Council has done its part: Now it’s up to us

Ron Bolin: April 23, 2012

In a motion at tonight’s FPCOW meeting (Finance and Policy meeting of the Whole, i.e. Council in the guise in which they can do anything they wish except pass bylaws), Council moved to have future FPCOW meetings recorded and placed for viewing on the City’s web site along those of “regular” Council meetings until they are moved to the New City Hall Annex when that building is completed.  Ignoring Staff advice,  Council voted six to nine to find their duty to inform the public over that of their own comfort with the Mayor and Councillors Johnston and Brennan voting against.

It is ironic that the actions taken in this meeting and the discussion that led to them will not be seen by the public in an official capacity until the minutes of this FPCOW meeting are approved at the next FPCOW meeting on May 7.  (They will be available in an unadopted form in the Agenda for the May 7th meeting released on the afternoon of May 3.)  This kind of document, coming to us as minutes via 18th century technology, provides only a late, abridged, incomplete, un-nuanced and often flavoured record of what took place.  Video recording, an inexpensive 21st century technology allows the public to see how their business is being conducted either immediately or very quickly after the meeting is held and to see a complete record of it.

While I can understand the reticence of some Councillors to expose their actions to a broader segment of the population than is able to make a public meeting at 4:30 in the afternoon, I applaud Councillor Anderson’s motion and the concurrence of Councillors Bestwick, Kipp, Greves, Pattje and McKay in it for bringing public participation in Nanaimo’s public meetings into the 21st century.

Also discussed and decided at the FPCOW meeting of April 23 were the following significant topics:

– the scheduling of “In Camera” Meetings (these seem to be more and more numerous);
– the 2011 Financial Plan Statements;
– 2012-2016 Financial Plan Bylaw;
– the Policy of Giving Preference to local suppliers;
– the Quarterly Report on Direct Award Purchases ($390,000);
– The Quarterly Report on Single Submission Purchases ($64,000).

There was pertinent and informative discussion on these topics which was worthy of being seen and heard by a wider audience than the 5 citizens in attendance at this afternoon meeting.

I have observed that there appear to be two fundamental theories about representative democracy.  On the one side there are those who believe that representative democracy is a 365 day per year activity and should reflect true democracy: that those elected as representatives owe it to their constituency to keep them informed and to inform themselves of their wishes.  On the other side are those who feel that the only time public involvement is truly required is once every three years when providence and an election chooses those with the right to rule.  Both these extremes are, of course, misguided, but watch our politicians at all levels to see where they fall along this continuum.

I take off my hat to those who sided with democracy as an ongoing though sometimes uncomfortable public process.

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