The Birmingham City Council will hold three evening meetings this year in an effort to increase accessibility and transparency at City Hall.
In a unanimous vote Tuesday, the council approved a measure spearheaded by District 1 Councilor Clinton Woods to hold one meeting per quarter at 5:30 p.m. starting in April. The evening meetings, Woods said, would allow members of the public whose schedules cannot accommodate the council’s regularly scheduled 9:30 a.m. meeting time.
“When it comes to having 9:30 a.m. meetings, some people don’t realize they have to arrive early and sign up to speak,” Woods said. “A lot of the times they have to take off work or school or find someone to watch the kids, and they’ll end up having to wait several hours until the speakers’ portion of the meeting. I think we can do better for the people who want to come participate.
“This is just a step toward giving people the opportunity to come (to meetings), and a step toward increasing transparency,” he said.
The evening meetings will take place on April 30, July 30 and Oct. 29. All three meetings will be held on the fifth Tuesday of the month so that they will not conflict with neighborhood association meetings — a decision that Council President Valerie Abbott lauded as “brilliant.”
The meetings in April, July and October will serve to explore the possibility of making quarterly evening meetings a permanent fixture for the council, Woods said. “It gives this council, this administration, the opportunity to see (whether) we see more residents coming out for the opportunity to have their voice heard,” he said. “It gives us this year to assess and evaluate and have some data to look back to see if this is really beneficial.”
The Mayor-Council Act of 1955 mandates that the council maintain regular meeting times each Tuesday. The council can reschedule individual meetings, but a permanent change to its meeting schedule would need to be approved by the state Legislature.
Woods and other members of the council’s Governmental Affairs/Public Information Committee said that making that change to the Mayor-Council Act is a “long-term goal” for the council. Earlier this year, the council formally called for rollbacks to changes the Legislature made the Mayor-Council Act in 2016.