A new set of rules around in-person delegations at Whitehorse city council meetings could be in place for members of the public in the future.
While in-person presentations are not happening now at council meetings as they normally would due to COVID-19, the city is continuing to consider changes to the procedures bylaw, which governs the public presentations, and other matters in how council meetings are run.
Currently, residents are asked to submit any such presentations they would make in writing with their submission then read into the record by city staff.
At the most recent council and management roundtable meeting to discuss possibilities for an updated procedures bylaw, most of the conversation focused on changes to how delegations may happen in the future when in-person presentations may be able to happen again.
Catherine Constable, the city’s manager of legislative services, highlighted research showing many municipalities require a lengthy notice period before a delegate can be added to the agenda of a council meeting. In some cases it’s a week and includes forms that must be filled out.
Under the current procedures bylaw, residents wanting to register as delegates are asked to do so by 11 a.m. on the Friday ahead of the council meeting, but council can vote to allow them to speak as delegates if they indicate they wish to make a presentation just ahead of the council meeting.
Delegates then have five minutes each at the start of the meeting to make their presentation and answer any questions of council.
What’s contemplated for a new bylaw would see delegates given until 1:30 p.m. on the day of a council meeting to register as a delegate. There would be no provision to register as a delegate at the meeting.
Constable has noted having a delegation register just ahead of the meeting means making last minute changes to the agenda.
“There just needs to be some lead time and five minutes is very difficult,” she explained at the roundtable, highlighting the importance of balancing public access to city council while also ensuring efficiency in meetings.
Council members voiced their support for the 1:30 p.m. deadline to register, with Coun. Steve Roddick confirming the agenda would be available publically on the Friday before the meeting to ensure residents have time to review the issues and register if they want to.
As Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu noted this would provide a consistent rule for all.
Along with the registration rule, delegates would also no longer be required to provide their full address, but rather simply the neighborhood they are in.
The city is looking at ways to provide virtual options for delegates to address council with staff already putting in more than 40 hours on the effort so far as Constable noted, but it will likely be some time before there is any such option.
Constable said that when there is such an option, it may require a longer notification period for delegates who want to address council by virtual means.
Other aspects of the procedures bylaw are set to be discussed at a future roundtable session.
Contact Stephanie Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org