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Presentation to Council: Webcasting of the Public Access session - Peter Cormick

I attended the previous meeting of council on the 10 th of April because I had been told that there were to be some particularly interesting presentations to be made during the public access session, prior to the commencement of the meeting. And so, given that public access is not webcast, and in spite of my lengthy, liberating disengagement from council matters, I made the effort to attend. And as it turned out, the high quality presentations did indeed make the effort of attending well worthwhile. But as I sat in the gallery and watched and listened to the presentations and observed the unchanged, very limited to non-existent involvement of the councillors, I wondered yet again, why on earth this so-called public access session is not webcast. Why the webcasting switch is not simply flicked on just half an hour earlier than it normally is, begs questions: of just how genuine is council’s espoused commitment to transparent government. After all, on its website, council advises that “We provide on-demand video and audio of Council meetings through this internet-based live streaming service ... [which] allows you greater access to Council proceedings, decisions and debate and eliminates the geographic barriers that prevent some people from attending our meetings.” Clearly, the presentations by community members during the pre-meeting public access session, and the involvement of councillors, to whatever extent that might be, is very much a matter of public interest - and should be afforded exactly the same status – as far as public interest is concerned - as presentations on agenda items, made during the public forum session. There is no sensible reason that I can think of for public access not to be webcast. If there is a sensible reason, I would like to hear what it is. Further, the public forum session, held within the meeting itself really is quite out of place – as far as the purpose of the meeting is concerned: being to enable council to transact its business. In fact, in the OLG’s recent Draft Model Code of Meeting Practice, considered by council at its 13 March meeting, the OLG made a note, in the form of a recommendation, that public forums “should not be held as part of a council or committee meeting” (emphasis added) for the reason that “Council or committee meetings should be reserved [only] for decision-making by council”. Council’s response to this recommendation by the OLG was that it “believes that the Public Forum session should be included in the meeting when speakers are speaking on agenda items.” While the OLG provided a rationale for its position – that meetings should, naturally, be reserved for decision-making by council, and not include public forum – council, unfortunately, did not provide a cogent rationale for its rejection of the OLG’s position. What council has said is that public forum ought to be held within the meeting simply because its subject matter is contained on the meeting agenda. It is my view, and that of everyone whom I have spoken with on this subject, that the public access session should be webcast. All it would take for this to happen is for a majority of you to decide to do so. So, please, unless by magic a sensible reason for not webcasting the public access session can be created, take action to enable the webcasting to commence, as soon as possible.

#Opinion #Council #LocalStateFederal #PeterCormick #Paper

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