Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Council, Committee, and You

Over the last couple of months, a number of people have asked me about how Council and Committees works. When do we meet? When can members of the public speak at Council? And, how do you get your suggestions or improvements discussed?

As a general rule, your Town Council meets at 7:00 PM on the first and third Mondays of each month in the Council Chambers in Town Hall. (During July and August we tend to only meet once.) If one of our regular meetings falls on a holiday Monday (like Labour Day), we meet on the Tuesday.

Council is formal; it’s where we undertake the official business of the Corporation of the Town of Pelham. We advance the Town’s business through motions and our actions are governed by a Procedural Bylaw. At Council, we make motions and enact bylaws – for taxation, for spending, for administration and enforcement. We set policy and we authorize and accept tenders. We receive and act on official correspondence. And, we ratify decisions of the Town’s General Committees.

Immediately following these Town Council meetings, we hold a “General Committee” meeting. Slightly less formal, General Committee is intended to be more detail oriented. All Councillors are members of General Committee and act as either Chair or Vice-Chair of one of the three divisions.

Planning & Development Services deals with matters involving development proposals, subdivision plans, zoning bylaws, official plans, building permits and the building code, and bylaw enforcement. Councillor Emmons is Chair; Councillor Durley is Vice-Chair.

Community & Infrastructure Services deals with roads, sidewalks, streetlights, sewers, water, cemeteries, drainage, parks, recreational services, facilities, and special community events. Councillor Urbanowicz is Chair; Councillor Cook is Vice-Chair.

Corporate Services deals with all matters relating to budgets, taxation and fees, and all other financial matters, human resources, and fire and library services. Councillor Papp is Chair; Councillor Lane is Vice-Chair.

What General Committee approves at one meeting is scheduled for ratification by Council at its next meeting (roughly two weeks later).

As you may know, both Council and Committee require “quorum” – at least the majority (four members) of the seven members – to legally function and make decisions. Each member of Council, including the Mayor, gets one vote. If the majority of members on hand support the motion, it is approved or “Carried”. If not, the motion is “Lost” or “Defeated”. In the case of a tie vote, the motion is defeated.

Next week, I will write about how you and other members of the public get involved in this democratic process.