Surrey city Councillor Linda Annis launched into her argument to have council put a cap on late night meetings at 2:04 a.m. Tuesday, toward the end of a sitting that ran for more than 12 hours.
The Safe Surrey Coalition majority on council defeated her motion.
Annis wanted council to instruct city staff to “explore options” to ensure meeting hours don’t extend into the early hours of the morning. Monday’s meeting ended at 2:19 a.m.
“Council meetings are going far, far too late,” she said. “The public that has to go to work in the morning, many of them aren’t able to stay up and participate and listen to what’s being said. I also think that as council members, when it creeps up to one and two in the morning, we’re not at our best.”
Councillor Laurie Guerra asked if that wouldn’t “completely supersede the mayor as chair of council’s authority to be able to extend a public hearing.”
Mayor Doug McCallum. “I don’t support this at all,” he said, noting some meetings will be short, others long. “There’s all sorts of circumstances why we have to go late.
“First of all, in the development industry, developers, if we don’t get to their thing because we have to cut off,” he said, “and they have to wait a whole week, that costs them hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Councillor Brenda Locke supported the motion.
“Like you Mr. Mayor, I have been here for 17 hours today and that’s a long time,” she said. “But I think more importantly for me, these meetings are here for the residents, for the citizens to participate and listen to what’s happening in their city.”
Annis suggested that, like other big cities do, Surrey’s meetings could start early in the afternoon.
Council heard that a typical meeting will have between 30 and 60 people watching.
“I’d work 24/7, I don’t care,” Councillor Allison Patton said. “If we’re really worried about residents, perhaps this is not the most worrisome thing we have if we’ve got 30 out of our 600,000 listening. Probably their reading the paper, they’re tweeting, getting tweets from us or whatever they’re getting, there are other ways we’re communicating. It doesn’t appear there’s a large boatload of people listening to us at any given time.”
After Annis’s motion was defeated, McCallum said he’d “work with staff, as chair, to look at it.”
“The reason you don’t go into the daytime is we will get criticized heavily by people that work in the day and they can’t get to the public hearings if we do it in the day,” he pointed out. “That happens in Vancouver all the time.”
McCallum said he’d discuss the matter with the city manager to “see whether there’s a better time, and then I’ll bring it back to council.”