Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Pelham Council, Committee, and You

I recently heard a radio interview about “Pop-Up Democracy” – small ways in which people can become involved in shaping the future of their communities.

That reminded me that a number of people have asked me about how Pelham Council and Committees function. When do we meet? How can you get your suggestions or improvements discussed? How can you get involved in shaping Pelham’s future?

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 a Procedural Bylaw provides order for our discussions. At Council, we make resolutions and enact bylaws – for taxation, spending, administration and enforcement. We set policy, approve legal agreements, and act on official correspondence. We also ratify the decisions of the Town’s General Committees.

Immediately following these Town Council meetings, we hold a “General Committee” meeting. Slightly less formal, General Committee tends 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 Papp is Chair; Councillor Accursi is Vice-Chair.

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

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

Both Council and Committee require “quorum” – at least a majority (four) of seven members – to legally function and make decisions. Each member of Council, including the Mayor, gets one vote. If the majority of members at the meeting support a 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 can get involved in this democratic process.