On Monday, Coun. Fred Pattje will put forward a motion to keep committee of the whole meetings at the Shaw Auditorium, where video equipment is available to place the meetings on the city’s website.
If defeated, those meetings will take place at the new city annex, where there is no video equipment and considerable less space for delegations and residents to take in the action live.
Historically, committee of the whole meetings, held on opposite weeks to regular council meetings, have been less formal – discussion is more conversation than debate, dialogue between delegations, council and staff is more accessible, and decisions often attract less attention from the press.
At this point in Nanaimo’s history, there should be as many opportunities as possible for public engagement in civic discussions, and those discussions should be recorded and accessible to taxpayers.
There are many serious issues facing the city these days. The $170-million provisional 2013 budget was just introduced, the removal of two dams at Colliery Dam Park will continue to be debated, property tax rate increases continue, as do concerns over the boat basin and a plethora of other issues.
In the past few years, residents have shown a willingness to become more involved in their municipal government. Delegations that appear before council not only want council to hear what they have to say, but other residents as well.
A few years ago, city council was pleading with citizens to become involved, to voice opinions, to step forward and be heard. Now that it has happened, it doesn’t make sense to vote against an opportunity that would foster further conversation and transparency.
Holding meetings at the Shaw Auditorium is the best place for council to make decisions and the public to voice its opinions.