Potential city council candidates got a heads up this week that regular meetings could start an hour earlier after this fall’s municipal election.
In a split vote councillors agreed to move council meetings back to 3 p.m. following the election, subject to the agreement of the new council.
Mayor Nolan Crouse, the only full-time member on council, put forward the motion and said he hopes an earlier start will give councillors more time to consider what is in front of them.
“I have always had the impression that the later a meeting goes the quicker decisions are made so when you start to get into 8 or 9 p.m. you start to rush through decisions.”
Crouse said he doesn’t want council to make decisions simply because it is getting late.
“I want to make sure we are really thinking through decisions.”
Coun. Gareth Jones and Coun. James Burrows both voted against the proposal.
Jones said moving the meeting time earlier in the afternoon is going to make it more difficult on councillors with full-time jobs.
“It is a bit of a chore making the 4 p.m. right now. To bring it earlier would make it even harder.”
Coun. Len Bracko, a retired teacher, urged council to go even further and push back the start time to 1 p.m., however, that idea received no support.
“We are a mid sized city with a lot of issues and this would allow us to start at a reasonable time with clear thoughts,” said Bracko.
Coun. Lorie Garritty voted against Bracko’s motion because he said that simply took it too far, but he favoured the 3 p.m. proposal.
He said moving meetings back an hour not only helps councillors, but also the city staff who have to attend as well.
“The more that it is during the working hours the more beneficial it is for city staff.”
Garritty said when the city moves to a full-time council an earlier start might make sense, but they are not ready for that move.
Jones said moving council into the afternoon is making it harder for councillors with full-time jobs to participate. Earlier meetings could lower the number of potential candidates this fall, he added.
“It is a part-time council and that means by definition that people who work full-time should be eligible to be part of council,” he said. “If you make meetings earlier in the afternoon you have changed the terms of reference for council.”
Crouse said later starts means a later finish and that might have kept certain people out of the race before who might now be able to participate.
“It might even expand the number of people who can run.”
Any schedule for council meeting is going to preclude some potential candidates from participating in the process, he said.
The next council will have the final say on the matter during its first meeting after the Oct. 18 election.