9/23/13

Council Size: My Views

Updated November 4/2013

There are/were two parts to the debate on Council composition: Council size and whether to include an elected deputy mayor. The vote to change Council size and add a deputy mayor was defeated in October. Since then, the County has begun discussions to cut its membership in half. That would mean one rep from each municipality instead of two. If passed, it would eliminate the main reason for having an elected deputy mayor.

Deputy Mayor

Mississippi Mills has two representatives on County Council, the body to which we send 35% of your property taxes each year. The mayor is an automatic choice as one rep. Each newly elected Mississippi Mills Council chooses the second rep for a four-year term by secret ballot. If we are two have two reps on County Council, I believe taxpayers should elect all representatives who sit on County Council; otherwise, there is no direct accountability. An elected deputy mayor would be the second County Council rep and serve as an alternate on a variety of committees and functions when the mayor is unavailable.

Council Size

As I have stated before, a larger Council brings more talent to the table. At present, our eleven-person Council includes experts in business, law, construction, security and telecommunications. Their presence has often meant that technical questions were answered immediately instead of Council needing to wait for staff to research the question or to pay experts for the answer. Granted, some of that talent would remain on a smaller Council.

A smaller Council “may” lead to more focused meetings. (I say “may” because seven verbose elected reps can talk as much as eleven.)

When most members of the current large body feel the need to speak to every agenda issue—often more than once—meetings do tend to drag on. Many Council meetings exceed three hours. Councillors get grumpy, sleepy, hungry and impatient. Some decisions get rushed and there is no opportunity for a relaxed exchange of opinions. At our meeting September 3, where only eight members were present, Council sped through the agenda in two hours and had time for an informative exchange of town news and views.

Note: In a post two years ago I stated: "Meeting length is a weak argument for reducing representation." I have changed my mind. When we switched this year from five regular meetings per month to just two, the fatter agendas made long meetings the norm instead of the exception.

Conclusion

The results of the survey changed the opinion of Councillor Garry Dalgity. A long-time supporter of a smaller council, he voted against a new composition. Since the split was always 6-5 or 5-6, that one vote was enough to end the option for this term.

Council will next discuss holding a referendum on changing Council size.

1 comments:

Carrie said...

Having just been to the meeting in Clayton where the presentation was made on the different sizes, it is clear to see that there are and always will be people never happy with any decision that is made with the council size. I support the size been reduce to 7 as I feel that we are over represented on the size of our municipal population. I would like to see, and as you stated having a Deputy Mayor that attends County Council.