Village council has asked staff to create a seemingly unnecessary policy.
The policy is intended to create “guidelines” for the public and media attending open council meetings.
According to a village staff report, this policy allows members of the public to record/photograph meetings open to the public while avoiding “issues associated with such situations.” However, it’s unclear exactly what those issues are.
Burns Lake mayor Chris Beach, who now handles all media inquiries, said the new policy provides “adequate privacy protection” for individuals attending meetings.
As someone who’s been attending Burns Lake council meetings for the past three years, I have not come across any issues at these open meetings (so maybe I should just assume that the problem is me).
Lately I’ve been pleased to see that more members of the public are attending council meetings, and I’m a firm believer that public participation in the democratic process should be encouraged.
Last week in particular there were many people in the gallery watching the meeting. Although the majority of people were there for just a short amount of time, two concerned residents stayed for the duration of the two-hour meeting – using the public comment period to voice their concerns and the public question period to ask questions to the mayor.
That is a healthy exercise of democracy, and I certainly wouldn’t want those concerned residents to feel restricted or discouraged in any way to attend these public meetings.
Among the new rules, members of the public and media are not allowed to check their cellphones during meetings.
This may be a problem since this reporter attends the approximately two-hour meetings while using his cellphone to read the agenda (I find that it’s not environmentally friendly to print the village’s 100-page agendas every meeting; not to mention it’s a waste of money). I’m guessing the municipality will now have to spend more taxpayers’ dollars printing the large agendas to everyone in the gallery.
Another part of the new policy is that all recording devices must be “clearly visible to anyone at the meeting” and “non-disruptive.”
This made me wonder if maybe council is worried that someone will hide a recording device at the village office and listen to their closed meetings. Or maybe the annoying beeping sound of my recorder has been negatively affecting their decisions.
The new policy also states that notification of recording must be made to the city clerk for each meeting by using a form – no less than three working days in advance of a meeting and no more than two weeks in advance of a meeting. Maybe our local college should start offering a class on how to attend council meetings.
I obviously don’t have enough training.