City council has had its fair share of special meetings. Those are the meetings that aren’t on the originally set calendar of events and take place on days typically not reserved for council business.
Sometimes there’s a decent amount of time between when the meeting is announced and when it happens. Sometimes not.
Regardless, these special meetings of council, often convened to discuss a single matter in need of a vote to take place right there and then, as perhaps it can’t wait until the next meeting of council, are extraordinary in the fact that unlike other meetings of council or one of the various city committees, they aren’t web streamed.
That is, until now.
City council made the right call when it voted unanimously to put these meetings online for all to see, just as it does with the other meetings.
Resident and former mayoral candidate Rosemary McConkey initially raised the issue last month, citing the potential of council to cherry pick items that could be included in meetings that anyone can watch, even if they can’t physically be at the council meeting, and items that would be in meetings that are only viewable if you can make the trek to city hall.
And not everyone can just head over to city hall in the afternoon in the middle of the week.
“What are you afraid of? Why are you not allowing these meetings to be web streamed?” she asked at the meeting.
McConkey was absolutely right in that these meetings should be available for all to see online – even if the viewership numbers are as low as three or four people, as cited by Councillor Nancy Diamond in that May committee meeting.
“While trying to be open and transparent…when we’re talking about three or four people who might watch a short meeting, and it’s an additional cost on top of a contract, I think we’re pretty well served now,” she said at the time.
It all comes down to optics. If you are going to web stream meetings, which the city has done for its regularly scheduled meetings for about four years now, you have to do it for all of them. A key focus of a democratically elected system is transparency, and if you’re going to choose what meetings are more accessible than others, then that’s working against the principle.
Thankfully, councillors have seen the light, and a bit more transparent sunlight is now coming in through the curtains at city hall.