By DIETER DUDY
Kamloops City Councillor
DO WE OR do we not want to see council agendas released earlier than they currently are?
Council receives their meeting agenda early Friday afternoons. This allows council almost four days to prepare for the meeting the following Tuesday. The issue is that the weekend doesn’t allow for staff consultation as council has been requested to limit their staff contacts to an emergency only basis.
The argument is that leaving only Monday for consultation may well be inadequate as staff may not be able to respond to concerns or clarification in a timely manner.
Coun. Walsh feels that agendas should be made available on the Wednesday following Tuesday’s council meeting. This not only allows individual councillors the opportunity to more fully understand the items that will be discussed but also allows the public and the media more opportunity for questions and input.
Nothing is ever quite that simple though. While I agree that there are some development issues that have been in the works for some time and an early release of information to council would be of great benefit, I also realize that much of what appears on the next agenda comes as a result of what was discussed at the previous day’s council meeting.
This does not allow staff enough time to adequately consult with each other, write the necessary reports and actually create the agenda. It should be noted that items sometimes are added to the agenda after it has been published; I would hazard a guess that by going to a much earlier agenda we would see more items added before the scheduled meeting leaving us with much the same situation that currently exists, (a reduced period of study time).
What would likely happen then is that these items would be held back and placed on a future agenda. This would effectively slow down the process.
A compromise was put forward in that agendas could be received by council on Thursdays allowing for an extra day of consultation before the weekend. This would also provide staff with an extra day to complete the agenda in its entirety while still leaving room for some supplemental additions.
It should also be noted that if council feel they don’t have an adequate amount of information on any given item and feel that it would be imprudent to deliberate, they can always direct staff to come back with a more comprehensive report.
I would also, however, support a Thursday release as it does allow for that extra consultation day. Though, I would prefer that those items that can be released to council early, (certain development applications etc.) be released.
The remaining items that require little consultative work or come in later can be given to council when the agendas are available for viewing. From a public engagement perspective, I believe the more pertinent information the public has the better.
It should be noted, however, that most agenda items that concern the public are items that generally are referred to a public hearing. This allows them a minimum of one week to consult with council, etc. regarding proposed developments or bylaw changes.
So is this the hill that council should die on? Would receiving the agendas earlier make for more informed decision making? Would postponing items for a week or more impact us positively or negatively?
As I said before receiving agendas on Fridays has never been an issue for me but receiving it earlier certainly can’t hurt either.