the public has had a chance to provide their feedback.
- The Q & A forum should be limited to questions and not comments from the public.
- We need to consider the big picture and the chain of Command
- Bryan compared the Town to a business with the roles and responsibilities for council and “staff” set out in the Ontario Municipal Act. The key ones are to represent the public; to ensure accountability and transparency; to maintain the financial integrity of the municipality;
- Administration has to implement council’s decisions and undertake research and provide advice to council.
- The proposed Procedural Bylaw sets out a wide range of “rules” which for the most part, restrict the Council’s ability to act and after some changes, there remain a number of sections that warrant Council’s attention.
- In the end, there has to be a balance between Bureaucratic rules and Democratic Freedom
Ken Strauss – wanted a staff analysis of proposed actions that they wanted approved. For example, what are the cost benefits of a proposed purchase.
Gigi Ludorf-Weaver (Sustainable Cobourg) – Was ruled off topic with her question. She said that although having sustainability an issue in all committees was good, she questioned whether all members of committees understand “sustainability”.
Warren McCarthy suggested that every time a staff report is requested, a time limit should be specified. Emily supported the idea but asked Warren if there should be a standard time. He said “no”. However, Council agreed with the idea of a time limit but decided that Staff should be asked to set a date that they agreed with.
Kelly (resident of Nickerson Drive) – Said that meeting times were not suitable and agreed with Emily Chorley’s earlier suggestion that Council meetings should be at 6:00pm and Public meetings moved to other days.
Dilys Robertson – wanted an introductory summary of why changes in procedures were needed. She also suggested that pros and cons should be published for all issues.
I see no noticeable difference between the procedure presented to the public meeting on January 28 and the one up for Final approval at the Regular Council meeting on February 4 – but then it’s a long document and I may have missed something.
- Bylaw up for Final approval at Feb 4 meeting
- Bylaw presented to Public Meeting (hosted on Civic Web)
- Revisions to Draft Council Procedural By-Law – 8 January 2019
- Update Proposed for Council Procedures – 3 January 2019
Written Submissions (mostly hosted on Civic Web)