North Adams City Council nixes earlier meeting time, stays with traditional 7:30 p.m.
NORTH ADAMS — The City Council on Tuesday rejected a proposal to begin its meetings earlier than the traditional 7:30 p.m. start time.
The vote was a rejection of the recommendation by the council's own General Government Committee, which had suggested switching the meeting time to 6:30 p.m. The switch would have bucked a tradition that dates back more than 50 years.
On Tuesday, councilors noted several benefits to the 7:30 p.m. start time.
Councilor Benjamin Lamb gave the most impassioned defense of the 7:30 p.m. start, saying on meeting nights he already only has 45 minutes to spend with his toddler at home. Moving the meetings earlier would essentially result in two entire days a month he would not see his child.
"Council meetings will come and go, the time with my child will not — I only get so much of it," Lamb said. "Family is incredibly important to me. I committed to the City Council knowing it was a 7:30 p.m. engagement on two Tuesdays a month, plus committee meetings."
Councilor Rebbecca Cohen suggested that as the council heads toward the end of its two-year term, the issue might be better left to future members to decide.
"It may be a make or break for a lot of people that have careers and children," Cohen said.
Councilor Jason LaForest added that, as the school department's administrative offices are integrated into City Hall, there should be consideration of the limitations to meeting space. The later start time, he added, allows committees to meet prior to the City Council's 7:30 p.m. meetings.
"There's no real value in seeing the meetings shift to 6:30 p.m. from 7:30 p.m. We're all very busy, councilors work out of the area, they deserve the opportunity to travel back to North Adams from their place of employment, [and] have a few minutes to prepare for the meeting," LaForest said.
Councilors Wayne Wilkinson and Eric Buddington were the only two to vote in favor of an earlier start time.
Wilkinson, citing the increasing length of City Council meetings, had introduced the proposal in last December.
In addition to getting councilors home earlier on Tuesday nights, the proposal was eyed as a potential way to increase public attendance at City Council meetings.
"I'm optimistic that we would get better public involvement if we shifted it to an earlier time. I think 6:30 p.m. is, for my personal purposes anyway, enough after the business of the day that I can be functional," Buddington said.
Newly appointed City Clerk Deborah Pedercini and former City Clerk Marilyn Gomeau had both signaled support for an earlier start time.
"Both clerks offered the opinion that an earlier start time may increase public attendance at meetings, and reduce pressure on councilors to complete agenda items when the hour grows late. All those speaking were accepting of an earlier start time," Councilor Paul Hopkins wrote in a summary of the committee's meeting last month.
Hopkins, who chairs the committee and had voted in favor of recommending an earlier start time, reversed his position on Tuesday.
"There are clearly good arguments on both sides," said Hopkins, who backed Cohen's suggestion that the matter be left to future councilors.
Adam Shanks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @EagleAdamShanks on Twitter, or 413-629-4517.
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