Port Moody councillor wants committee meetings back on the air

A Port Moody councillor wants meetings of the city’s finance committee, committee of the whole and community planning advisory committee returned to council chambers in the Inlet Theatre where they can be live-streamed and recorded for archival purposes.

Diana Dilworth said in a report she plans to put forward to council at its meeting Tuesday that the decision to move those meetings to the smaller Brovold Room, where there is no equipment in place to allow video streaming or recording, “was an arbitrary one made by the mayor” that has driven council backwards in one of its desired goals to build relationships “through transparency and integrity.”

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She said holding meetings of those committees — which can involve decisions in “the millions of dollars” and provide residents their first opportunity to see development proposals — in a setting that doesn’t have capacity for many spectators and away from video or audio recording “may leave residents with the idea that information is deliberately being dealt with ‘behind closed doors.’”

But Port Moody Mayor Rob Vagramov said the expense of staffing those meetings with a technician to manage the live-stream and subsequent digital archive isn’t justified by the few people who access them. He said the live coverage draws an average of 30 viewers.

He also said the smaller, more intimate environs of the Brovold Room will encourage better discussion and debate.

Statistics complied by city staff and included in Dilworth’s report show meetings of the finance committee in 2018 were watched live by an average of 34 viewers and by 274 viewers through the archive. Committee of the whole meetings were watched live by an average of 30 viewers and through the video archive by 195 people. And the community planning advisory committee meetings were viewed live by an average of 33 people and through archived video by 43 people.

Dilworth said those numbers indicate viewing video of committee meetings “is a valued activity by some residents of the community” that shouldn’t have been changed without consultation.

In her report, Dilworth pointed out regular council meetings have been live-streamed and archived since September 2012; finance committee meetings were moved to council chambers, where they can be live-streamed, last year; and the community planning advisory committee (which used to be known as the land use committee) was moved to council chambers in 2015 because of an increasing number of residents attending those meetings.

“Residents are now asking why meetings that have, in some cases, been held in council chambers for years are now being moved to a meeting room that has no capacity for audio-visual recording and potentially not enough room for residents to watch in person,” Dilworth said. “There now exists a vacuum of information.”

Vagramov said he’s looking into adding some sort of capability to stream and record meetings held in the Brovold room but Dilworth said such an expense is unnecessary when a system to do that is already in place in the Inlet Theatre.

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