The Langley City Council is rolling back the start of its meeting time by half an hour for the next six months.
During their meeting Tuesday night, council members discussed the pros and cons of convening the council at an earlier time. Since 2010, the council has been meeting at 5:30 p.m. on every first and third Monday of the month, or Tuesday when Monday is a holiday.
Councilmember Harolynne Bobis proposed starting the meetings at 5 p.m., citing concerns about lengthy meetings running late into the night and conflicting with her work schedule, which requires her to commute to Seattle in the early hours of the morning.
“I just think that 5-7 is a much more reasonable timeframe than 5:30-7:30, especially on those nights that we run over,” she said.
The mayor and most of the council members said they did not have a preference one way or another.
Councilmember Thomas Gill, however, argued against the proposal. The half hour between 5 and 5:30 p.m., he said, allows city staff, business owners and other working members of the public some time to get home and have a meal or snack before the meeting begins.
“I totally understand,” he said to Bobis. “I’m still partial to having that extra half hour buffer for the community, at the very least.”
Finance Director Monica Felici said she and Darlene Baldwin, the assistant city clerk, currently stay in city hall past 5 p.m. and work up until the start of the council meetings. Baldwin said she preferred that the council start at 5:30 p.m. since she closes up city hall at 5 p.m. and is often finishing up matters with last-minute visitors.
Director of Community Planning Meredith Penny and Public Works Director Randi Perry said they did not have a preference, being both salaried and having flexible hours.
The council opened the issue up to public comment on the matter.
Loretta Martin, the former executive director of the Langley Chamber of Commerce, said meeting at 5 p.m. could be problematic for business owners and people who work, either within or outside of Langley, to make it to the meetings in time.
She suggested that the council should make the change in start time on a temporary basis, and evaluate the issue once again when the council begins meeting in-person again.
Bobis said she was amenable to a trial period. Councilmember Rhonda Salerno suggested trying it out for six months, until the council’s second meeting in August.
Gill said that feedback from the community, in the meantime, can be used as a “good bellwether” to tell whether or not the earlier meeting time is a success.
The council voted 3-1 in favor of the proposal, with Gill voting against and Councilmember Craig Cyr abstaining from the vote.