The cost to video council meetings is a “small price to pay for transparency,” said Nanaimo Coun. Gord Fuller.
New video-recording equipment for Nanaimo’s service and resource centre could range from $8,500 for a basic camcorder to as high as $118,200 in the first year, depending on how technical politicians want to get, a new report shows.
Earlier this year, Nanaimo council called for staff members to look into options to record meetings in the service and resource centre and audio-record closed council meetings.
Council meetings at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre’s Shaw Auditorium can be viewed by the non-attending public, but residents are in the dark when it comes to watching boardroom politics at the resource centre where budget, governance and core review issues have been debated.
The building is wired up to record, but no equipment has been installed.
Staff recommends councillors hold off on a decision to install video-recording equipment until after a core services review and not to create or release permanent audio of in-camera meetings, which they say will take considerably more effort to review before being released to the public, require modified software and possibly additional equipment. There would also be the need to hire a new position or contractor.
The issue will be debated by council Monday (Oct. 19) night.
Fuller told the News Bulletin in advance of the council meeting that he recognizes there would be challenges to releasing in-camera audio, but what you can get now is “a totally blacked-out piece of paper with a meeting date on it” and minutes don’t explain much of what happened.
“So yes there will be challenges on what gets released. You may have to do some editing with the tapes but to me it’s worth it. Transparency is worth it,” he said. “We can’t hide behind closed doors all the time.”
Fuller also supports the highest-quality video recording equipment, anticipated to cost $118,200 in the first year, calling it a small price to pay for transparency. He doesn’t believe council needs to wait for a core review.
But Mayor Bill McKay would like to wait for the city service review before a decision is made for video-recording equipment in the resource centre and audio of in-camera meetings.
Video equipment is a new service and audio-records will take a lot of work, according to McKay.
“One thing that is quite concerning to me is the potential for either audio or video of the in-camera meetings and how those might be redacted when it comes to divulging them and how much work would be involved and would we have to dedicate one person or would we have to dedicate staff time to that redacting?” he said. “I have always believed that we should have a recording of in-camera meetings and be kept on the record so that council and staff can review them when necessary. The question is, what does it look like when you start releasing those to the public?”
Coun. Ian Thorpe has no problem with having audio records of in-camera meetings but he notes there’s a considerable expense involved in processing requests for information and said that would have to be looked at carefully. He also argues against the need to video record committee of the whole meetings, pointing out that they should be treated as other committee meetings in the city.