City Council rejects earlier meeting start time proposal

Newton’s City Council only had a couple of items on its docket Monday night, and the one that took the more time to the debate was related to meeting expediency.

The Council voted not to change the start time of its meetings from 7:45 to 7:30 p.m. The 15-minute time change idea was a compromise—some wanted meetings to start at 7 p.m.—but still a bridge too far for many in the chamber.

Councilor Susan Albright, a proponent of an earlier start time, said she looked into 32 communities in Massachusetts to see what their council start times were, and Newton’s is on the late end of that spectrum.

“Citizens have a hard time waiting until 8 o’clock to come and listen to our meetings,” Albright said. “Although it’s only 15 minutes, I’m hopeful that some council in the future will move it back another 15 minutes to 7:15 and give citizens a break.”

Bound by bath time

Ward 2 Councilor David Micley, a father of three, said the late start time allows him to be at home for his kids’ bath time.

“My youngest is 1, and might not be the last, so who knows? There could be many more years with young kids,” Micley mused. “If anyone wants to help with bathtime, guaranteed for the next four years, then I’m glad to commit to 7:30 right now.”

Ward 2 Councilor-At-Large Tarik Lucas supported the idea of earlier meetings and noted that the Newton School Committee starts its meetings at 6:30 p.m.

Ward 3 Councilor Julia Malakie, in contrast, said her “nerdy” motivation for keeping the late start time is her interest in watching committee meetings that start at 7 p.m.

“And if we’re concerned with how late we run, we could all talk less,” Malakie said.

More time to chat?

Ward 7 Councilor Becky Grossman, a mother of three whose kids are older than Micley’s, said homework and sporting events make earlier Council meetings difficult, too.

And she cautioned that an earlier start may not mean an early finish.

“I’m a believer that work expands to fill the time, and if we start earlier, I don’t have a lot of confidence that that extra hour is going to mean we end earlier,” Grossman said. “I actually think it might mean we each speak longer.”

With input from councilors with children and with the specter of possibly having to spend more time listening to each other speak, the Council voted 16 to 7 (with one absent) to keep its 7:45 p.m. meeting start time.

The early-starter faction had an uphill battle. The Programs and Services Committee had voted to reject the start time change.