Another Monday Night Favorite?

Ron Bolin: March 8, 2012

Nanaimo’s Finance Policy Committee of the Whole (FPCOW), the OTHER Council meeting, met for the first time on March 5 in the Shaw Auditorium.  This was a result of their recent decision to meet there for reasons of accessibility at least until the Board Room in the New City Hall Annex is ready.  This move makes possible the video recording of FPCOW meetings just as is done for the “regular” Council meetings which we can now follow on Shaw Cable, direct on-line through the City’s web site, or by the recorded video that is maintained at the City’s web site.

In thinking about the programs associated with these two different Council meetings it is worthwhile to consider the somewhat different functions which they perform.  Bylaws can only be passed in a “regular” Council meeting.  For this reason they are heavy on the land development component of the City’s activities. For this reason, many of the items found on a regular Council agenda are of interest primarily to a neighbourhood or a relatively restricted area around an application for a rezoning or a development permit.  Outside the OCP and Zoning bylaws, the majority of such matters are primarily of interest to a relatively restricted part of the community.

In dealing with Financial and Policy matters, however, the FPCOW meetings cover subjects of general interest across the Community.  It has been a shame that these meetings have been held in a venue which provides no communication facilities, where no audio or video record of the meeting is captured, where seating is very limited, and additionally, the meetings are held at a time when most citizens are unable to attend, i.e. 4:30 in the afternoon.

The move to the Shaw, with the necessary facilities in place, makes it possible to overcome all of the above impediments to the ability of citizens’ to see their Council in action on matters of financial and policy concern to all.  Looking at our municipal election last November where barely 1 in 4 eligible voters chose to go to the polls, one can but wonder if ignorance of what is happening at City Hall plays a role.  Here is our chance to open a window on our City to our Citizens.  We should take it.  To make this happen will require political will on the part of our Council who, when this idea was broached and at least initially, expressed some concern about losing the coziness of the current situation.  If you agree with me that the FPCOW meetings should be available to the public on-line at the City’s web site, contact our Mayor and Councillors.

Watching FPCOW meetings can help you to understand why our 2012 budget and, by extension, our Financial Plan, is now larger that it was when it was first presented to Council by Staff.