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DebraW
21-03-2007, 08:05 AM
Too much TALK?: Coun. Ed Gibbons takes aim at 30% increase in city hall meeting time

Gordon Kent, The Edmonton Journal
Published: Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Coun. Ed Gibbons has a message for his colleagues -- stifle.

Council and its committees met for 578 hours in 2005, up more than 30 per cent from 437 hours two years earlier, a report by city auditor David Wiun shows.

Although Gibbons feels running Edmonton has become increasingly complex and time-consuming, he thinks time could be saved if some politicians didn't open their mouths so much.

"You can say that again," Gibbons said. "When does the fourth answer you get from administration (to the same question) change? We could have a lot shorter meetings with a lot less talk."

Gibbons sees the excess gum-flapping as a way for some councillors to raise their profile with the voters.

His solution to the problem is simple. "Tell whoever is trying to get their name in your story to stop talking ... that's my perception."

Another reason the hours taken up by meetings have skyrocketed is that councillors have far more information to wade through. Their agendas filled 17,853 pages in 2005, compared to 14,428 pages in 2003.

Not surprisingly, roughly half the councillors indicated in the report that they worked more than 60 hours a week in 2006, spending two or three nights a week, and two or three weekends a month, on city business.

The hot economy is partly to blame. The number of public hearings on development proposals and other issues rose to 22 from 18, putting councillors in their chairs for an extra 21 hours in 2005.

Something similar happened during Alberta's last oil boom, said city clerk David Edey.

"In the '70s, some public hearings went days and days just because of the growth that was going on, and the need to develop areas like Mill Woods," Edey said.

"It's not actually that their hours have gone up ... (it's that) they're dealing with more things."

As well, about six meetings a year have been added so councillors can provide updates on the organizations where they represent the city, or the initiatives they're involved in, such as immigration and seniors issues.

Last week, councillors approved most of Wiun's seven recommendations to keep them operating efficiently and effectively, including a three-year calendar of issues to help the scheduling of agenda items, and changes to make reports more clear.

Coun. Kim Krushell says Edmonton's 13 council members definitely face growing demands on their time, but she doesn't sound hopeful that cutting back the yak would do much to reduce their work weeks.

"Sometimes I'm sitting there and I'm frustrated because I think my colleagues are taking the full five minutes (they're allowed to speak)," she says.

"I think in reality (the longer hours are) not a product of councillors talking too much. Everybody knows politicians talk. I don't think that's changed."

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Dusty Bear
21-03-2007, 12:18 PM
Heh, for once I agree with Gibbons. You should have seen Allan Bolstad, though. Bill Smith frequently had to cut him off at the five-minute limit.

I appreciate the need for complex issues to receive a full debate, but some of the councillors sounds more like they're campaigning during meetings. I would bet good money a few of them even work out "quotable" statements beforehand.

DebraW
21-03-2007, 12:28 PM
Heh, for once I agree with Gibbons. You should have seen Allan Bolstad, though. Bill Smith frequently had to cut him off at the five-minute limit.

I appreciate the need for complex issues to receive a full debate, but some of the councillors sounds more like they're campaigning during meetings. I would bet good money a few of them even work out "quotable" statements beforehand.

Speaking in sound bites...what a way to (try) to run a city.

RichardS
21-03-2007, 01:35 PM
...because the current monologues and soliloquies are working??? ;)

dwells
22-03-2007, 02:54 PM
Having occasionally watched council meetings in progress, I have to wonder if much of that troublesome extra work isn't caused by council's hands-on dealing with developers who want exemptions from various bylaws.