News Local

Earlier start times in effect for Cobourg council

Cecilia Nasmith

By Cecilia Nasmith, Northumberland Today

Council held an open session regarding the budget draft at Victoria Hall Monday night, where heated discussion over money received through the Nicol Foundation took place. File photo.

Council held an open session regarding the budget draft at Victoria Hall Monday night, where heated discussion over money received through the Nicol Foundation took place. File photo.

COBOURG -- Cobourg council passed its new procedural bylaw this week, with comments to those who have concerns that a bylaw can be amended at any time.

Two citizens showed up at council to reiterate concerns having to do with a new 4 p.m. starting time and other issues.

Former councillor Miriam Mutton, in fact, said she had discussed 57 items of concern with Deputy Mayor John Henderson. Chief among the problems she has, in addition to the earlier start, are the 1 p.m. deadline Friday to arrange to appear before council as a delegation on Monday and the decision not to implement a question period.

"It can be an efficient way to learn about concerns and viewpoints in the community," Mutton said.

"The rules of engagement would be clear and open to periodic assessment."

For Keith Oliver, this public forum would unite a community in the way a newspaper's local-opinion pieces and letters to the editor used to.

"I think council has a role to play in bringing people together," Oliver said.

He also dislikes the public-meeting format that calls for opposition comments, then comments in support -- and then fails to go the next step and provide an opportunity for rebuttal.

And as far as a 4 p.m. start for meetings, he added, that's a step backwards that he predicts will decrease attendance. As far as he can see, the move is being taken for the convenience of staff.

"This council is trying to find a balance between staff, council members and serve the public," Henderson replied.

"Any member of council can move an amendment at any time. I would like us to try for a time to see how well it's working, but we can certainly do a review."

"I am not 100% in favour of the 4 p.m. time, but with anything you try, you never know," Councillor Brian Darling said.

"I am willing to give it a try for a period of time. If I find it's not working or I get a lot of feedback, I can propose an amendment."

"The procedural bylaw has been out for public comment at least a month -- and there has been less than a handful of people who have said they have a concern about it," Mayor Gil Brocanier noted.

"So I don't see any reason why we shouldn't proceed. If for some reason I get a deluge of people who want a change, we can consider that."

cnasmith@postmedia.com