Say your piece… or not

Youden’s idea for public Q & A at council meetings garners no comments

Councillor-at-large Kirk Youden suggested an idea last week that could transform the amount of citizen participation at public council meetings in Conception Bay South.

The chairman of the Town’s finance committee asked his colleagues to consider holding a five-minute question and answer session for the public after each council meeting. It’s a practice that’s been underway in the Town of Portugal Cove – St. Phillips for some time and tried and rejected in the Town of Witless Bay, where residents can now meet privately with council, one person at a time, after the public meeting instead.

Youden tendered the idea after referring to the recommendations made by a private consultant during an audit of the Town’s communications practices last year.

“I know we’ve had a communications audit in the last year and we’re looking at ways in which we can better engage,” Youden said. “I’d just like to refer the committee to the possibility – and I heard it last night on Municipal Monday (on VOCM Night Line) that one municipality allows its residents to raise issues with council… and they allow a short period of time where residents can come to the council meeting, present the issue and yes, it gets referred to a committee. The other piece they do is that at the tail end of a meeting, if anybody has any questions about recommendations, they allow five minutes for questions. I just thought it might be a better way to get some engagement in the broader community. I know there is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes, but it just might put a little bit of citizen engagement into public council meetings. I know there are challenges with it, but I think it’s something we could have a look at it.”

Whether Youden’s idea will pick up steam is difficult to say. His suggestion passed without any comment from anyone else in the chamber.

By Kyle Reid

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