Anyone who wants to speak directly to Niagara-on-the-Lake’s council will be playing by some slightly new rules from now on.
Residents will not be able to address council about issues that don’t fall under the town’s jurisdiction.
Except for some specific cases, this will include issues happening at the regional, provincial and federal levels.
The town has updated its procedural bylaw, which sets the ground rules for council meetings.
Council approved the changes April 25.
Town clerk Donna Delvecchio said the revisions are meant to help meetings run smoothly and to clarify the procedural bylaw’s language.
General meetings of both the committee of the whole and council will now be held on Tuesdays at 9:30 a.m., Delvecchio told council.
Planning meetings of the committee of the whole will continue to start at 6 p.m.
People who are unable to speak to council in the morning will be accommodated at the evening meeting.
Staff also prepared a delegation policy to help instruct people on rules for appearing before council.
“The procedure bylaw is fairly vague when it speaks to delegation process,” Delvecchio said in an earlier presentation.
The policy, called the “delegation protocol,” is attached to the town’s delegation application form on its website.
Residents who wish to speak about issues under regional jurisdiction, for example, will be directed to regional council, said Delvecchio.
Coun. Sandra O’Connor pointed out some regional and provincial issues affect residents and she was worried the new rules would prevent addressing those concerns.
When it is unclear which level of government has jurisdiction, Delvecchio said the lord mayor and town clerk would determine together if issues were under the town’s jurisdiction.
The bylaws say issues “beyond the jurisdiction of council” may be presented if the majority of council decides it “has to do with the welfare of citizens generally.”
There will also be a three-person cap on the number of speakers who can speak about items not on the agenda, said Delvecchio.
There will be no such limit for speakers addressing items that are already on the official agenda, though, she added.
Further to this, the clerk said people who provided written comments to council on agenda items will not be allowed to speak on the same issues if they also present to council.
The town is also giving the chief administrator the power to call a special meeting of council, something only the mayor could do previously, Delvecchio said.
NOTL will also be updating the language of the bylaw to make it consistent with modern use.
For example, the bylaw’s reference to “within the council bar area” is now changed to “past the podium.”
“No person other than a member of council and officials of the corporation shall, without the prior permission of the lord mayor, be allowed past the podium,” says the updated bylaw.
This may have some impact on individuals, such as reporters, who wish to take pictures of people who are speaking to council.
Delvecchio said staff “could certainly accommodate” members of the media who wish to take photos, by allowing it before or after proceedings.
“It allows for less disruptions in the council proceedings and promotes greater professionalism,” she said.
The bylaw could be updated yearly, but Delvecchio said she recommends an update every two years, minimum.
By Evan Loree, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on May 11, 2023 at 11:10