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St. John’s committee meetings to be held every second Wednesday

Coun. Dave Lane offers his encouragement for planned committee changes by St. John’s city council. In addition to committee changes, portfolios were revealed, with Lane taking a lead in finance and administration.
Coun. Dave Lane offers his encouragement for planned committee changes by St. John’s city council. In addition to committee changes, portfolios were revealed, with Lane taking a lead in finance and administration.

St. John’s committee of the whole is a go

The meetings where St. John’s city council can investigate and discuss issues arising ahead of any voting are now being consolidated and are expected to be webcast.

City council has decided to go ahead with a pilot project. Its past committee structure will be set aside in favour of a new committee of the whole.

The committee of the whole will meet every second Wednesday, in a set three-hour block of time. There, the different portfolios of city business will be addressed one by one.

With all councillors in the room, it is expected to improve debate and final decisions at the regular Monday night council meetings. By being webcast, as well as continuing to allow for public attendance in person, the hope is it will encourage greater engagement with residents, Mayor Danny Breen said.

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St. John’s council to consider committee changes

“This is a transformational change to the committee structure here in the city,” Breen said at city hall Monday night.

There are still some technical requirements to be addressed to allow for the webcasts, but they are being worked on, he said.

The standing committees previously in place were: public works; finance and administration; planning and development; audit and accountability; economic development, tourism and public engagement; community services and housing; and police and traffic. The audit committee will remain as a standalone committee.

Coun. Wally Collins expressed his reservations on the change, before voting in favour of the pilot project, to be reviewed in the summer.

“After 10 months, I got a feeling we’ll go back to the old system,” Collins said, later explaining he is unsure all of the business arising can be addressed in the time allotted. “But I’m willing to try anything.”

Other council members were more enthusiastic.

“I’m really pleased this public has spoken and we’ve answered,” said Coun. Debbie Hanlon, who suggested it will make city council more efficient and reduce the chance of decisions on the fly.

Coun. Maggie Burton suggested webcasts have the potential to reach people who are unable to attend meetings in person and don’t have the option of seeing current telecasts.

“It’s not change for change’s sake. It’s change for improvement’s sake,” said Coun. Dave Lane, who also encouraged the move.

Asked about the question of having enough time, Breen said some topics can be moved to future meetings where required and sensible, and the committee of the whole meetings can be extended as required.

In another piece of business, lead councillors for the different portfolios were also revealed. Among the appointments were: Lane to finance matters, Coun. Ian Froude to public works, Coun. Hope Jamieson to housing, Burton to planning and development, and Coun. Sheilagh O’Leary to economic development.

Hanlon will chair the standalone audit committee.

Agendas from past committee meetings, as well as a complete list of councillor portfolios, are available online at www.stjohns.ca.

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