Council Time and Format Changes

Mar 17, 2023 | Miscellaneous, Policies, Masterplans | 5 comments

On Monday, March 20 council agenda there is a very important report proposing significant modifications to how council meetings will be managed. Many are procedural details but there are two which are significant which will have a clear impact on the public in terms of participating in council meetings. First, effective April 3, council meetings will be hybrid i.e. public or council can participate remotely or in person at the municipal centre. Secondly, effective same date council meetings will be on Tuesday beginning at 2:00 PM. I will appreciate hearing from you as to your perspective about these changes and any of the other changes you can read about in the staff report.

I anticipate unanimous support for moving to the hybrid meeting format. As reviewed in the report the public will be able to make deputations in person or from a remote location.  For the latter it can be done in different ways including the current process (using telephone)  but also there will be the option of either video conference or audio teleconference.

I anticipate that there will be mixed reviews about the move of council meetings to an afternoon as the selected time for any event is never great for everyone. As reviewed in the report there are numerous benefits to the new time.   I for one agree totally with the point that participants will be more alert in a 2 pm afternoon meeting which might extend to 6 PM as opposed to the current situation where the meeting starts at 6:00 PM and extends sometimes to 10:00 PM.  I also agree that the timing is right for making this change as generally most people have become more digitally adept in terms of communication channels; many people have adopted very different work schedules.  Furthermore, more persons and more households have much greater Internet capability and hence the option of participating remotely will be of value. My only concern is the speed with which the change will be made as it is proposed to be effective April 3rd.  I also question weather there should be a limitation on frequency of a council member participating remotely.  The bylaw identifies restrictions on council members being absent without supportive resolution from council; should there be something in this vein about not participating in person.

I am supportive about moving to a more simple process of a Council meeting model and eliminating the  Committee of the Whole. As reviewed in the report the current structure can be very confusing.  I will be asking Staff and my Council colleagues to comment on what will be lost by adopting the new proposed structure.

Finally, I am very pleased about the additional time public and Council will have for reading reports prior to Council meetings.

As always , given our current Council meeting model by noon on March 20 you can e-mail [email protected] to express your opinion of the changes or ask questions and it will be forwarded to Council members; and you can also register with clerks to make a deputation.  And/or please let me know by contacting me or making a comment on this blog.

5 Comments

  1. Nancy Hopkinson

    Thank you Debbie for making us aware of these proposals.

    The Council members should be able to be viewed if they are on Zoom. It is not good when the Council member turns off the camera. Turning off the camera when the Council member is on Zoom should be banned. We need to be able to see that our Council members are engaged in each discussion and not falling asleep, or eating pizza or going for a walk.

    As far as changing back to afternoon meetings, I dislike that idea intensely. Years ago, we fought long and hard to get Council meetings in the evenings. Certain professions like teachers cannot attend afternoon meetings, even if they are really good at Zoom normally. Mayor Black predicted that no one would come to evening meetings, but she was wrong. Lots of people came. Not many people used to come to the afternoon meetings, as most people were working.

    As far as eliminating Committee of the Whole meetings, I have been wondering why the Council bothered with this farce. The whole point of the Committee of the Whole meetings was to give people a chance to rethink their position on a topic and ratify the decisions or change their minds at the next Council meeting, which would be held in 2 weeks time.

    As far as giving the public and Council members more time to study the reports… that could easily be remedied by having the reports come out a day earlier.

    Reply
    • Debbie

      Hi Nancy, I believe your point about the need for a Council member participating electronically to be visible on the screen is addressed in the draft bylaw. See 5.5 1 a) ” electronic participants will only count towards Quorum when visible on screen.” page 17 of 40. I appreciate your comments about the transition to evening meetings; acknowledging the history is important.

      Reply
  2. Bruce Craig

    Debbie, thank you for this opportunity to share various viewpoints on the proposed changes to Council Meeting times, formats and other related details.
    I support moving to a Council only Agenda. This will simplify the process for many members of the public, and I can see this will save a little time in each meeting rather than moving int o COW and then re-convening into Council to essentially rubber stamp what had just occurred in COW.
    Tuesdays make sense to me to allow more time for preparation for Council, staff and the public. There will be more time for Council to read submissions sent in at noon on Mondays. And I very much support the change to posting agendas on Wednesdays before a Council meeting rather than on Thursdays.
    The 2:00 p.m. time is beneficial in a number of ways. Meetings will be happening in a time of the day when most people will be more alert. For staff and consultants the 2:00 meeting will start within regular work hours. However, there will be a number of people with daytime jobs who will not be able to attend the meetings either in-person or virtually. Teachers are a prime example.
    I have mixed views on the hybrid format. I believe there are several benefits in having all members of Council present in-person together. I’m thinking also that for an in-person deputant or speaker that this person can focus on all members of Council in the front of the Council chambers, rather than having one or two on screens. The hybrid format does allow for participation of people who may be ill, encountering severe weather for travel, or may be in another location for a variety of reasons. For members of Council who have connected on-line it is very important to maintain their camera on for the meeting. Council members are public officials who have been elected by the public, and a Council meeting is clearly a central public event for the business of the municipality is discussed. I’ll close my comments here and I look forward to hearing from others.

    Reply
  3. Ian Hilley

    Thank you for sharing the new by law re Council mtgs

    There is much to laud in the proposals

    Many voices sought early Re adoption of in person mtgs with public in attendence. So that there will Be hybrid mtgs with in person attendance possible is a good initiative.

    The end of the arcane Council of the whole mtg is also good

    The lengthening of the time to review papers coming to council is also good. This should be benchmarked against the practice in other municipalities

    The need to submit requests to present & content of presentation on a topic ahead of a council mtg is reasonable for vitual attendees but NOT for in person attendees – they should be permitted to sign in to speak on the day of any council mtg- this is important

    There is a naïveté & overblown assumption that everyone who wants to participate in Council mtgs at 2pm can even in a post Covid world. Many people who wish to engage with Council are working during the day regardless of flexible hours- Tuesday is typically the first day of “at work attendance” for many businesses which can work flexible hours- still many cannot eg. Construction, education, healthcare, home care – the idea of 2pm on a Tuesday displays an insensivity that often only government can display . Remember most deputants are not remunerated for their time- it is not their job. .

    The proposal is void of any data on best practices employed by councils with respect to best creating engagement with communities. What is happening elsewhere?

    Is Tuesday at 2pm for hybrid just as poor as Monday at 6pm for vitual meetings – what has been the range of attendance during the period during which council mtgs have been virtual.

    If king truly wants to see public engagement with Council increase accessibility to Council meetings in person needs needs to be after most people wrap up a days work.

    I note that many civic events are held in the evenings to enable accessibility to the public- eg., art displays, open houses- why would the most important civic events ie., Council mtgs not be treated similarly

    Precovid we would not have had this conversation.

    I have been grateful to the Council & staff of their willingness to be present at evening mtgs in the past & will continue to be so in future.

    Should the Council ignore the advocacy above & see fit to institute mtgs at 2pm on Tuesday’s then it should be for a trial period to the end of this year ie., reviewed in the fall. There should be a sunset clause after no more than 2023 within the bylaw before meetings at 2pm on Tuesday become the norm.

    Thank you for enabling me space to provide positive & critical comments.

    Sincerely

    Ian Hilley

    Reply
  4. Cathy Wellesley

    * The movement (finally) to a hybrid meeting format for the public is welcomed. (Surprisingly, King is not the last municipality to convert; Georgina is still ‘virtual only’ according to their website). The option to participate virtually by either video conference or audio teleconference is great. My strong view is that all Council members (and selected staff) be required to appear ‘in-person’; except in the case of illness or personal/family emergency.
    * Transitioning from C.O.W. to Council Meetings sounds like a smart idea. I always found it confusing.
    * Advancing the agenda to Wednesday from Thursday also sounds like a good idea. It always seemed tight to me.
    * Changing the Council and Public Planning Meetings to Tuesday at 2 p.m. is a tough one. While there’s good rationale in support of day-time meetings, the reality is that it will exclude a large segment of the population (those who work daytime). At the same time, the day-time schedule seems to have become standard across the other municipalities in York Region. At this time, only Aurora seems to still have evening only meetings. Vaughan, Markham, Newmarket, East Gwillimbury all have afternoon council/public meetings; Richmond Hill has scheduled morning meetings; and Whitchurch-Stouffville and Georgina have a mix of both evening and morning meetings.
    * There are two issues that I think are critical to the well-being of public engagement that are not addressed in these proposed format changes. (1) I believe it’s completely unacceptable that webcasts/videos of council meetings are only retained for 14 days from the date of the council/public meeting! This is outrageous and completely out of line with every other municipality in York Region. While the number of months or years of archived broadcasts varies across the other municipalities, they are all well beyond what King does. Especially when moving to afternoon meetings, it’s even more important for the public to have easy access to the videos of meetings they may have missed. Only fourteen days is ridiculous! (2) In the theme of openness, transparency & accountability, I would like to see King attach all ‘original’ written communications and all the deputations/presentations by citizens to the Agendas along with a video link attachment to the Minutes. This should be a very straightforward and an easy administrative thing to do. Markham, Georgina, Newmarket, Whitchurch-Stouffville, and Vaughan all offer excellent varying examples of this. Newmarket is probably the best model.

    Thanks!
    Cathy Wellesley

    Reply

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