Kamloops council has directed city staff to investigate and report back by the end of June on the feasibility of moving regular council meetings from earlty afternoons to late afternoons or early evenings.
Council meetings are now held Tuesday afternoons at 1:30 p.m. in chambers at city hall.
Coun. Dale Bass made the notice of motion, intent on making the city’s decision-making process more accessible to the public.
“We don’t get a lot of people here because they’re at work,” Bass said.
The discussion has come up in the past, with Coun. Denis Walsh suggesting nine years ago one meeting per month be held in the evenings. The idea, however, never made it past the conversation stage.
This past Tuesday, council showed more of an appetite to at least learn more about the possibility.
Walsh called the idea long overdue after his initial efforts in 2010, noting between 50 and 100 people attend the city’s evening open houses.
“If we built it, they will come,” he said.
Also in favour of having staff report back were councillors Sadie Hunter, Arjun Singh, Kathy Sinclair and Bill Sarai. They were not singing the benefits of night meetings, but simply want more information. Singh said beginning of council’s four-year term is a good time to investigate such initiatives.
He suggested exploring the impacts of night meetings in communities that host them.
“Are more people actually in the gallery? Those are things I’d like to know before I make a decision,” he said.
Sarai doubted the public desire for night meetings while raising concerns related to time and space. He said he did not hear a call for night meetings while on the campaign trail last year and noted that if meetings began at 7 p.m., they could wrap up at midnight. Sarai also note that council chambers are not capable of seating a large number of people.
While Sarai voted in favour of having staff report back, he told KTW he does not expect to be voting in favour of night meetings.
Coun. Dieter Dudy questioned whether delegates could make it to evening meetings, adding that a councillor’s day starts early and ends late. He said the public expects the best of councillors.
“Quite frankly, I’m at my freshest in the morning,” he said.
Mayor Ken Christian, meanwhile, said the public has ample opportunity to speak to council “more richly” at town halls, public meetings and open houses.
Councillors Bass, Hunter, Sarai, Sinclair, Singh, Walsh and Mike O’Reilly voted in favour of having staff report back, while Christian and Dudy were opposed.
A varied response