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Wednesday, November 30, 2022
Editorial: Stop with the preamble

It's been well-documented that Niagara-on-the-Lake council meetings go on and on and … among the longest in the region.

Recognizing the problem, councillors last fall even looked at making changes to their meeting format, but eventually decided to maintain the status quo.

One reason for these lengthy meetings is it is common for councillors to speak out of turn, bend the rules of procedure by making off-the-cuff statements or ask questions when they’re not supposed to.

It often happens during question periods, when loquacious councillors offer meandering preliminary statements before getting to the question.

But it’s not proper procedure and many times the preamble is simply self-serving politics – pandering to presenters and voters who might be watching.

The thing is, it actually has the opposite effect.

It doesn’t show respect, it shows disrespect for the regular proceedings of council meetings.

So, councillors, please cut the preamble.

If it’s not a question period, don’t ask questions.

If it’s not a time for statements, don’t lead into your questions with statements.

There’s a time and a place for both, and the rules were established long before we came along.

Further, it is not necessary for each and every councillor to thank each and every presenter — not doing so isn’t unfriendly. It’s just procedure. And following procedure serves a purpose. It keeps comments and debate to specific times, helps save time in often marathon meetings and can avoid confusion on already complex discussions.

Watching Lord Mayor Betty Disero try to handle people speaking out of turn can be frustrating.

It sometimes seems she is running “Disero Day Care,” where she has to constantly remind councillors what is allowed and when.

And while she’s doing a good job maintaining decorum, she shouldn’t have to do it All. The. Time.

Making unnecessary, off-the-cuff comments out of turn is no more acceptable in a virtual gathering than it is during a formal meeting in the council chambers.

If anything, it should be easier to keep quiet. Councillors can just mute their mics.

So, let’s move forward with a little bit more respect for the rules at council meetings.

It really shouldn’t be that hard.