Here are three reasons why – opinion by Merilyn Vale.
1/ At the April 27 meeting it appears from the YouTube version that the Mayor Lisa Matthews miscounted the vote during one item and used her casting vote to defeat a motion which she said was a tied vote.
According to the clip – which the council website says is not to be used as an official record of the meeting – it appears it was not tied but a vote of 8 for and 7 against.
Trouble is, if the vision and audio is not to be used as an official record, but we are in a democracy, then people such as myself need to have access to the event itself to know for sure what happened.
When I am physically at the meeting, I can be certain I know which way the councillors vote because I watch them put their hands up.
I can tell at a glance who is in the room and who isn’t.
I couldn’t do that watching this zoom meeting from home even though someone was typing on screen to record when someone left the meeting.
Was there one councillor who was not “in the room” at the time and the Mayor counted correctly? We don’t know, we couldn’t see.
The public attend meetings to hold the council accountable and we couldn’t hold them accountable on April 27.
2/ The public forum was cancelled. Instead, we were told, councillors were given written copies of submissions.
But did the councillors read them?
At least when the speakers address the council, it is a public event and their views are aired to not only the councillors who may or may not be listening but also to the people in the public gallery and those watching on the livestream – which is on the public record forever.
And with members of the public attending to show their support, the public forum is a powerful message to councillors about what people consider important.
3/ It was impossible for the public to see the councillors except if they were speaking.
We didn’t get to see them scrolling their facebook feed or talking to a colleague or wandering off out of the room or appearing to fall asleep, or eating. I understand even the attendees could not see all their colleagues on their screens.
The meeting is supposed to be public. Under the zoom system, It wasn’t.
We saw one face at a time: the person talking. We also saw parts of the agenda as it was being written but only parts of it.
It wasn’t as easy to read as when I am physically there.
It was not always possible to know what the councillors were voting on.
So, how should the meeting have been run? The last meeting in March was run with social distancing in place for the councillors and with only me, as a representative of the media, in the public gallery.
They could have done the same again, and allowed the public forum speakers to address the council from the public gallery. And there would still have been room for a handful of people there, appropriately distanced, representing their fellow members of the public.
It would have been a win, win, win for democracy.
Copyright Merilyn Vale