An initiative to create better public input at Summerland council isn’t likely to change the way Penticton conducts its meetings.
On Monday, Summerland council gave three readings to a motion to put a public input session at the beginning of their regular meeting agendas, rather than at the end.
The bylaw adds a 15-minute comment session early in the meeting, allowing members of the public two minutes to speak to anything on the agenda. It also adds an open public question period just before adjournment.
Regular council meetings in Penticton allow for public input on agenda items at the end of meetings. Summerland Mayor Peter Waterman said moving public input to early in the meeting gives the public a chance to comment before decisions are made.
“It appeared through the last few years that the public was looking for direct input to the proceedings,” said Waterman. “In particular the public feels there is more likelihood that their input will have some impact if they can say something prior to a vote taking place.”
But Penticton Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said he may raise the Summerland concept at council, but he wants to be cautious about following suit with Summerland.
“We will bring it up at our next meeting and we may choose to see how that unfolds. If it is working smoothly and makes sense, maybe it is something we will consider as well,” said Jakubeit.
Jakubeit agrees that making people wait until the end of the meeting to speak to an issue on the agenda may not be the best procedure. He is concerned the greater opportunity for public input could be misused by people wanting a soapbox.
While no timeframe has been set, Jakubeit said he is still interested having council meet weekly, rather than twice a month, to allow for more public access.
“When it is an off-Monday, it will be workshop or a committee of the whole and maybe one of those times will be a community input opportunity,” said Jakubeit, who introduced another venue for public outreach this week with his new Mayor’s Minute blog.
Jakubeit said he wants the blog to be a window that helps people see what city council does, looking at both issues and people.
“We want to increase our exposure and communications with the community,” said Jakubeit. The blog will be populated with items from council, and happenings in the city, like plans for Family Day.
Jakubeit said they may also use it to highlight work done at the committee level. Minutes from those meetings, he said, are often rushed through at the end of meetings, without reports.
“The blog might be a great tool to say we met as a group and we talked about playgrounds at such and such a park,” he said. “I think that is a good way to reach out to the community and make them aware of the things that are ongoing.”
For his first blog post, Jakubeit details his visit to an elementary school, comparing the young students’ questions with his interaction with older citizens.
Councillors will also provide guest posts on given issues they are working on and more features will be added as functionality gets built in over time.
“We have a few ideas to help keep us on track and have some content. As the weeks go by, there will be content spilling over from council or committees, issues of the day to some degree,” said Jakubeit.
The Mayor’s Minute can be found at www.penticton.ca/blog.