After more than a decade of meeting at 7 p.m, Winston-Salem city council will now meet one hour earlier.
During Tuesday’s meeting, council members approved a resolution to shift regular meetings to 6 p.m. and committee meeting times to the afternoon. Though initially the item was placed on the consent agenda, it was removed so it could be considered separately from the rest of the agenda items.
South Ward representative John Larson made a motion for each of the items to be voted on individually. The amendment to the city council meeting time was approved in a 7-1 vote with Southeast Ward representative James Taylor Jr. as the sole opposing member. The resolution regarding the committee meeting times passed in a 6-2 vote with Larson and Taylor dissenting.
The changes are slated to go into effect on Feb. 1.
Why the changes were proposed and what residents had to say about it
In previous meetings, city staff mentioned how employees don’t want to work late into the evening and how other cities like Greensboro and High Point meet at earlier times.
City Manager Lee Garrity and Assistant City Manager Ben Rowe initially recommended these changes to the council. During the Jan. 10 meeting Garrity said, “My intent with this recommendation was actually to help the citizens and to help all of you to make sure we can retain and recruit the top staff to try to deliver the best services for citizens.”
The changes have been met with considerable pushback from members of the public and organizations such as the Coalition for Accountability and Transparency had called on city council to refuse the change.
Carolyn Highsmith, a representative for the community watchdog group said they view the change as a “huge impact on citizen participation in city government.”
Citizen Mackenzie Cates-Allen also shared her thoughts on the new changes Tuesday night. She said that earlier meetings could make it harder for people to attend.
“The citizens of Winston-Salem are who the government is supposed to represent,” Cates-Allen said. “And the citizens have very clearly spoken. The meetings are when they are. When you take this job, you know that.”
While the changes were originally considered during a Dec. 5 city council meeting, the vote was put off until Tuesday because activists argued that there hadn’t been public input sessions on the changes.
When city staff members surveyed citizens, the majority preferred for the meeting times to stay the same.
Based on Tuesday’s vote, the Community Development/Housing/General Government Committee, which currently meets on the second Tuesday of each month, will swap meeting days with the Finance Committee which currently meets on the second Monday of each month.
“Most things need to [be] discussed before they get to finance,” Northwest Ward representative Jeff MacIntosh said, adding that it seems to “make sense from a flow standpoint to have finance last.”
The Public Works and the Public Safety committees, which currently meet at 6 p.m., will be moved to 2 p.m., while the Community Development/Housing/General Government and Finance committees will shift from 4:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.
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