Wednesday, January 25, 2017

How to Exclude Young People From Council - Repeal Bylaw Number 4

In a small town council, the job of being a councilor should be possible for the average citizen.  The stipend that a small town councilor receives is not enough to live on. If meetings happen mid-day, you have excluded most people with jobs.

In Lunenburg, regular council meetings are on Tuesdays at 5:15.  There are also mandatory in-camera meetings, general government meetings and committee meetings that take place during regular working hours. 

All municipal councils have a bylaw that sets out the rules for how council meetings operate.  In Lunenburg, it is Bylaw 4.  This bylaw states that meeting times are to be held on Thursdays at 7:00.    Somewhere along the line, it was decided that the 7:00 meeting time was inconvenient, and the time was changed to 5:15, but there was an oversight and the council bylaw itself was not changed. Oops.

Council now wishes to repeal this bylaw and replace it with a new one.  Councilors Brian Davis and Joseph Caravale want the meeting times to be accessible to most residents and the other councilors are happy with the way things are.

The current meeting times are better for staff, who would otherwise need to hang around town for an additional hour and the times are better for the current councilors.  But not making the meeting times more accessible to citizens is short sighted.   In the last election we had 7 people running for 6 spots.  This is bad for democracy.  There are currently no young people on council.  The current council does not represent the diversity of ages, gender and professions in the town and this is not going to change unless council looks at the bigger picture.

The following comment  was left on my Facebook page:

"My father was town Councillor for 15 - 20 years (can't remember exactly) and they always had council meetings at 6 or 7, otherwise he would not have been able to be a Councillor. Also I was a student representative for council (I don't know if they have that now) and went to council meetings. With all my sports activities I would not have had that opportunity."

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