Tuesday, April 17, 2012

New Sound System Makes Council More Accessible

During a recent Council meeting, Town staff pointed out to me a gentleman sitting in the front row who was using a small machine to audio-tape Council’s proceedings. This surprised me since we are fortunate that our local Cogeco Cable company regularly video tapes and broadcasts Council meetings. (In fact, I am always pleased when residents inform me that they regularly watch our Council meetings on Cogeco!)

At least one member of Council saw the gentleman’s action and raised a “point of order.” While the Town Clerk read from our procedural bylaw – which was approved in 2005 and allows for recording of Council meetings with expressed written consent – the gentleman ceased his recording. (That meant that I did not actually have to rule on the matter.)

Because Council recently approved some major audio and video improvements to Pelham’s Council Chamber, our meetings should be totally accessible and available for future reference.

Within the last year, the Town applied for and received an “enabling accessibility grant” from the Federal Government. The grant “…supports community-based projects across Canada that improve accessibility, remove barriers, and enable Canadians with disabilities to participate in and contribute to their communities.”

The grant funded improvements include:
* Microphones at each Councillor’s seat and at the presentation podium;
* Speakers to assist members of the public to better hear the proceedings;
* Video cameras, able to record all meetings – including public meetings, Committee of Adjustment meetings, or special meetings (that Cogeco does not currently tape);
* Media inputs for Cogeco, so that their set-up and take-down time will be dramatically reduced to five minutes.

These improvements will also mean that the Town will be able to “stream” digital recordings from the Town’s website and to offer and maintain a record of all meetings.

I hope that these changes will not only make it easier for folks to hear the proceedings of Council or Committee of Adjustment, but also that it will make Council meetings even more accessible to you and your neighbours.

For example, if there’s an issue you read about in the newspaper and you want to see what the discussion looked like, you should be able to do so from the Town’s website.

I hope that these improvements will help advance one of Council’s Strategic Plan themes – “An Engaged and Integrated Community” – by increasing opportunities for you and your neighbours and friends to interact with Council and I and for Council and I to better interact with you.

You may contact Mayor Dave at mayordave@pelham.ca or read past columns at www.pelhammayordave.blogspot.com.