June 24th, 2024

Council committee examines changes to committee model

By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on June 1, 2023.

Herald file photo by Al Beeber Lethbridge city council, meeting as the Economic Standing Policy Committee, listens a submission from a community group during budget requests last fall.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

Don’t get confused but a committee of city council is examining a restructuring of city council committees.

City council may be examining the structure of its Standing Policy Committees – after the matter is dealt with again on June 22 – by a standing policy committee, specifically the Governance SPC.

A report was made to the Governance Standing Policy Committee of city council Wednesday with proposed changes that would streamline the SPC model.

After a lengthy debate the SPC unanimously approved a motion put forward by councillor Jeff Carlson to have administration report back to it on June 22 with a one-page visual that shows changes to the SPC structure.

This visual will demonstrate combining the role and mandates of the Advocacy Advisory Committee into the Governance SPC, and setting the Audit SPC to meet four times a year as well as other changes.

Governance also wants to see how the Community Safety SPC and the Cultural and Social SPC could be combined into one new SPC called the Social and Safety SPC.

Governance is also recommending that SPCs be delegated authority to oversee the expenditure of $75,000 for smaller items that perhaps could be handled without the full vote of council. Those SPCs with this authority would be Audit, Assets and Infrastructure, Finance and Economic, Social and Safety and Governance/

The motion by Carlson also includes rescinding the Advocacy Advisory Committee and setting membership of nine for Finance and Economic, and four each for Audit, Assets and Infrastructure, Social and Safety and Governance.

Several of these would be newly named or combined SPCS if council as a whole eventually approves the motion.

A presentation was made to the SPC by Deputy City Clerk David Sarsfield who along with City Clerk Bonnie Hilford explained the options that council could consider.

A recommendation had been made by City Manager Lloyd Brierley to reduce the number of SPCs, which are sub-committees of council that examines issues before recommending to council that they either take action or matters or not.

Each SPC consists of four voting members but all council members can attend meetings and have input without voting privilege.

The Governance SPC consists of councillors Belinda Crowson, Jeff Carlson and Rajko Dodic along with Deputy Mayor John Middleton-Hope. Dodic was absent from Thursday’s meeting

Proposed options are aiming at improving the efficiency of council’s governing process as well as administration’s capacity to present information for decisions and public engagement.

Several options have been proposed based on anecdotal discussions between council and administration which were reinforced by data that presents potential opportunities for improved efficiency in the overall governance role of council and the SPCs.

The recommendation made to Governance is that it recommend to council in its entirety that it have administration prepare a bylaw to amend the procedure bylaw which would allow the creation of three SPCs.

However, after considerable discussion, members of Governance felt that three would not be enough due to concerns about the different mandates of a couple.

Those would be Finance and Economic, Governance and Assets and Infrastructure.

The SPC is also being asked to recommend council direct administration to prepare a calendar for 2024 reflecting the chosen option for adoption at the 2023 organizational meeting.

There are currently six SPCs which meet – Governance, Economic (which includes the mayor and all members of council), Community Safety, Cultural and Social, Civic Works and Audit which so far has met only once in the current calendar year. While the others were all scheduled for nine each, three as of April 1 had met three times, Community and Safety twice and Civic Works also once. The Advocacy Advisory Committee also requires time of council members but it is not an SPC.

SPC meetings are held throughout the council year on Wednesdays and/or Thursdays. Full council meetings are held every second Tuesday.

According to a report submitted by Sarsfied, the City Manager has asked for the reduction in SPC numbers and the functions of the Advocacy Advisory Committee be rolled into one of the SPCs because it isn’t actually an SPC.

“Through several discussions and a review of two years’ worth of Standing Policy

Committee agendas, the City Clerk’s Office and the City Manager settled on a more agile model of Standing Policy Committees that eliminates the hard-set commitments that items of a specific area go to a specific Standing Policy Committee. The result was a hybrid model that had the positives of the pre-SPC committee model as well as the positives of the current SPC model,” says Sarsfield’s report.

The report says short meetings could be eliminated by the proposed model “and instead create more focused arenas for dialogue, debate and decision. This in turn frees up time for councillors to meet with their constituents and spend time on other faces of their roles as elected officials.”

In the proposed model by administration, “items that have a request for funding or need a budget approval would goto the Finance and Economic SPC.

However, Governance and City Manager Lloyd Brierley felt that by allotting a budget for each SPC, certain smaller matters could be addressed with more expediency rather than waiting for a month to have council address them.

Deputy mayor John Middleton-Hope said SPCs need more autonomy and he was fine with empowering them “as long as it doesn’t impugn financial services.”

He expressed initially concerns about abandoning the Advocacy Advisory Committee because in his opinion “it’s an absolutely important function for council” adding council needs to take the advocacy role more seriously. There was discussion about collapsing Advocacy into the Governance SPC.

Under the proposal brought up before Carlson’s motion, items that deal with policy or intergovernmental matters would go to the Governance SPC.

Items that deal with the physical utilities or land use and development “would be featured at the Assets & Infrastructure SPC,” says the report.

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The committees appear to be swayed to agree on matters that would follow what the Chair of those committees ‘agenda’ is, and in doing so, doesn’t result in what is best for the community.
They appear to have the facade of representing the citizens, but have their own agenda.


And spoon fed by city department’s agendas.