Members of Calgary city council have pressed pause on a plan to fast forward their sometimes sluggish meetings. On Tuesday, they spent an hour and a half discussing options presented by a parliamentary expert on who could be responsible for chairing council meetings, a task currently handled by the mayor. Eli Mina, a parliamentary expert, was contacted by the city to provide an opinion on the matter. He provided three options on how to go forward: Have the mayor continue to chair the meetings, guided by a set of “do’s and don’ts” Have a city councillor be appointed chair of the meetings, providing the mayor the opportunity to engage in debate Hire an outside, unelected person to chair the meetings City administration estimated the cost of hiring an outside individual to chair council meetings would be approximately $170,000 per year, based on an hourly rate of $400. As part of the option to have the mayor continue to chair council meetings, Mina made suggestions on how the mayor should comport him or herself in the role: Act humbly and respectfully and as a builder of Council as a team of equals Celebrate diversity of opinions and avoid dismissive comments towards political partners Generally, avoid being the first speaker in debate (especially on divisive issues) Keep your own comments brief and to the point (no rambling) Be patient with speakers and resist the temptation to prematurely interrupt them Resist the temptation to offer instant rebuttals to statements you disagree with Avoid chatty and casual remarks or questionable humour Avoid becoming emotional or defensive when you do not prevail Know when to invite knowledgeable staff members to share relevant input Resist the temptation to ‘fly solo’ and make unilateral rulings without staff’s advice Avoid behaviours that can create a toxic environment and inadvertently block valid input Possibly vacate the Chair and allow a Councillor or an external presiding officer to preside (especially when your personal biases are too strong to preside effectively) Obtain feedback on your presiding style (from Council, staff, or outside experts) Ultimately, council made no decision on the matter, instead referring it back to administration to provide further suggestions. “We just did an hour and a half of wasted discussion,” said Coun. Peter Demong, frustrated with the proceedings. “Why not just make the decision, if it is approved, then you come back with the bylaws and say this is what it’s going to look like. To do this hour and a half just to have this conversation at another committee or council meeting, to me that’s pointless.” Mayor Naheed Nenshi was defensive when talking with reporters, feeling the matter had been framed in the media as ‘the mayor is doing a bad job.’ “It’s actually about helping the mayor do a better job as mayor.” Nenshi said he believes the problem is not with who is in the chair’s seat, but rather with the nature of how council meetings are prescribed to run by the city’s procedure bylaw. “Look at last Monday,” said Nenshi, referring to the meeting where he was absent for the first time in seven years.
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