Councillors are asking for a weeklong extension for the release of reports to be debated at committee and council meetings.
David Bloom / Postmedia
Councillors unanimously agreed they would provide one week longer for themselves and the public to review lengthy reports headed to committee and council meetings for debate.Currently such reports, sometimes hundreds of pages with corresponding attachments, are dumped on the city website and councillors’ plates on Thursday, prior to the earliest meetings the following Monday.A report to the city’s council services committee Monday morning suggested the release of reports one day earlier, providing a minimum of four clear days before a meeting, but councillors argued that is still not enough time to digest the information and allow for input from the public.Coun. Sarah Hamilton requested a full-week extension — for reports to be released a minimum of 10 days prior to a public meeting — and highlighted the current struggle to get through all of the information in time for debate.“It’s nuts, honestly,” Hamilton said of the current three-day window. “Public service is a sacrifice, there’s no doubt about it. But you want to be able to focus on reports and, that being said, not having your attention split between your other duties and this information.”Hamilton argued the current structure is a disservice to residents invested in specific issues as well as city staff who sometimes spend months researching and formulating large reports.“That takes an incredible amount of work, but that amount of work merits being able to sit down and really look through the work that’s been done,” she said. “We’ve had reports come to urban planning that were 800 pages. You’re not getting through that at all.”Hamilton’s council colleagues and Mayor Don Iveson voiced support for the plan, but opted to give city staff about three months to address possible implications of the change after concerns were raised on how this would affect internal timelines.But Hamilton said she believes the positives for all parties outweigh the potential shifts in the current process as it will allow for residents to be better informed and engaged.“It does allow communities a better opportunity to have their say and at least correspond with councillors,” she said.The motion, coming back in July, would also lay out details for running the proposal as a pilot project starting in the fall to work out any kinks before amending the bylaw.No more hiring of relativesMeanwhile, councillors will no longer be able to hire relatives to work in their offices if a new human resources policy passes through council. The amendments passed at the council services committee without debate Monday morning would prohibit councillors from hiring their spouse, parents, children or siblings from working in their offices “to eliminate actual or perceived conflicts of interest or favouritism.”However, relatives employed at the time of the policy’s approval will be exempt from the provision and “grandfathered” into their positions. Currently, Rocco Caterina, son of Ward 7 Coun. Tony Caterina, is the only relative working for a councillor. He has been the executive assistant for his father for 11 years.Coun. Andrew Knack said he believes the new policy is the right approach to prevent potential conflicts of interest.“There’s too much risk of even just the perception of leaving it as is,” said Knack. “I think the new policy is much better, I think it’s what it should be.”firstname.lastname@example.org/dustin_cook3