Calculating St. Albert City Councillors’ meeting attendance – from best to worst

Posted on December 09, 2016, 12:28 am
6 mins

PHOTOS: St. Albert City Council. From left to right: Bob Russell, Sheena Hughes, Tim Osborne, Nolan Crouse, Wes Brodhead, Cam MacKay and Cathy Heron (City of St. Albert photo). Below: A few shots from the author’s personal collection, which includes Mayor Crouse at one of the many community events he also goes to, Cam MacKay, and Sheena Hughes.

ST. ALBERT, Alberta

Love the guy or hate him, no one in the Edmonton-area bedroom community of St. Albert will be surprised to learn that Mayor Nolan Crouse not only signed up to attend more scheduled meetings than anyone else on City Council, but has a better attendance record than all other councillors for all the meetings he agreed to attend.

crouseMr. Crouse had 427 scheduled meetings in the 36 months before Oct. 31 this year. He made it to 426 of them, which if you’re in a mood to crunch numbers comes out to a 99.8-per-cent attendance record. That’s as close as you can get to perfect without your attendance being, well, perfect.

Crunching the same numbers for the rest of Council – all of which are available to the public on the city of St. Albert website – the worst attendance record by percentage belongs to Councillor Bob Russell, who signed up to attend 115 meetings after his by-election victory in June 2015 and made it to only 87 of them. That gives Mr. Russell an attendance record of 75.7 per cent.

Indeed, as an aside, it’s interesting to note that the three worst attendance rates on council belong to Mayor Crouse’s three harshest critics. We’ll get to the details in a moment. But first, a necessary digression …

Just saying this is going to make a certain number of people in St. Albert angry. They’re sure to point out that there are good reasons why some city councillors may have better attendance records than others. Mr. Crouse, for example, is the only one who technically has a full-time job.

mackayOn the other hand, while Mr. Russell’s attendance record is pretty poor in my estimation, at 85 years of age, while he doesn’t have to worry about holding down another job, he may have legitimate reasons.

Likewise, I understand that not all meetings are created equal in the attention the public pays to their work. When I sat on a St. Albert city committee as a community volunteer, I can tell you that one councillor, who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty, often turned up late, asked for one or two items of personal interest to be moved up the agenda, and was out the door as soon as they were dealt with. That got counted in the minutes, though, as full attendance.

So today I’m just going to offer readers some statistics that conveniently appear in a public place, and leave it to the city councillors with the worst records to explain their reasons – if they feel like it. This is just one citizen’s blog, after all. No one has a legal obligation to say anything.

hughesStill, if you ask me, with a municipal election coming down the pike on Oct. 16, 2017, this is relevant information. (For the record, since the question is certain to be asked, no, I will not be running again.)

To be clear, these numbers include only official scheduled meetings, not the myriad community events that some council members, like the mayor, reliably attend … and others don’t.

It’s worth noting that all councillors serving full terms were scheduled in the time frame to attend to attend 205 meetings (85 in the case of Mr. Russell) that are required by policy or by vote. These include Council itself, Council’s Standing Committee of the Whole, the Standing Committee on Finance, and the Inter-municipal Affairs Committee.

Councillors have some control, however, over the number of other committee meetings they sign up for. So while Mayor Crouse signed up for 222 such meetings, Councillor Cam MacKay signed up for only 57, the lowest number among full-term councilors.

Even so, Mr. MacKay’s attendance record was the second worst on City Council. Councillor MacKay signed on to attend 262 meetings, and made it to 207 of them – a 79-per-cent attendance record.

So here they are, the attendance records of St. Albert’s sitting city councilors, from best to worst in percentage terms, without further elaboration:

Councillor                 Meetings    Attended    Absent    % Attended
Nolan Crouse           427              426              1                99.8%
Cathy Heron             359              343              16              95.5%
Wes Brodhead         371               351              20             94.6%
Tim Osborne            314               284              30             90.4%
Sheena Hughes        337              302              35             89.6%
Cam MacKay            262               207              55             79.0%
Bob Russell              115               87                28             75.7%

Do with this information what you will.

8 Comments to: Calculating St. Albert City Councillors’ meeting attendance – from best to worst

  1. Larry Mitchell

    December 10th, 2016

    Just another reason why our mayor is so popular. Anyone know what was the lone meeting he missed.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      December 10th, 2016

      I don’t. And, as I said in the article, it is not my intention to start excusing or explaining why one politician has a better attendance record than another. The records themsleves speak for themselves, regardless of the reasons, although they are only part of an assessment of each councillor’s fitness to hold office. If office holders or their supporters wish to explain, encourage, defend, or take issue with my approach – as one commenter did on social media, demanding I print an explanation for why one councillor has a poor attendance record – they are welcome to do so here in the comments section. DJC

      Reply
    • BrusterT

      August 7th, 2017

      He attended a funeral.

      Reply
  2. jerrymacgp

    December 11th, 2016

    I’m not sure about the methodology here. I think that like the rest of us, attendance at work should be based on what you have to do, not what you volunteer for. So, in that vein, City Council meetings, Council committee meetings, and other activities that are part & parcel of the role of a city or town councillor should be included, but not the “extras” that are not essential or core to the role.

    Reply
    • BrusterT

      August 7th, 2017

      I Disagree Jerry. The additional meeting speak to the integrity of the individual. If you make a commitment, you should hold to that commitment. If a councillor doesn’t honor his/her commitments, that says a lot about his/her lack of integrity.

      Reply
  3. August 9th, 2017

    I am unsure as to how these meetings work but I sign up for a lot of industry meetings at work that I don’t need to attend but by signing up I get on the email list and get forwarded the minutes of the meeting. I would hate to think that a councilor had to do the same thing but I would get it.

    Reply
  4. August 9th, 2017

    David, I am going to say something rare so enjoy it… great article. I disagree with some points in it but you really tried to stick to facts without adding your usual socialist attacks and I actually enjoyed reading it. I was wondering if you had any idea which of the councilors had full time or part time jobs on top of being councilors?

    My big takeaway from this article is that I think our elected officials spend way too much time in meetings.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      August 9th, 2017

      I write an opinion blog, so generally try to make a strong point with a beginning, a middle and a conclusion. Now and again, however, I can’t resist a bit of old-style reporting, as in this case. I try to resist the temptation as much as possible. Your question is a good one and should probably be asked of all candidates. With the exception of the mayor’s post, city council positions in St. Albert are officially part time jobs. Should they be? Probably not. But the political hurdle to making them full-time positions is probably too high. Unfortunately, in my estimation, too many candidates, including many successful ones, in the years I have lived here are either people who have never had what I’d call a real job, or retired folks with good retirement incomes and time on their hands, plus the occasional career politician. Many of the best candidates in the prime of life are ruled out because it’s just to much work to serve on council while pursing a career. DJC

      Reply

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