Sunday, January 25, 2015

A Change is as Good as a Rest

The annual meeting of the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA) starts next weekend, and after that, we'll be starting our new council meeting process.  What this means is that we'll have fewer meetings (every other week rather than every week), but there will be less repetition between Executive and Council meetings, meaning less wasted time for both council and administration.

The current meeting format, Council meetings every other week, with Executive the week between, hasn't been in place for that long - only since my second term on council, so that means for about ten years.  Before I was on council, meetings were biweekly, and in between there were committee meetings.  So the council of the day got rid of committees such as Finance and Works and Planning, and replaced those committees with Executive, so that all members of council, in effect, were on those committees, and matters relating to those committees were discussed with all of council, rather than having committees meet, then report to council.

However, over the years, Executive Committee became almost a dress rehearsal for council, with the agenda becoming merely what was going to be coming before council the following week. In fact, it had gotten to the point where council meeting almost seemed to be a rubber stamp of what had been discussed the previous week, so motions would pass without any discussion at the meeting itself.  For several years I've been agitating for some sort of change, to make meetings less repetitious, and with the help of administration, we've managed to do that.

So starting in February, Executive meetings will be for the discussion of new initiatives, brought forth either by council or administration, or for the discussion of new or amended bylaws.  It will also be the time for approving routine expenditures that are already within the approved budget.  I'm hoping that the discussion at these meetings will be a less formal and more open exploration of options, ideas and possibilities than happens at council meetings.  The first Executive meeting will be February 9th.   Then two weeks later, on February 23rd, we'll have the first Council meeting, which will feature the standard array of motions and bylaws.

We hope that this structure will result in more efficiency, with less time spent in meetings by both council and administration.  Not only will we have half as many meetings, but administration won't have to be at all Council meetings, as they are now.  They'll only have to be present if matters related to their departments are going to be the subject of discussion.

I'm very appreciative of the efforts of the City Clerk, Sherry Person, and her staff, to take the various ideas proposed by council, and develop the new meeting structure in such a way that the legal requirements of the Cities Act are met.  Instead of spending time telling council why change was impossible, or would take years, they figured out how to make change happen.  That's the kind of initiative that I hope sets a good example for the rest of administration, which sometimes seems to spend more time coming up with excuses to avoid change, rather than figuring out how to help change happen.

I don't know if the new system will be perfect, but I've agreed to be Deputy Mayor for the first few meetings.  That means that I'll be the guinea pig in chairing the new format, but I don't mind experimenting for the sake of improvement.  After all, if I'm going to complain about the current situation, I figure I'd better be willing to step up and help to make it better.

"Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything." - George Bernard Shaw

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