CITY OF KAMLOOPS Coun. Dale Bass has found out that City council meets on Tuesdays during the day, and she wants to change it.
Actually, she knew it all along, from her years as a reporter covering municipal politics.
But now that she is on council, she wants to change the time of meetings to evenings.
Her arguments are sound, in that many people cannot attend the 1:30 p.m. Tuesday council meetings. Most recently, she stated some parents and childcare providers weren’t able to come to a daytime council meeting for a particular issue.
If anyone wants to come to a Kamloops council meeting to make a presentation or ask a question, there is opportunity to do so, but they have to show up on a Tuesday either at 1:30 p.m., or after the 3 p.m. break.
From Bass’ perspective, this is inaccessible for many who work. True enough.
On the other hand, daytime meetings are actually more accessible for many, if they come to council as part of their work duties. That includes many non-profits, government agencies, and businesses. It also includes many seniors or others who don’t work. The RCMP, Interior Health, industries like Domtar, and the United Way, plus the Chamber of Commerce, arts groups, and service clubs all come to the daytime council meetings on a regular basis.
She is correct that some people can’t make daytime meetings. But the same can be said for evening meetings as well.
In Kamloops, council meetings are on Tuesdays. On Tuesdays, council often works a 14-hour day, starting with committee of the whole meetings at 9 a.m. to noon, with a brief break, and then an afternoon council meeting. In some cases, there’s an evening public hearing starting at 7 p.m. That’s what happened on Feb. 5 of this month.
Bass argues that Kelowna has an evening council meeting on Tuesdays. But what Kelowna actually does is to have two council days — Mondays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and then Tuesdays from 6 to 11 p.m.
So in essence, while Kamloops has one very long council day, Kelowna takes two days.
One of Bass’ other arguments is that daytime council meetings make it difficult for City councillors to have a regular full-time job and be on council.
I completely agree. No one should think otherwise. I took a partial leave from my other job the entire time I was on council. Coun. Kathy Sinclair has given up her full-time job as executive director for the Kamloops Arts Council to concentrate on her council duties.
Bass’ argument that it would be easier for people with full-time jobs to be on council ignores the fact that it takes time to be a councillor, and having another nine to five, full-time job is usually not possible.
Bass is ignoring the many other meetings councillors go to besides the weekly council meeting.
There are City meetings Monday to Friday, during the day and in the evenings.
For example, there was the Thursday Feb. 7 evening public budget meeting from 7 to 9 p.m. On Feb. 20, there was the downtown planning meeting in the evening. There are also monthly meetings of five City committees which meet about once a month and which councillors attend.
There are meetings also with Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc and other local First Nations. Council holds yearly multi-day council planning meetings, meetings of regional local governments (SILGA), and provincial meetings (UBCM).
There are individual one-on-one meetings with the public.
And there are public events every day of the week, morning, noon and evening. Saturdays and Sundays are some of the busiest for council, as one or more council members attends numerous community events during the day, and often a dinner (at their own expense) at night.
Every public event I go to, I am sure to see one or more council members. I know others can say the same.
Kamloops City councillors get paid for a part-time job, but in reality it is a full-time, seven-day-a-week, morning-to-midnight gig.
I support Bass’ idea of adding evening council meetings like Kelowna, if she agreed with me that councillors who must be available for meetings and events from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week, should be paid more.
Kamloops City Councillors make about $37,000 per year for their efforts. Meanwhile, Coquitlam councillors make $60,165, Maple Ridge council members get $45,700, and Nanaimo is at $42,692.
Good for Bass for talking about how to make council more accessible for more of the public. I’ll agree with Bass that council meetings could be split over two days and extended to give more public a chance to attend, if she agrees with me that if that is the case, council wages should go up.
Nancy Bepple is a former city councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.