Despite public outcry, City Council approves changes to meeting times
Despite hearing concerns from citizens for weeks, the Winston-Salem City Council voted to change meeting times for city council meetings and committee meetings. During the meeting on Jan. 17, the council voted 6-1 to change city council meeting times to 6 p.m. For more than a decade meetings have been held at 7 p.m.; before that meetings were held at 7:30 p.m. The post Despite public outcry, City Council approves changes to meeting times appeared first on WS Chronicle.
Despite hearing concerns from citizens for weeks, the Winston-Salem City Council voted to change meeting times for city council meetings and committee meetings. During the meeting on Jan. 17, the council voted 7-1 to change city council meeting times to 6 p.m. For more than a decade meetings have been held at 7 p.m.; before that meetings were held at 7:30 p.m.
In a separate motion which passed 6-2, the council voted to make changes to the committee meetings. Before the change, committee meetings were held every second Monday and Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. Under the new resolution, meetings will be held at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Councilman John Larson and Councilman James Taylor, who is publisher of The Chronicle, voted against changing meeting times. Before voting on changing the city code, Larson, who represents the South Ward, made a motion to table the vote until the next meeting, but the motion didn’t receive a second. Larson said changes to the committee meeting times were “troublesome” and moving meetings to the middle of the day makes it nearly impossible for citizens to attend.
He said while the change may make life easier for city staff and officials, it doesn’t do anything for the public. “This seems to me that this is just a bad ordinance … it’s not necessarily appropriate for us to be changing it for the benefit of the paid staff and council members and the public at large suffers,” Larson said.
The council started discussing changing meeting times last month. Although he’s not a voting member, during the Community Development/Housing/General Government committee meeting on Dec. 13, Larson let it be known that he didn’t like the change. “Everybody knows most of the work is conducted in city committee work and if you have a sincere interest in attending, this committee meeting is important,” Larson continued.
“I think the optics of this from a public perspective are not particularly attractive in a sense we’re really restricting public participation in a way that we probably shouldn’t be doing.”
Just as long as the council has been discussing changing meeting times, citizens have been speaking out against the change. According to an online survey, 57% preferred to keep the time for council meetings the same and nearly 70% of those surveyed said they preferred to keep the time for committee meetings the same.
According to the City Manager Lee Garrity, the recommendation to change meeting times was to be able to keep and recruit senior talent. “This recommendation did not come to try to help council members or the Mayor,” said Garrity when discussing the changes.
“It came because of this world we’re in and in the search for senior talent. It’s a different world than years ago. Many of our senior talent that we recruit either to stay here or to come here, quality of life, time off with their children, and things like that are high priority … it’s as much of a priority if not more, as pay.”
When compared to other elected body meetings in the Triad, the Winston-Salem City Council still has the latest start time for regular meetings. Full council meetings in Greensboro and High Point and the Guilford County Board of Commissioners’ meetings all start at 5:30. The Greensboro City Council and the Guilford County Board of Commissioners have work sessions at 2 p.m. and the High Point City Council has their work sessions at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. The Forsyth County Board of Commissioners holds all their meetings at 2 p.m.
The next city council meeting will be the first at the new time. The meeting is scheduled for Feb. 6 at 6 p.m.
The post Despite public outcry, City Council approves changes to meeting times appeared first on WS Chronicle.