A robust conversation was had in Greater Napanee’s town hall council on April 26 about the possibility of shaking up the way meetings would be conducted in the next term.
A report from town clerk Jessica Walters was the catalyst for the discussion. The report contained a wide range of suggestions for updating how council meetings could operate, some minor, some major. Among the bigger proposed changes was the idea of moving away from a twice a month meeting format, instead to have one working session to discuss ideas and one council meeting to make decisions. The idea of moving from the traditional 7 p.m. start time was also floated, perhaps even adapting a mid-day start time.
Rather fittingly, last week’s council meeting was the perfect example as to the need to explore other options. Counting the time dedicated to close session, the meeting ran over four hours. That can make for a long day for town staff, many of which are coming off a typical 9-5 shift ahead of the meeting. It’s also a hefty commitment for members of council, though meetings are a major part of the job they sought out when campaigning to be elected.
The timing of the proposed changes has its pros and cons as well-just over five months out from the next election one could argue now would be the time to sort this out so as to give any interested candidate an idea of what to expect should they win. On the other hand, as was pointed out at the meeting, some might say it makes more sense for the next council to decide these guidelines because it’s entirely possible that those on the current council making these decisions may not be back next time around. The latter is where we would fall.
Many of these ‘for’ and ‘against’ arguments will likely come up during the special meeting scheduled for May 31. As has been noted, there may not be a right or wrong answer. One thing that should be considered is which setup makes the idea of running for council most appealing to the widest range of potential candidates. Although technically speaking being on council is a part time job, the actual job itself requires a great deal of flexibility on the part of council. Aside from the twice a month meeting scheduling, there are a whole host of other responsibilities that come with the job and they don’t always take place outside of a regular work schedule. If the town were to move forward with planning daytime meetings it could dissuade a host of potential candidates from putting their name on the ballot knowing they’d struggle to be able to attend during traditional working hours. In theory, it could also make the role more appealing to some corners.
Without knowing the backgrounds of the next set of councillors, it would appear that leaving things as if for now would make the most sense. Though the need to re-examine the current structure is clearly there, it might just be a bit too early to open that file.