Dear Mayor and Council,
[This letter and information was sent to City Council on November 26th in time for the Organizational Meeting on December 2 at 2PM – Council Chambers where I am told the final decision will be made. You can send your feedback to the city through: firstname.lastname@example.org]
I must strongly object to this direction. Please consider the information below before you make your decision.
The first and most critical issue is access. While it may seem as though you have had better attendance from the public since the switch from 2019 I would challenge you to think hard about who is in attendance. Are they working people? Are they students or youth?
Below is 2016 Census data for the City of Port Alberni which you can use to consider who might be at school (5-19) or work (20-60).
- Ages 5-19: 3010 people
- Ages 20-60: 10145 people
- Most likely to be able (either retired or very young): 4,585
- Population of Port Alberni: 17,740
- Total potentially unable to attend: 13,155
- The 2018 Vital Signs report indicates we have an employment rate of 48% and unemployment rate of 10%.
You may counter this by pointing out people can view the meeting live on YouTube however, surely we cannot expect people to have the livestream on while at their workplace or school.
There is also the option of viewing the video at a later date on Youtube. However, this does not address the access issue. All members should be given the same ability to respond to your public meetings.
Limiting the live response during actual meetings to only those not required to be at work or school could be considered an infringement on the rights of those people.
While I do not have access to the statistics for your livestream during the meetings, the public can see how many views any of the permanent YouTube videos, which are uploaded usually a day after the meeting, have received.
This will show us how many people come back to view meetings.
Average Youtube Viewership
(multiple views from one person are included)
- 2019: 133 views
- 2018: 177 views
- 2017: 128 views
- (source: City of Port Alberni Youtube Channel)
- Raw Data (images on website): 1 and 2.
Given the 2018 election time that may have increased viewership, I don’t think we can infer any large change with the new times.
I believe this shows no advantage to moving to 2PM in terms of viewers to the archived stream.
The move to working-hours meetings also impacts:
- Delegations; as many non-profits, businesses, and other groups may have difficulty attending a meeting, particularly if they would like more than one person in attendance.
- Ability of City Staff to complete work during the open City hours.
- Ability of Councillors with other employment to attend meetings.
Length of Meetings
Another common reason for moving meetings to the afternoon is due to the length often going beyond 3 hours, or 10:00PM as mentioned in the staff report: “In previous years Regular council meetings… often ran until well past 9:00 or even 10:00pm”
I have gathered statistics for the length of the meetings for the 1st year of this Council using Meeting minutes, and for the 1st year of the past three councils.
Average Length of Meetings:
- 2019 (Mayor Minions): 139 minutes (2hr 19min)
- 2015 (Mayor Ruttan): 145 minutes (2hr 25min)
- 2012 (Mayor Douglas): 156 minutes (2hr 36min)
- 2009 (Mayor McRae): 130 minutes (2hr 10min)
Meetings over 3 hours:
- 2019: 5
- 2015: 5
- 2012: 4
- 2009: 0
Overall, the times show that meetings this year have been shorter than the first year of the past two councils. This year’s meetings finished on average after 2 hours and 19 minutes, or or had they started at 7PM they would have ended at 9:19PM. There have been 5 meetings over 3 hours which is similar to the past two councils. 2009 is notable that no meetings went over 3 hours.
There could be a number of factors but a few may be related to less input from the public, particularly delegations which often take significant time. I have not been able to gather statistics on delegations or use of the public input or questions periods.
My suggestion to avoid getting into the 10PM hour would be to have meetings start at 6PM. However, I do not believe 5 meetings over the allotted time and late into the night is unreasonable.
Thank you very much for your consideration of this information. This information is also available on my website at www.chrisalemany.ca.
I hope that you decide to restore the 7PM meeting times to ensure that the maximum number of members of the public will be able to attend all future regular council meetings.