Oak Bay residents will soon have another avenue for voicing their opinions.
Council decided at its May 14 meeting to draft a bylaw allowing public participation at regular council meetings. A staff report showed that nine out of 13 municipalities allow public participation during council meetings, with three limiting speakers to residents and non-resident property owners. All included a time limit on public participation.
Coun. Cairine Green weighed in on the discussion expressing her enthusiasm for the idea. North Saanich, where she was formerly a councillor, includes public discussion at council meetings. “It works well and issues are often resolved at the mike,” she said.
Coun. Michelle Kirby explained that increased public participation is why she got involved in local politics in the first place. “It’s a very valuable thing. I’m excited for it to happen,” she said.
Council members were all positive about the change. “I think it’s a great way to involve the public and give them an outlet to speak to things in the community,” said Mayor Nils Jensen.
Time for public participation will be limited to three minutes per speaker and 20 minutes total. Subject matter need not be on the agenda and speakers will not be limited to Oak Bay residents.
Currently the public may only comment on matters before the committee of the whole, which is made up of council members and meets once a month.