I’ve now watched two council meetings that were done via Zoom, and shown on YouTube. Both were last week and both involved the Township of Minden Hills.
The first one was a special council meeting April 28. It was called to essentially sanction the use of virtual meetings, and quorum, going forward. It lasted less than 10 minutes with the council then going into closed session.
The second meeting, April 30, was a regular council meeting. It was a follow up to a committee of the whole meeting that had been held back in March. It was longer than the first meeting but still not lengthy. There were no delegations. However, a couple of staff members, public works director Travis Wilson, and planner Ian Clendening, did make appearances to discuss reports in their portfolios and on the agenda. After about an hour, the council again went behind closed doors.
The County’s library board was the first municipal board to kick off virtual meetings. By the end of next week week, all five tiers of government will have had a crack at it.
It is nice to see the councils meeting again, and taking back some of their delegated authority. It allows members of the press, and the public, to know more about what is going on when it comes to the day-to-day running of local municipalities.
I applaud the work of the County’s IT department, and municipal clerks in particular, for helping to get the technology up and running.
For the most part, I think it is going well. I have not noticed any major glitches, other than a few councillors forgetting to unmute microphones or turn on video.
As a reporter, it is actually convenient to tune into the meetings from home. There is no driving time. It is also quite easy to make audio recordings of the meetings to play back for more accurate reporting.
ever, I do prefer going to council meetings in person for a number of reasons. When in council chambers, you get a much better feel for a meeting. For example, you can read a councillors’ body language. You can pick up on side comments. Often, some of the best story tips come when chatting informally with the councillors, or staff, at the coffee station outside of the chambers.
It is also easier to clarify things on-the-spot and in-person, rather than chasing councillors and staff after-the-fact. This is the same for delegations to council. There have not been any at the meetings I have covered. However, it is much easier to follow them outside after they make their presentations than trying to do so after they have virtually pled their case.
And, finally, the press is given an opportunity to ask questions at the end of council meetings, as long as the queries are pertinent to something that has been on the meeting agenda. While we don’t always ask questions, the point is that we can.
So, while I am happy to attend some Zoom meetings for now – and delighted to have something to write about other than COVID-19 – I look forward to a return to business as usual and once again making my way to the County’s council meetings.