All council meetings soon online

Workshops, committee of the whole meetings to be webcast now

Corisa Bell is on Maple Ridge's open government task force.

Maple Ridge residents will be able to keep closer tabs on city hall with all of council meetings soon to be webcast.

Council approved a recommendation from the open government task force on Tuesday, asking that livestreaming of its Monday workshop meetings and its afternoon committee meetings be a staff priority.

Currently, council livestreams only its regular meetings on Tuesday evenings.

But much of council debate occurs at the Monday morning workshops, while the afternoon committee of the whole meeting is where council often gets its first look at issues.

“Livestreaming all meetings allows our residents more flexibility to view meetings from a location that is convenient for them,” Mayor Nicole Read said Thursday.

“Our goal is to increase the number of our residents who participate.”

Beginning Monday, the committee of the whole meeting will be livestreamed.

Read chairs the task force that was formed last month with the goal of increasing public participation in local government. The task force is scheduled to disband after six months. Coun. Tyler Shymkiw is also on the task force, along with Coun. Corisa Bell, who pushed for livestreaming during the previous council under mayor Ernie Daykin.

And as recently as a year ago, Maple Ridge was of the few cities in Metro Vancouver that was not livestreaming its meetings online, instead relying on Shaw Cable broadcasts.

Maple Ridge last year then began livestreaming its regular meeting and taping its committee meetings, both of which were posted to its website a few days later.

Bell, though, says the videos should be posted online immediately.

Council also approved a task force request to make all details about contracts the city has signed, with who and for how much, “accessible to the public at the earliest opportunity.”

Bell said, theoretically, that information is available to anyone who asks, but getting that information online, “that’s key.”

With those two steps of opening government taken, Bell said it’s now a matter of getting regular citizens to join the task force and continue to work on opening up municipal government.

Appointments of voters to the task force and setting longer term goals can also begin. The task force will be advised by technical experts, citizens and staff.

The task force is looking at “all the different ways of engaging the public, especially the software that’s being used in other communities … seeing how we can fully engage the public, not just once a year during the survey, but continually and ongoing and always,” Bell said.

Software can allow residents, for example, to give input into the budget process. The programs also can screen out those who don’t live in the areas affected, when it comes to local issues.

Last year, council approved a Recordings of Council Meetings policy. The policy allows council to remove video recordings or parts of them from the website, “where it considers it prudent or advisable to do so.”

That’s the same approach council followed last year when a video recording of a June 16, 2013 committee meeting was edited, then posted on the district’s website, because of comments made by Bell. She had questioned staff about the budget.

 

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