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Santa Maria City Council Meetings to Start An Hour Earlier on Trial Basis

Santa Maria City Council meetings will begin an hour earlier after members agreed to change the time on a trial basis.

Starting with the Sept. 5 meeting, the council sessions will start at 5:30 p.m., instead of 6:30 p.m., for the next 6 months.

Councilman Jack Boysen first raised the idea at the end of the June 20 meeting, noting that other agencies, including the Santa Barbara City Council, start their meetings in the afternoon. 

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors meetings start at 9 a.m.

The Goleta City Council also meets in the afternoon, plus has an evening session.

Boysen said an earlier meeting time could boost participation among those getting off work at 5 p.m. 

“I certainly think the benefits of an earlier start time outweigh any of the negatives,” Boysen added during the Aug. 1 meeting.

“I would be in favor of taking a six-month trial run at 5:30 and see how that works,” he added.

Mayor Alice Patino said she had heard from senior citizens who said they would attend meetings but don’t like to drive in the dark.

“Starting regular City Council meetings earlier would allow the opportunity for more discussion on agenda items as well as provide the opportunity to finish meetings earlier,” City Manager Rick Haydon said.

An earlier start time would enable members of the public, including high school civic students and Boy Scouts, to stay through the entire meeting, Haydon added.

The city manager also suggested an earlier meeting time would benefit print media trying to make a deadline.

After hearing public concerns, Boysen suggested adding another public comment for the end of the meeting to accommodate those unable to get to meetings at 5:30 p.m. so they could speak about issues not on the agenda.

“I agree with Mr. Boysen the 5:30 (start) would be a good trial and who knows, maybe in the end of this we will consider going a little bit earlier,” Councilman Mike Cordero added.

Suggestions of 5 p.m. or 3 p.m. were rejected as potentially too early.

Three members of the public who spoke during the Aug. 1 meeting objected to the earlier time.

Cynthia Gudino said she works to get community members to attend council meetings, but many are hesitant due to the lack of translation services or complaints their comments aren’t translated properly. 

She said many work in the fields after 5 p.m. and would not be able to attend the earlier meeting.

Cordero said many factors led to the time change, and denied the City Council was trying to keep groups of residents from attending the meeting. 

“We’re trying to try it out for a while to see whether we can get more people …” Cordero said. “There is no effort here by any of the five of us, I’m absolutely certain, that we’re note trying to cut people out of the meeting. 

“That is not happening. We’re looking for an option to enhance the attendance at this important function of our local government, Cordero said.

Regular meetings of the City Council are held on the first and third Tuesday of each month at the Council Chambers of City Hall, 110 E. Cook St., unless otherwise specified.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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