Whitehorse City Council meetings could start at 5:30 p.m. beginning Aug. 5.
Councillors debated the new start time at length Monday night as part of proposed changes to the Procedures Bylaw, which governs how council meetings will run. The bylaw came up for second reading Monday night.
Council had agreed to consider an amendment that would see meetings start at 6:30 p.m., an hour earlier than the current start time. But not all councillors were sold on the new start.
Coun. Betty Irwin defended the current 7:30 p.m. start time.
“There will be no time for dinner before the meeting,” she said about why the time shouldn’t change. Meetings can run for three or four hours. If people stay that long without eating, they can “start to get really cranky,” said Irwin.
But when meetings go late, it can be hard for people who take city buses to get home, said Coun. Mike Gladish. Evening service is scheduled to begin this fall, and he plans on taking it. It will be easier for the public to catch the last bus if meetings are earlier, he said.
“The public don’t care,” said Coun. Dave Stockdale, noting the lack of input received on the new bylaw. “The myth of catching a bus after city council doesn’t have any credence at all,” he said. And sometimes meetings run late because of lengthy council debates and long agendas, said Stockdale.
Changing the time is inconvenient for councillors, and will just create a huge rush, said Stockdale. “I will not be happy if we change this time,” he said, calling on residents to email him with their thoughts.
In the end, council voted to do just that. Mayor Dan Curtis proposed an amendment that would change the meeting time to 5:30 p.m. Councillors Mike Gladish, Kirk Cameron, and Jocelyn Curteanu supported the motion.
An earlier start time will make it easier for people to stop by after work, said Curteanu. Councillors shouldn’t be too concerned about having members of the public stay late. Only a few people come regularly anyway, and even if meetings run for the full three hours, people won’t be home too late to eat.
“It’s not an unreasonably late dinner, in Europe they do it all the time,” she said.
The new start time wasn’t the only change considered. Council also passed an amendment that would allow meeting packages to be available at 4 p.m. on the last business day before council meetings. This will give city residents more time to read the documents before coming to council.
The procedures bylaw still has to pass a third reading before the changes are official. Third reading is scheduled for July 8.
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