EDITORIAL – Council should encourage dialogue with public, not shut it down

(Image: CFJC Today)

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

THERE’S NOTHING UNUSUAL, or wrong, with putting limits on how long members of the public can speak to City council either at regular council meetings or public hearings.

The important thing is to do it for the right reasons, and to do it the right way.

Coun. Dale Bass has a notice of motion coming forward Tuesday to curb the amount of time taxpayers take at the microphone when addressing council. (She is very focused this term with procedural matters.)

Her motion asks for a procedural bylaw amendment to limit speaking times during public inquiries at regular meetings to “five minutes for questions only,” and during public hearings to five minutes with an “option for an additional time once all wishing to speak have been heard.”

So let’s look at that. Five minutes is pretty common in civic governments as a speaking time for public presentations and questions. Kelowna has such a rule. So do Nanaimo, Vancouver and others.

But the justification for putting limits on speaking time shouldn’t be so that complaining council members can punch out of work early.

The proper reason is fairness to the speakers themselves, to make sure everybody gets a fair turn.

Bass’s motion would also continue the practice of restricting questions “to matters relating to the agenda.” As I asked in December, why shouldn’t people be able to stand up and talk to council about anything they like, whether it’s on the agenda or not?

Sometimes, people can speak too long. But mostly, they’re respectful of council’s time.

Even with a limit, the mayor should have the flexibility to allow leeway depending on the issue and the number of people wanting to speak.

And, by the way, some City councils give the public time to speak at all open meetings, including committees.

This Kamloops council could make its mark opening up dialogue with the people it serves. Instead, some councillors seem determined to shut it down.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops, alternate TNRD director and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the opinion website, and is a recipient of the Jack Webster Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award. He can be reached at

About Mel Rothenburger (9489 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

2 Comments on EDITORIAL – Council should encourage dialogue with public, not shut it down

  1. Dialog is welcomed before an election, not after the candidate wins.

  2. Well said MR.
    She has taken the role of a domineering figure emboldened by many others on council who seem (disturbingly so in my opinion) content with the “flow” despite all those campaign promises. Bass went from a champion for rational and open discourse (her time at a local newspaper was punctuated with remarkable writings in my opinion) to her newfound role in pointless posturing and petulance.

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