In an effort to establish a more open and welcoming atmosphere for the public and make a clear distinction between Council and Committee of the Whole Meetings, our first meeting of the year found Mayor and Council seated around a table on the floor of the Chamber. Regular Council meetings will remain more formal, with Mayor and Council seated on the dais above the Chamber floor.
Members of the public who attended this Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting to speak to agenda items were invited to join Council at one end of the table to make their comments/presentation and, to me, seemed comfortable with the new seating arrangment.
I believe that interaction generally between Council, staff and audience members was also relaxed and positive. I commend Mayor Jensen, staff and our Council for introducing and supporting this new COW meeting format and I, for one, look forward to hearing your reaction the next time you attend an Oak Bay COW meeting.
My belief has always been that the Council Chamber is a public chamber and belongs to you; when there, you should be made to feel welcome and encouraged to participate in local government decision-making. I agree that there is a need for decorum, respect and process but I feel that you should never be made to feel intimidated or uncomfortable when attending/addressing Council or COW meetings. This new COW seating arrangment is designed to mitigate such feelings and foster healthy dialogue between Council and Oak Bay residents.