New council rules put citizens ahead of politicians
By Rhonda Massad
with files from Robert Frank
Citizens will get priority from now on at Laval city council meetings. Question period has been moved from the end of the meetings, which often run late, to the beginning.
To encourage more engagement by elected officials, city councillors can now answer citizens’ questions, instead of just the mayor.
In addition, they can submit briefs a month before council meetings. That will give fellow councillors and municipal bureaucrats time to analyze the proposals and prepare proper responses.
“This is a preliminary step that will give everyone more time to make better decisions,” said Councillor Christiane Yoakim, who chairs city council meetings.
The city has also committed officially to broadcast council meetings.
“We had our first dry run at webcasting at last week’s council meeting,” executive committee vice-chairman David de Cotis told The Suburban. “We edited the video at midnight.
“When the Mouvement lavallois was the unelected opposition party at city hall, we would set up our cameras and film the city council sessions and the following day broadcast them on our website,” he recalled in an interview. “We promised in our election platform to deliver live webcasts of city council meetings and, a year-and-a-half later, we’re very close to delivering on that promise.”
Some work still needs to be done to enable the city to enter the television age, he said.
“We will have to change the lighting in the council chamber,” de Cotis acknowledged. “Councillors will have to have individual microphones and we will be changing the blinds, which are very dark, to improve the lighting. We will also be removing some seating to accommodate the cameras that will be located in various positions.”
The city doesn’t plan to stop at broadcasting its council meetings. It intends to piggyback on the new technology to telecasting other important municipal deliberations.
“In future, we also intend to broadcast the public portion of the city’s Wednesday morning executive committee meetings,” de Cotis promised. “The technology will already be there.”
“We’re still looking at a June timeline to implement webcasts of city council, which is the top priority,” de Cotis affirmed. “Webcasts of executive committee meetings will also be in the near future, but we’re not targeting June for that. It’s on the radar more toward the end of the year or early in 2016.”
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