Council meetings in Oak Bay are poised to shift start times from 7 p.m. to 6.
In a conversation started late last year, and including a fair bit of debate Jan. 24, council agreed to amend its procedure bylaw to have meetings start at 6 p.m. and include regularly scheduled in-camera, or closed, meetings.
The changes were proposed in a bid to streamline scheduling of in-camera meetings, provide more notice of an in-camera session and create earlier finish times for meetings to lengthen the time between the end of one workday and start of the next for council, staff and the public.
Similar to the decision during committee, council was divided on the idea. Couns. Andrew Appleton, Cairine Green and Esther Paterson opposed the move.
“I would like to hear more broadly from the community about what meeting times suit them the best,” Appleton said. He added the focus should be the public, both as attendees and as those contemplating running for council.
Green agreed, suggesting it’s essentially making a decision for a new council, with municipal elections in B.C. set for Saturday, Oct. 15.
Paterson suggested with the variety of participation options presented since the onset of COVID-19 protocols, input on both times and method of public engagement might be warranted.
Coun. Hazel Braithwaite said her decision was based on response to the December town hall meeting that started at 6 p.m. and drew more than 70 attendees. She noted future councils could always rejig the procedure bylaw as needed.
The earlier start time swayed Mayor Kevin Murdoch, who noted how challenging discussions and debates can get as they near 10 or 11 p.m.
Another change adds scheduled in-camera meetings starting at 5:15 p.m. prior to regular council on the second and fourth Monday of each month.
Last year, Oak Bay held 30 in-camera meetings that ran an average of 90 minutes each. Of those, four were 40 minutes or shorter; 20 were 90 minutes or less and 10 were between 2 and 4.25 hours.
With those numbers in hand, council showed concern there will be times 40 minutes isn’t enough to wrap up on a subject. Council can, on an as-needed basis, defer unfinished business during closed meetings to the next in-camera; reconvene following the regular open meeting; or adjourn to another date.
Oak Bay has also set its budget meetings for Feb. 3, 10 and 17.
Find agenda and participation options online at oakbay.civicweb.net.
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