Video in city hall annex provides transparency during budget process

Committee of the whole meetings are where budget/finance and city policy are discussed and decided.

To the Editor,

At its meeting on June 18, the committee of the whole voted not to install video equipment in the new city hall annex boardroom where the committee meetings are held, but to go ahead and rough in the necessary wiring for it.

The argument against going ahead with the installation was primarily on the grounds of budget. But council has an untouched contingency fund of $100,000 which would be more than adequate for this purpose.

I am sure that there are still other contingency funds associated with the annex or for the city itself which could be available. It is peculiar that council should vote to spend money on roughing in the wiring when it doesn’t lead to videos.

Does council want to build the not-quite-video-bridge to nowhere?

Alternatively, meetings where video equipment is already available could continue to be held in the Shaw Auditorium at a net cost of about $375 per meeting. I am not sure of the cost when we don’t use it, but I know that we must fill the void in the conference centre budget. The money to be spent on wiring the annex would give us about a year and a half of video recorded committee of the whole meetings there.

In 2013, the budget is estimated at about $171.5 million, an increase of $11.5 million over this year and a possible tax increase of about 14 per cent (one per cent represents about $800,000 in the budget) unless other sources of money are discovered.

Citizens need to be able to see and hear council as it goes into the presentations and discussions that will finalize that estimated budget and set the plan for the succeeding four years.  This won’t be possible in a small room with about 16 seats for the public at a meeting at 4:30 p.m. without video access.

Committee of the whole meetings are where budget/finance and city policy are discussed and decided. Citizens need to call, e-mail or write our mayor and councillors and demand that the video equipment either be installed in the new annex boardroom now, or that the committee of the whole meetings continue in the Shaw Auditorium. The budget is the city’s most important document and city policies are a close second. It is the source of our property tax bill as well as city fees.

Let’s not be frozen out of the process.

Ron Bolin


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