A Light on City Hall is Going Dark

Ron Bolin: Nov. 25, 2012

Citizens unable to make 4:30pm meetings of City Council in their guise as COW (Committee of the Whole) have only two remaining meetings which they can attend at home via video unless Council redirects its current policy.  While these last two COW meetings will be held in the Shaw Auditorium at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre and will be captured to video for citizen access on the City’s web site, its first meeting of 2013 is scheduled to move permanently to a committee room in the New City Hall Annex which has limited seating and no video capability.

COW meetings are the same as Council meetings for all purposes (such as finances) but bylaws cannot be passed at them.  They are, however, the primary vehicle where departmental budget presentations are made, where the Financial Plan is discussed, and where progress reports are made.  If you feel that as citizen taxpayers you are entitled to see your elected officials represent you in these matters then I suggest you contact City Hall and the Mayor and Councillors to ask that they reconsider their decision to take the COW meetings dark and continue to use the Council Chamber which was built for this purpose in the Vancouver Island Conference Centre with your tax money and which provides more than one set up for recording video.

Unless Council is disabused of their intention to move COW meetings to the video-less and short seated committee room in our new $14 million Annex, the last such meetings which you will be able to view at home will take place on Nov. 26 (tomorrow/today depending on when you are reading this) and on December 12.  The first COW meeting of 2013 where budget discussions will be fully underway is scheduled to take place in the video vacant committee room in the new annex on January 21.

In a report to Council on April 30 of this year, City Manager Kenning is quoted:

“My experience is that televised Council meetings tend to be formal in nature with strict adherence to protocol and procedure. In the past, Finance/Policy Committee of the Whole meetings have been less formal, allowing for more in-depth review and discussion of issues. It is recognized that Council has made a commitment for increased public transparency, but having television cameras at Finance/Policy Committee of the Whole meetings may not contribute to increased transparency unless the Finance/Policy Committee of the Whole meetings continue to be a forum for detailed review of issues.”

I don’t know about you, but I do not find this revelation comforting.  More than enough of our City’s deliberations and decisions are already hidden behind a cloak of silence.

I anticipate that an item on this subject will appear at the last minute on the Agenda for tomorrow’s (Nov. 26) meeting though it did not appear on the original agenda presented on Thursday afternoon.

Contact information for our Mayor and Council can be found at: