City council meetings will have a different look when the calendar flips to 2021, as the City of Lethbridge implements a new scheduling system and governance model.
This week’s city council meeting was not only the last meeting of 2020, but also the last meeting to take place on a Monday.
Over the last number of years, city of council has met every other Monday, and gathered as the community issues committee on the alternating Monday. But after a unanimous vote on Nov. 2, that will change in the new year.
“I think the public will notice that our meetings will be on Tuesdays now instead of Mondays,” said Coun. Belinda Crowson.
“And if you got accustomed to the community issues committee meetings — those CIC meetings — those will no longer be in existence, because that work has been divided between all of the standing policy committees.”
The standing policy committee (SPC) governance model will take effect on Jan. 1. It will see a new structure for council to inform themselves and bring items to the general meetings.
Five SPCs will be formed: Civic Works SPC, Community Safety SPC, Cultural and Social SPC, Governance SPC and Economic SPC.
The Economic SPC is the only committee that will be made up of all members of council, and it will meet more often than the other committees to start 2021; including three times in April, leading up to a week of 2022-2031 Capital Improvement Program (CIP) deliberations in May.
The other four SPCs will meet once a month, on Thursdays, with four members of council on each committee. Councillors will serve one-year terms, and members of council that are not on a specific SPC may still attend meetings — including closed meetings — and debate on matters, but not vote.
“There will be a learning curve,” Crowson said. “We don’t know who the chairs will be, that will be decided at the January meetings. We have a lot of work to do.”
Crowson said the hope is that this new governance model will help to define and support specific roles for members of council, and aid in decision making.
“One of the things that I think many members of council discovered is that we weren’t very strategic, because we were on so many committees,” she said. “You would jump from this meeting to that meeting, and you didn’t get time to really delve into issues; and that’s what the standing policy committees permit council to do.”
SPC agendas will be added to the city council calendar on the City of Lethbridge website. Both SPC agendas and city council agendas will now be uploaded a full week before the meetings, a change from the four-day timeline in which council agendas were previously made available to the public.
“It will give the public a great deal more time to review things, to reach out to members of council before things get to the council meetings,” Crowson said. “It will be better from the public perspective and the council perspective.”
SPC meetings will also be recorded and streamed for the public the same way that city council meetings are by the city.
The first standing policy committee meeting will be for the Civic Works SPC on Thursday, Jan. 7, followed by the first city council meeting of the year on Jan. 12.