April 4, 2018 10:04 pm

Peterborough council members take issue with jumbled scheduling, long meetings

New governance model at city hall being questioned by some council members

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Peterborough city council has been working under a new governance model since the new year, but some on council want to go back to the old model.

Council no longer works on a three-week cycle like it had previously, as the new model that was approved in December combines the planning and general committee meetings into one session called the general committee.

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This offers councillors a week off before a regular council session with the goal of allowing further public engagement.

“It was intended to allow for that public interaction, to allow members of the public to talk to staff or council and to obtain further information,” said city clerk John Kennedy.

But some council meetings are turning into marathons.

Take the March 26 meeting as an example — the agenda was stacked with 22 items and prior to the meeting, a closed-door session ran late and set the tone for the rest of the evening.

A pair of planning presentations was followed by three long presentations which ran nearly four-and-half hours.

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Council didn’t get through half of the agenda items before deferring to them to the next council session.

“There is an undemocratic part to long meetings, especially one that was designed for our last meeting when we had The Parkway, PDI, the electoral reform,” said Coun. Dean Pappas. “The important stuff seemed to be at the end and the public need access to these meetings.”

Both councillors Pappas and Gary Baldwin say they are concerned with the length of meetings and have heard the same from some constituents.

“I think most councillors were in agreement that six hours on that night was long enough,” said Baldwin. “And people who were there that night, wanting to talk about PDI, councillor compensation or the election. They would have spent six hours there and never had the chance to hear the councillor discuss these issues.”

There’s an option, if the meetings run long, to move some items to the next session or schedule an additional meeting in the off-week but that hasn’t happened yet.

“The format is still relatively new, as we just started this year,” said Kennedy. “And I think staff continues to endeavour to balance out the timing and number of reports that go forward.”

It would be up to council to direct staff to make changes to the governance model.

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During off-weeks, some councillors have been meeting with the public at city hall or the library to discuss matters in a loose format with no agenda.

Council meets again on Monday night and already, a carryover meeting has been set for April 23.

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