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Guelph city council back on job

City council is meeting again after taking a hiatus since before Christmas, and it’s giving the public a lot more advance notice of what’s on the agendas for upcoming committee and council meetings.
City hall has changed its longstanding practice of releasing meeting agendas on the Thursday afternoon before council and committee meetings, which are usually held on Monday or Tuesday.
Instead, starting last Thursday, the agendas are being released a week earlier. Releasing agenda packages on Thursdays at least 11 days in advance of scheduled meetings will provide two full weekends and several working days to review the materials, says Mayor Karen Farbridge.
She calls it “a simple step, but one with a big positive impact.”
The old practice gave city councillors and members of the public only one weekend to review agenda material, Farbridge wrote in November as she announced the change on her city hall blog.
The old practice gave councillors no more than one or two working days to speak directly with staff, and it gave members of the public little time to sign up as a delegation on a matter. This has been the practice at Guelph city hall “forever,” she wrote, and it has been a concern of the city’s part-time councillors “for many terms of council.”
One of their concerns has been a desire to be as well prepared for meetings as possible, she wrote. “Given work and family commitments and staff schedules, there is often not enough time to follow up on questions in advance of a meeting.”
Council members were also concerned that the old practice limited participation of members of the public in their local government, Farbridge said.
Up to now, the only agendas released well in advance of meetings have been agendas for planning issues considered at council’s monthly planning meetings.
The planning meeting held last night was the first council meeting or council committee meeting since the week before Christmas.
Council decided late last year to try to reduce the number of months in which it holds regularly scheduled meetings. Along with January, it is trying to eliminate meetings in July, along with its normal meeting shutdown each August.

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