Support for the recording of Brighton Council public meetings

Posted by on May 28, 2014 in Commentary, Local Politics, Politics |

An email I sent to Brighton Council May 27, 2014. The motion to record Brighton Council meetings will be discussed on Monday, June 2, 2014. Meeting starts at 6:30, stop by Council Chambers if you are able.

Attn: Ms. Kimmett – Please add this correspondence to the agenda of the next Council meeting.

 

Dear Mayor and Councillors,

 

I was pleased to see the Motion by Councillors Martinello and Tadman asking for the recording of Brighton Council meetings. I feel this is an important step in improving communications and making Council more accessible to the taxpayers of Brighton.

 

Back in September, 2013 I had discussed the possibility of livestreaming the Council meetings with Councillors Kerr and Rittwage. At that time both councillors agreed that it was a good idea and Councillor Rittwage even commented “Great idea. We should work on it sooner than later!”.

 

I mistakenly assumed that it would be looked at and I would receive a follow-up as to the status of my suggestion. I did not receive any follow up so I emailed Councillor Kerr on November 7, 2013 and he confirmed “There hasn’t been any further thought to it as far as I know as it was on hold until the budget draft came forward. I will check to see if it has been included in the first draft and it will come up for discussion then”.

 

I was concerned that the item may get cut from the budget if the costs for livestreaming were too high, so I sent the following to Councillor Kerr, “If you think the costing will prevent approval (you mentioned this happened previously), perhaps an interim option would be to have an audio recording of the meeting and then have that posted to the Municipal website. Of course this would not as ideal, but it would be something that could easily be done in house to keep the costs minimal”. Shortly after, Councillor Kerr replied with the following, “good suggestion. I have confirmed that the item will be in the draft budget coming forward”.

 

It turns out that Councillor Kerr’s statement was a false assurance as either the item was never added to the draft budget, or it was added and then removed before it came to up for discussion by Council. If it was removed, who made the decision on behalf of Council to remove it and why?

 

Although not as ideal as livestreaming, I fully support the idea of recording the meetings and posting to the Municipal website

 

I hope that this motion will be supported unanimously by Council.

 

Thank you,

 

Adrian Ellis

 

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Motion to record all public Brighton Council meetings up for debate

Posted by on May 26, 2014 in Commentary, Local Politics, Politics |

Notice of Motion moved by Councillor John Martinello and seconded by Councillor Mary Tadman

Whereas publicly available and timely records of meetings are a cornerstone of accountability and transparency;

 

Whereas all residents are not able to attend council meetings; and

 

Whereas a reasonable quality digital audio recorder costs approximately 100 dollars, is simple to operate and allows the upload (to a website) of a three hour meeting in approximately 3 1/2 minutes,

 

it is recommended that Council directs staff to purchase a digital audio recorder to be used to record the open portion of all council meetings. It is further recommended that staff record and post to the municipal website, within 24 hours of the completion of each meeting, the open portion of all council meetings starting with the June 16, 2014 council meeting.

This Notice of Motion was read at the May 20, 2014 Brighton Council meeting. The motion will be discussed and voted on at the next meeting of Council on June 2, 2014.
Notice_of_Motion_Martinello_Tadman_Recording

While some Brighton Councillors talk about improving accountability, transparency and communication, Councillors Martinello and Tadman are actually doing something about it!

Action speaks louder than words and we need more positive action from Brighton Council!

 

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The muddy waters of transparency at Brighton Council became a little clearer

Posted by on May 24, 2014 in Commentary, Local Politics, Politics |

On the agenda of the May 5, 2014 meeting of Brighton Council, a report from Brighton Environmental Services Manager (ESM) was to be delivered in closed (in camera) session. This would have meant the public wouldn’t have seen the report and there wouldn’t have been any public discussion regarding the report.

The justification for discussing the matter in closed session was that it was “a subject regarding advice that is subject to solicitor-client privilege”. Although citing solicitor-client privilege can be a legitimate reason to go in camera, it does not mean that Council must to go in camera, as it is solely up to their discretion.

Council may choose to go in camera if they consider that the information is sensitive and if it became public it would be detrimental to the citizens of Brighton. However, in my opinion it should never be used to simply withhold information from the public.

At the approval of the agenda, Councillor Martinello put forward the following motion.

“I move that item 19.1.2 regarding legal advice related to the Brighton sewage treatment plant be moved from the closed portion of the meeting to the open portion of the meeting for three reasons.

 

The first reason. Brighton taxpayers have a right to know how their money is being spent. Over this term of council, Brighton taxpayers have paid approximately one million dollars to contractors and tens of thousands of dollars to consultants to operate the Brighton sewage treatment plant.

 

The second reason. What happens at the sewage treatment plant impacts Presqu’Ile Bay. And a healthy Presqu’Ile Bay is essential to the economic well-being of Brighton and to the standard of living we all enjoy.

 

And the third reason is that section 239(2)(f) of the Ontario Municipal Act says this. “A meeting or part of a meeting may be closed to the public if the subject matter being considered is advice that is subject to solicitor-client privilege, including communications necessary for that purpose.” So even by the Ontario Municipal Act we are not required to have this portion of the meeting in closed.

 

So in the interests of transparency and accountability I propose that it be held in the open session.”

Councillor Martinello’s motion was seconded be Councillor Tadman and the motion to bring the discussion into the open session of Council passed with the additional support of Mayor Walas and Councillor Kerr.

Bringing the report into the open session was as an important victory for transparency, but it was not a unanimous decision, as the motion was not supported by Councillors Tom Rittwage, Emily Rowley and Mike Vandertoorn. I certainly hope that these Councillors will support future such motions so as to help improve accountability and transparency towards the taxpayers of Brighton.

It is interesting to note that some Councillors have indicated in their platform for re-election that they want to improve transparency and communication, yet fail to show leadership in this regard, or even support this concept when given the opportunity.

Councillor Emily Rowley said when announcing that she would be seeking re-election, “I will endeavour to continue to understand and fairly represent the interests of all members of Brighton and will encourage an environment of accountability and open communication“, yet Councillor Rowley voted against this motion to provide transparency.

Deputy Mayor Mike Vandertoorn said when announcing that he would be running for the position of Mayor, “The foundation of my commitment is based on trust, transparency, a positive attitude, respect, experience and communication“, yet Deputy Mayor Vandertoorn voted against this motion to provide transparency.

The report from Brighton’s Environmental Services Manager is titled “Water Pollution Control Plant Summons to Court” and it is a one page document with very little detail. So it would seem that even if the report was delivered in camera, there was to be very little information provided to Council members prior to the meeting for their review and consideration. The report basically states that Municipality of Brighton is being taken to court by the Ministry of the Environment for non-compliance with effluent quality limits for discharge from the Water Pollution Control Plant.

Click here to listen to discussion surrounding the report from Brighton’s ESM.

The summons to court which was not presented as part of the ESM’s report to Council, actually shows that there are five charges, with four being for non-compliance and the fifth for failure to report non-compliance. The failure to report non-compliance was not mentioned in the report from the Environmental Services Manager.

The court date has been set for June 12, 2014 at 9:00 a.m. in the Brighton POA Court (Council Chambers) in Brighton. This is a public proceeding and members of the public can attend if they wish.

I think that it is extremely important for the sake of transparency and accountability that Brighton Council takes every opportunity to have all matters disclosed and discussed at the public meetings of Council unless there is a clearly defined detriment to the citizens of Brighton.

 

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