Marathon meetings bad for health

Township councillor Kim Richter points out that councillors and staff were in meetings from 1 p.m. until after 11 p.m. with almost no break.

 

If nothing else, Township council’s Monday meeting schedules are a recipe for poor eating habits and sleep deprivation — for the politicians, staff and the public.

A growing municipality has a workload to match, and regular attendees at meetings have seen one meeting merge into another from lunch time to late at night, with little time for a meal.

One councillor says that because Mondays are so heavily stacked it will lead to “meeting exhaustion.”

On Nov. 3, Councillor Kim Richter sent an email to Mayor Jack Froese expressing concern at the number of meetings scheduled for Nov. 5.

“Once again, council is meeting starting at 1 p.m. with a CPC (Council Priorities) meeting, followed by a CPC sub-committee meeting, regular afternoon meeting, special closed meeting, regular evening meeting and a public hearing which will likely be very contentious and carry over to a second meeting night this week,” Richter wrote.

“This is poor planning and will inevitably lead to poor decision-making simply because of the number and duration of meetings scheduled for one day and resulting in meeting exhaustion on the part of council,” she said.

Council’s schedule for Nov. 5 shows meetings going from 1 p.m. to the regular evening meeting and public hearing at 7 p.m. The schedule shows a dinner break from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

In fact, the afternoon set of meetings did not end until well after 6:35 p.m., leaving council and staff with little time to eat dinner.

In her letter to Froese, Richter said that the CPC agenda contained non-urgent items referred from April meetings.

“There is no reason why this meeting could not have been postponed to another date,” Richter wrote.

“There is also no reason why the CPC sub-committee meeting has to be held on the same day as packed regular and closed (meeting) agendas, especially when Township legal counsel is attending the special closed (meeting),” she said.

One of the Township’s most contentious items for several years was on the public hearing agenda. It involved Forewest Construction’s multi-family development proposal for 10 acres on the northeast corner of 200 Street and 68 Avenue.

In 2010, a public hearing for a denser development spilled over two nights. The public hearing should not have been scheduled for the same day as a regular evening meeting, Richter contended.

Monday’s public hearing and regular meeting went from 7 p.m. to 11:15 p.m. with one five-minute break.

Richter said the schedule is unfair to staff.

Willoughby resident Lorraine Baldwin says it’s unfair to parents. Council had rejected her request for the Forewest public hearing to be held over two nights so that people with families could attend.

Most people who live in the development area are young families, Baldwin said after the meeting, and they can find it difficult to arrange babysitters or make it home from work in time.

Furthermore, Baldwin said, Langley has a large number of medical staff, firefighters and police officers who work shifts, and it’s a challenge for them to attend evening council meetings.

“Getting out to be heard is a huge challenge,” said Baldwin, a mother who works between 40 and 60 hours a week.

She noted that a regular meeting was held before the public hearing, which is not normally the case.

“They did not serve the needs of the community,” she added.

Baldwin also commented that some of the council members appeared tired or “zoned out” during the public hearing.

Councillors will have another lengthy day on Nov. 19, the next meeting date. They are hosting the annual Douglas Day lunch in the early afternoon. Then in the evening, there will be a public hearing on the Coulter Berry building proposal for Fort Langley, which has attracted significant public interest.

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