Changes in Council Meetings

With a “Governance Review” planned, it would be easy to overlook the multiple changes in Council meetings that have already happened.  If governance is changed, it would mean that several committees would be set up instead of the single Committee of the Whole so Council Meeting Agendas (and schedule) would look quite different.  But even before that, there have been a number of changes to meetings.  Some were no doubt due to the Covid disruption, others are likely at the request of the new Mayor and one (unfinished business) is directly related to the planned Governance change and strategic Planning sessions.  They didn’t all get changed at once; they happened over many months. But since I report on all Council meetings, I have noticed.

Details of Changes

  • All meetings are hybrid – that is, attendance for Councillors, staff and presenters can optionally be in person or remote by Zoom.
  • Councillor reports are not focused on “portfolios” since Councillors are not assigned Coordinator roles.  They have mostly become reports on what Councillors did since the last meeting.
  • The mayor, who represents Cobourg on County Council, has been reporting on County activities – unlike previous mayors.
  • The “Moment of Reflection” at regular Council meetings has been quietly dropped.  This was introduced in 2015 to replace recitation of the Lord’s prayer!
  • The Agenda item for correspondence has moved up to nearer the beginning of the meeting and the quantity of letters has increased to more than 20 from about 6 a year ago.  Most letters are copies of letters from other Ontario Councils asking for support for something they are concerned about.
  • Every Council meeting now starts with a closed session before the regular meeting – previously it was occasional and at the end of Council meetings.
  • There is no review of unfinished business and no list is available.  So there is no tracking of actions that Council asked staff to do.  And no priorities are set or reviewed although that’s intended to come from the Strategic planning session now planned for later in June (27 and 28th).
  • There are improvements in efficiency – many items are grouped together into a “Consent Agenda” and voted on as one item (e.g. for accepting items of correspondence).  Councillors often move contentious items out of the group for separate consideration.
  • Recorded votes seem to be more common.  Most votes are based on a show of hands and declared passed or defeated by the Mayor.  Recorded votes require each councillor to verbally say yes or no.
  • An open Forum has been established for Committee of the Whole (CoW) meetings although it is rarely used.  This allows residents to ask any question of Council at the end of CoW meetings.

More on Governance

As a result of the Delegation by Ben Burd, the process for reviewing Governance has been clarified.  The first step has been public consultation. With that complete (survey closed May 29), an ad hoc committee of staff and Councillors will create a final report/recommendation and present it at a special Council meeting on 19 June (although this meeting has not yet been scheduled).

Summarizing: Council meetings have changed and are somewhat more efficient – but further major changes are possible as a result of Governance changes. So, do we need to make any more changes to Council meetings?

Resources

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14 Comments
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ben
8 months ago

John – looking at the meeting schedule for June there is a Public Meeting planned for 5pm:

Monday, 19 June 2023 @ 5:00
PMCPS Corporate Services Board Room,
2nd Floor, Venture 13
739 D’Arcy Street,
Cobourg

Without a title one can only speculate if this is the “Governance” public meeting.

If it is, it makes for even more speculation about the way this subject is being handled. I can never recall a Council’s public meeting being held in an obscure location like V13. I bet the majority of the Town’s public don’t even know where this location is. <sarcasm>If that is the case it is a perfect location for a major meeting on how we change our Governance system.</sarcasm>

Last edited 8 months ago by ben
Miriam Mutton
Reply to  ben
8 months ago

hi Ben,

Thank you for posting this information.I am looking into this matter for clarification.

Update edit 12.10pm: There is reported to have been a technical issue with the meeting calendar which has now been corrected. An official Town news bulletin with details about the public meeting on governance is expected to be issued later today.

Last edited 8 months ago by Miriam Mutton
ben
Reply to  Miriam Mutton
8 months ago

thanks Miriam

ben
Reply to  Miriam Mutton
8 months ago

So I see:
COUNCIL: The Town of Cobourg Legislative Services Department would like to invite all members of the public to attend a Public Meeting regarding the Governance Review on Monday, June 19, 2023 at 5 pm. in the Council Chambers at Victoria Hall.
Council will review all comments submitted through the Community Engagement process, including those received at the Open House. Council will then provide staff and the Governance Review Working Group with direction to continue with the next steps of the Governance Review process.

There is reported to have been a technical issue with the meeting calendar which has now been corrected.”

I will take this at face-value!!

ben
8 months ago

” With that complete, an ad hoc committee of staff and Councillors will create a final report/recommendation and present it at a special Council meeting on 19 June

I will make the point I made two weeks ago – if this process happens whatever the public says will be up against a fixed position taken by Staff/Cllrs.

So why have a public meeting if a report has been made before listening to the public? And Council wonders why they say that they never hear from the public!

The public meeting will be a farce and people should say so – after all Council has asked for our opinion.

Last edited 8 months ago by ben
ForeverYoung
Reply to  ben
8 months ago

They have a public meeting to say that they had a public meeting. It doesn’t mean that they listen, or even take anything under advisement from the public. Happens everywhere. I have always said the same “why bother with the public meeting when you are going to do what you want anyway”, or better yet, as to your point a decision has been made but we will appease the public by pretending we care. OMG I could go on. Sorry.

Keith Oliver
Reply to  ForeverYoung
8 months ago

Forever Young

The kind of cynicism you express, summed up in your belief that Council does what it wants to do regardless, is more than unfortunate, it’s tragic.

We elect individuals to represent us at established intervals. They bring their experience, their ability to accept (or not accept) new ideas, and to take action (or not take action). They hear more evidence than any of their electors do. That’s the reality of the democracy we’re privileged to live in.

Be critical, offer alternatives, but be respectful, especially of the instruction, and keep your cynicism to yourself! Democracy is fragile. Our neighbours to the south are providing an example of the damage that disrespect and abuse can do.

ForeverYoung
Reply to  Keith Oliver
8 months ago

All governments do what they want in the end. We just have to look at what’s going on in our Province. I will apologize tho for being such a cynic, and I will absolutely give our local Council a chance to do what is right because in the end hopefully they will do just that within the best of their ability. We all want what’s best for the town.

Dave
Reply to  ForeverYoung
8 months ago

The Conservatives won a majority if that is what you are referring to unlike other governments that are propped up and should have one party eliminated – like two parties are exactly the same and holding everyone hostage. One cynic statement replacing another without logic.

Bryan
Reply to  Dave
8 months ago

Dave,
The Ford Conservatives “won a majority”. Indeed!!
Please advise us how getting 16% of the eligible votes is a majority.
40% of the eligible voters voted, and of those, 40% voted for the conservatives. That’s 16% of the available total.

John Draper
Reply to  Bryan
8 months ago

It’s a stretch that a discussion of the Provincial election is on topic. Please stay on topic which is about how council meetings are organized and governance.

Dave
Reply to  Bryan
8 months ago

Interesting. So few people taking their civic duty seriously. Still the people that did counted in the majority of voters. The others stayed home.
On this topic the public is invited to learn further.
It would be most interesting if each person contributing here stated whether they voted in the last Town election. If they didn’t vote they shouldn’t be complaining.

Newbie
Reply to  Keith Oliver
8 months ago

Part of living in a democracy is having the freedom to express your opinions, regardless if you feel they are cynical.

I see no disrespect in ForeverYoung’s rightful opinion.

Bill Thompson
Reply to  ben
8 months ago

It’s early days for this new counsel so let’s give it a chance shall we and observe, rather than speculate because of past governance performances and then respond with current facts.
The interpretation of assumption “It makes an ass out of you as well as me”..still applies today.