A Kamloops councillor’s motion to move meetings to evenings has led to support, opposition and a desire for more information on the impact of such a move.
Dale Bass, a first-term councillor elected in last October’s civic election, submitted a notice of motion on the matter on Tuesday, a motion that will be on the agenda next week.
The motion specifically asks city staff prepare a report on the feasibility of moving meetings to evenings and that a report be presented to council in time for the March 12 meeting.
“It will make it more public,” Bass told reporters of her bid to move council meetings from the afternoon to evenings. “It will make it more accessible to more people. It will improve our engagement with our public.”
Additionally, she said, night meetings would encourage young people to run for council.
City of Kamloops CAO David Trawin said council meetings have been held on Tuesday afternoons since he began with the city nearly two decades ago, though he does not know why. He said the jurisdiction from which he came, Terrace, held night meeting, noting most communities hold council meetings on Monday nights.
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However, Trawin said public input is generally completed in advance of council meetings, such as at the committee level, noting council meetings are covered by media and live-streamed.
The issue of moving council meetings to evenings has been raised before.
In 2010, Coun. Denis Walsh suggested holding one of council’s meetings in the evening every two months.
That initiative, however, never made it off the ground.
Walsh told KTW that council, administration and the media of the day had no appetite for such a change.
Media reports indicate then-mayor Peter Milobar was wary due to potential costs of keeping staff working at night.
Trawin, however, said costs would be nominal because city managers, who attend the meetings, are on salary. He said the only staffer impacted is the unionized recording secretary and Trawin said night meetings would pay an additional $200 to $300 to that position per meeting, which would amount to about $5,000 annually.
“It’s minimal,” Trawin said.
Back in 2010, council instead agreed to have a spot open for public submissions and delegations following public hearings, which are held in the evenings.
At the time, Walsh called that compromise a “huge improvement for public access” and said he is pleased the issue was resurrected by Bass, noting the new council could feel differently.
“We don’t have our public hearings at 1:30 p.m. in the afternoon and we don’t have any of the other public meetings that we have, like the downtown planning committee,” he said.
“We always respect that the public has a challenge coming to a meeting in the afternoon or morning, so we try to schedule them from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., almost all the time when it involves the public. To me, this is a public council meeting and it should be more accessible.”
Other city councillors who spoke to KTW want more information before forming an opinion on the proposal.
Coun. Bill Sarai said he is “torn.”
As a daytime letter carrier retiring in about two months, he said he has used banked holiday time to attend daytime city meetings. However, he echoed Milobar’s concerns regarding allocating city staff and potential taxpayer impact.
Coun. Kathy Sinclair said she is happy to see the issue raised, but wonders whether moving the meetings would increase public attendance.
She said delegations that appear regularly before council may find it difficult to attend at night. She questioned interest from the public in attending and said many opportunities are granted to provide feedback on council matters.
“It’s a good idea in theory and there’s definitely people who can’t come to daytime events; however, there will probably be an equal number who can’t come to evening events,” Sinclair said.
Coun. Sadie Hunter said the idea is worth exploring.
“As a member of the public, I found it challenging to be able to attend the meetings in person because I work,” she said. “You can often tune in online, but it’s not the same as being there physically. I think there’s definitely room to explore the possibility.”
Coun. Arjun Singh said he supports Bass’ motion as a good first step. He said public accessibility is important, but wants to better understand staff ramifications and how night-time meetings have impacted other municipalities.
“Ultimately, I want to see a staff report,” Singh said.
Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian, meanwhile, said he does not like the idea of evening meetings because he does not think it will increase public participation.
He also labelled as a “tradeoff” councillors working during the day and staff working at night.
Bass’ motion will require another city councillor to second it before it can be discussed in council chambers. It will then require a majority of councillors voting in favour to move ahead with the report.