Our Call: County Council needs to meet at same time all year

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Editorial

The St. Louis County Council met Tuesday — but we wouldn’t be surprised if you missed it.

That’s because the council met at 11 a.m. instead of its usual time of 6:30 p.m. Why? We’re not sure. Council Vice Chair Hazel Erby, D-University City, who represents the 1st District, made the motion last week for a change in meeting time without giving a reason.

To a council that has emphasized its renewed focus on transparency, as opposed to the past, it’s a troubling trend that we’ve noticed for more than a year.

At first, the council held emergency meetings on off days or times for an employee’s funeral and to get amendments to the county Charter turned into the election board ahead of an election deadline. While at least those are reasons, we’re not sure that deadlines that are published years in advance should ever amount to an emergency. The council can start earlier if it fears a veto from County Executive Steve Stenger.

But other times the council moves meetings with seemingly no explanation, or even at the last minute. The phenomenon seemed to stop, but returned last month with an emergency meeting on the county subpoena and this week’s 11 a.m. change.

We’ve met residents who planned to attend the council to speak on a topic important to them, whatever that might be, and only found out from The Call that the meeting will happen in the middle of the day instead.

They would have driven to Clayton otherwise, which is an inconvenience at the best of times. Many of these residents are our unincorporated South County residents who already have to travel farther than other county residents who live in cities to get involved in their local government. Do you think someone who shows up for a nonexistent meeting is going to make it a priority to return to Clayton again? And what about people who work during the day and simply can’t attend weekdays, no matter the issue?

For the many weekday meetings last year, the council often barely cobbled together a quorum of its own members.

The ones with day jobs couldn’t attend. And if the council’s own members can’t attend, how does it expect the public to?

As the council looks to increase transparency in government, it could make county government even more transparent by holding its meetings at the same set time every week.