The question of whether town council should open up its monthly discussion meetings to public questions was up for discussion at town hall this month.
As council undergoes a review of its ‘procedures and organization’ bylaw that guides what councilllors do and how meetings operate, Coun. Shawn Mesheau brought the idea to the table to allow for question period during the first meeting of each month.
While council does allow for question period at the start and end of each regular monthly meeting, which falls on the second Monday of every month, it hasn’t yet opened up the floor to questions during their discussion meetings the week before.
“I think this is something we may want to consider,” said Mesheau.
He said because there is no question period at the discussion meetings, residents feel they must wait until the regular monthly meeting for their opportunity to be heard.
“It allows maybe for clarification at that time rather than the public waiting until the following meeting,” he said.
Mesheau pointed out that in Amherst, council allows opportunities for questions during special council meetings if the majority of council so chooses.
“A councillor can make a motion to recognize someone from the floor to ask a question . . . it gets seconded and then it goes to a vote.”
Coun. Bill Evans said he welcomes the opportunity for more accountability.
“I spent most of my life as a non-elected official and I really like question period,” he said, noting it’s a great chance for public engagement.
He said the decision is up to council whether it chooses to open up the discussion meetings but he would be open to the idea of getting rid of the restriction.
“I can’t admit that I like all of the questions – sometimes they’re hard, sometimes they’re embarrassing – but I think it’s an important part of the meeting and I welcome it.”
The procedure and organization bylaw of council is under review by the town’s policy and bylaw committee. The bylaw specifies regulations on items such as the election of a deputy mayor, regular council meetings, special and emergency meetings, agenda formats, motions and bylaws, decorum, voting, conflict of interest, and more.