NORTH ADAMS — It was a proposal that City Council member Wayne Wilkinson had made before, and he was not willing to compromise.
“If I’m going down in flames,” he said at a City Council meeting Tuesday evening, “I’m going down in flames.”
His proposition? Shifting the start time of the meeting from the usual 7:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
“Everybody knows I’ve tried before, unsuccessfully,” Wilkinson said.
Again, his efforts failed, with the council voting 6-3 to oppose the switch.
In 2018, Wilkinson proposed shifting the meeting time earlier, and when the council voted on it in 2019, the measure failed, with two councilors voting in favor of the earlier time. For at least 50 years, regular council meetings have started at 7:30 p.m., and that start time is written into city ordinance.
A similar conversation played out in Pittsfield last year, when the City Council voted to start its meetings at 6 p.m. instead of 7 p.m.
In North Adams, Wilkinson hoped that an earlier time would increase public participation. “I’m concerned we have very few people in the audience.”
Other councilors were concerned, among other issues, about people with children struggling to make an earlier time and argued that it was the meeting’s topics, not time, that drive attendance.
Council President Lisa Blackmer said she wanted to see earlier meetings.
“I hear from the public, ‘Why do you guys meet so late?’ ” she said.
But, other councilors did not agree.
It would dissuade those with younger kids from serving on the committee, Councilor Keith Bona said, and changing the time after the new term started could be a problem.
“We just had an election. We knew what the time was when we ran,” he said. “This term has just started.”
Councilor Ashley Shade was open to making the time earlier, but not before 7 p.m.
“As someone who relies on public transportation, and knowing that many people in our city also rely on public transportation, if you work out of town, it’s very hard to get back into town for earlier meetings,” she said.
If you work in Pittsfield until 5 p.m., for example, it can take until after 6:30 to get back to North Adams on public transportation, she said.
Councilor Marie Harpin said that in-person attendance shifts, based on the meeting topic, noting that this past fall, many people came to a council meeting when the Mohawk Theater was on the agenda.
“This room was filled at 7:30,” she said.
An earlier time won’t guarantee more people — committee meetings start earlier in the evening, and often, few people attend, Councilor Jennifer Barbeau said.
Harpin suggested that 7 p.m. would be a good compromise, and other councilors agreed. But, after debate, Blackmer asked: “Do we want to make an amendment to the ordinance?”
“No,” Wilkinson said. “If they want to change it to 7, let them do it on their own.”