Hamilton City Council will no longer meet in the evenings.
Council voted this week on a new meeting calendar with no evening meetings for the rest of 2022 and all of 2023.
For decades, the various councils of the Old City of Hamilton and former suburban municipalities met at 7:00 p.m. to allow citizens to attend meetings to both observe and delegate.
Following in 2001, the new City of Hamilton Council continued to meet at 7:00 p.m. for the “full Council” ratification meetings on the second and fourth Wednesday. The practice of public delegations ended with amalgamation.
Over the past two decades, senior staff and some councillors tried to end evening meetings.
During the 2010 – 2014 Council term, the 7:00 p.m. start time was changed to 5:00 p.m.
In February 2019, Council attempted to change their meeting time to 9:30 a.m. The change was stalled because Council failed to issue 30 days for public notice.
Following public notice, Council’s Governance Committee held the required public meeting on April 25, 2019, receiving 52 letters regarding the change. 49 of those letters opposed the change.
The meeting time remained 5:00 p.m.
In March 2020, the Government of Ontario declared a state of emergency due to the COVID pandemic.
City Council decided to move their meetings to 9:30 a.m. during the emergency.
During the August 21, 2020, Council meeting, Ward 14 Councillor Terry Whitehead walked on a no-notice motion, written by city staff, to change the procedural bylaw to make the COVID emergency change permanent.
Council declared the motion to be urgent in a 12-3 vote, with Nrinder Nann, Sam Merulla, and Chad Collins opposed. Esther Pauls was absent.
Whitehead said the City “has a responsibility to its employees” and late meetings are not an “ideal situation from an occupational health and safety perspective.”
“We are answering the call from our staff,” Whitehead stated as his reason for acting on the request of the City Clerk.
No other members of Council spoke to the special motion.
Council voted 11 to 4 for the permanent change. Nann, Merulla, and Collins opposed, with Maureen Wilson joining them.
“We have a Clerk’s picture of happy face,” said Mayor Fred Eisenberger immediately after the vote. “They seem to be pleased.”
The Mayor and City Clerk Andrea Holland were both in the Council Chamber at City Hall during the August 2020 meeting.
I suggest that if City staff finds that the timing of the business of the taxpayers is inconvenient to their schedules they find other employment.
City council has to come to the realization that they work for the people who elect them. The city hall staff is aware of the fact- and if not, they should be, that they will need to work on occasion after normal business hours. We need to make city hall- citizen friendly -meaning there is a lot of people who can’t afford to take a day off work to go to a meeting at city hall. The community deserves a council that is willing to work on the public’s timetable- not the normal hours of big business.