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Carr calls for greater access; mayor’s bid to move council to Tuesdays defeated

By John R. Moodie [1]

BELLEVILLE – A motion by Belleville Mayor Taso Christopher to move city-council meetings to Tuesdays from Mondays has been rejected by council.

This past Monday, the motion came back up for discussion after being deferred by council on Dec. 8 over concerns that Cogeco cable television could not cover council meetings if they were moved to Tuesdays.

A report from the city clerk’s office confirmed that Cogeco would be affected if the meetings were moved because a Tuesday could conflict with the company’s other broadcast obligations.

The motion went south on Monday night when Councillor Paul Carr made a counter-motion requesting that meetings continue to be held on Mondays. Carr took it one step further, calling for an amendment to change council’s start time from 4 to 5 p.m. to encourage greater public participation.

Both of Carr’s proposals were eventually approved, which means meetings remain on Mondays but start at 5 p.m.

The motion to hold meetings later in the day “allows for greater opportunity for those employed within our city to attend council meetings – whether it is simply to watch from the public gallery or make a deputation at council on an issue that is important to them,” said Carr.

“Our first priority as members of council is to represent the best interests of our residents. The best way to accomplish this is to ensure that they have the greatest opportunity possible to be involved in the council process as it happens. I think we need embrace positive change. We need to invite citizen input even in this council chamber.“

Councillor Egerton Boyce took up Carr’s call for greater public accessibility. He requested an amendment to have meeting agendas be made available online to the public and media every Thursday — the same time councillors receive the agenda. That too was approved.

Councillor Garnet Thompson expressed doubt about whether a later start time would encourage public participation.

“We can switch it to 5; maybe we will have a few extra come out, and there may not. We have been getting good attendance for deputation — people come out,” Thompson said. “If it is something that they are interested in, the people will show up.”

Councillor Jackie Denyes said that in the past there had been efforts by council to increase public participation, to no effect.

Afterward, in an interview with QNet News, Carr continued to speak on the importance of public accessibility.

“Certainly people read the news, and watch Cogeco after the fact, but at that point it’s history. Decisions have been made. Consultation with residents is very important to me, and I believe that we need to be accessible, so that residents of the city can come to council as we’re debating the issue,” he said.

Not only would the later start time for meeting benefit citizens, but it would help council make better decisions, he added.

“Whatever it takes to get their voice heard so that council can make informed decisions, but also make decisions that are reflective of the people we represent.”