BANGOR, Maine — City councilors will discuss this week whether to reduce the size of the council’s subcommittees from five voting members to three to improve efficiency and perhaps allow more substantive debate by the full council.
Councilor Susan Hawes, who requested the discussion, said reducing the size of committees might help make meetings run a little shorter without significantly changing the current dynamic.
“Most decisions still need approval by the full City Council,” she said. “I don’t have a problem with more things going before City Council. Some people who might watch those meetings might not know what we’re voting on if they didn’t watch the subcommittee meeting.”
Bangor’s policymaking structure is a little different from that of most municipalities in the area. While the full City Council is the authority for decisions, much of the back-and-forth discussion takes place in four subcommittees: infrastructure, government operations, business and economic development committee, and finance.
The current ordinance states that each committee “shall consist of three to five members appointed by the council chair from the City Council membership.” While some committees started out with three members, however, each has increased membership gradually so that all four have five members.
Hawes said the current subcommittees consist of a majority of the council. If there are 5-0 votes from subcommittee that still need full council approval, the majority already exists and the full vote would be redundant unless someone changes their mind.
“Right now, three councilors could approve a particular item. Is two that much different?” Hawes asked.
She said reducing the size would allow councilors more of an opportunity for their voices to be heard, whether at the subcommittee or city council level.
The committee size debate will take place at a workshop at 6:45 p.m. Wednesday, before the regular City Council meeting. Councilors may or may not make a recommendation, but changing the committee structure would require an ordinance change. Included in the discussion will be the independent authority of each subcommittee and whether that would need to change if the size were reduced.