By Lethbridge Herald on January 22, 2021.
City council has made wide sweeping changes to the way it will conduct the people’s business in Lethbridge from now on.
Under the new system, which commenced this month, city council will no longer hold Community Issues Committee meetings every two weeks, but will instead operate a series of Standing Policy Committees (SPCs) addressing different aspects of community life and City business with three to four councillors presiding over each body.
The hope is, says Coun. Belinda Crowson, who was one of the architects of the new system, this new committee structure will allow for more direct community input on issues of the day before final decisions come to regular city council meetings.
“At every Standing Policy Committee there is an opportunity for members of the public to come in and speak or send in written submissions,” she says.
“Things will be discussed there, and then that committee will make a decision whether things should be sent back to administration to have another look at it, whether they should recommend it on to council — there is a decision to be made there.”
Only after the issues are first discussed by the relevant SPC, and recommended on to council, will they make it on to the regular meeting agenda for council’s final decision on the matter.
City council agendas will now also come out a full week in advance of the Tuesday regular meetings, giving the public even more time to consider them, she confirms.
Crowson compares the old way of doing business to the new.
“With the old way, the agenda came out Thursday afternoon, and decisions were made (by council) Monday afternoon,” she explains. “So if you were a member of the public, the only option you had if you didn’t like something that was coming out on the agenda you would have to email members of council. There was no opportunity at the Monday council meeting for you to present, or talk about it, or anything like that. This new system of governance has built-in things which make it much better for members of the public. You have a lot more opportunity to interact and have a say on any matter.”
The new Standing Policy Committees are listed as Civic Works, Community Safety, Cultural and Social, Governance, and Economic. The committees will meet on alternating weeks between biweekly regular city council meetings.
Another change for city council is councillors will no longer sit on most of the organizational boards and committees they had, until the new year, sat on. Those now all citizen-led operational committees will instead report up to one of the five Standing Policy Committees to provide councillors with input, present annual reports, and to engage in discussions on issues pertaining to their organizations.
“We took ourselves off of the more operational committees,” confirms Crowson. “So things like Heart of Our City, the Exhibition, the library, the Galt Museum, and other ones as well — and now we are focused on this more governance stuff, which is what a council is supposed to be doing. It allows us to be much more focused and look in depth at issues.”
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