I guess with the election around the corner, good news is the blue-plate special. The announcement that New Westminster Council will live-stream Council meetings is definitely a good news story.
Like most people, I think democracy needs to operate as openly as possible in order to be accountable. Although I find all of our City Councillors and Mayor to be accessible people, and I have attended many council meetings and volunteer on a couple of City committees, I have sometimes been frustrated with accessibility to Council.
The biggest problem to me, up to now, has been the Monday afternoon “Committee of the Whole” sessions, which are open to the pubic, but are held at a time when most working people cannot attend, and are not broadcast. Even the minutes are not available until weeks later. Often, it is at these committees where the real discussion of topics is raised, and often the motion at the Evening Council Meeting is read and passed, with the discussion already completed in the afternoon. If one is wishing to delegate to Council (as I am wont to do on occasion), it is important to know the context for the discussion coming out of the afternoon “C/W”. With video streaming of the afternoon session (and an archive available on-line for later viewing) the populace can better understand the issue and how Council made the decision it did.
Even the evening meeting have been only partially accessible to those not able to attend in person. They have been broadcast on Shaw TV, but I would hazard to guess more than half of New Westminster does not actually get their TV service from Shaw. Luckily, Matt Laird has been recording and archiving the Shaw-broadcast meetings, and I have gone back to that resource several times to get caught up on NW Council action. I suspect this story from last year at Tenth to the Fraser was a major part of Council’s decision to go this way. Nothing worse than saying something can’t be done, then have someone do it right in front of you. All you Rubik’s Cube freaks know what I am talking about.
This also fills a bit of a gap in our local media. With Print media struggling to make ends meet with reduced income, and with our local electronic media still in the “enthusiastic-and-sometimes-skilled-amateur” category, there is little coverage of the sausage-making of local government. I can’t remember the last time I saw a reporter from either local newspaper attending an evening Council meeting (maybe they are watching on Shaw at home?). That said, I can’t think of a business case for paying someone’s salary to sit in a 4-hour meeting hoping to catch a publishable nugget. Besides, if movies have taught me anything, it is that City Beat reporters are 4 martinis in by 7:00pm.
Now that all the meetings will be available on line, it is only a matter of time before a skilled local video editor grabs some quotes, punches up a little autotune, and creates a NW Council version of this:
UPDATED: Unfortunately, Dr. Heidi was promoting naturapathic remedies to lose weight on the stream at 7:45 tonight, which I’m pretty sure wasn’ t on the agenda. hmmm…. technical glich?