Another erosion of transparency? What do your readers think?
By Wendy Bales. I would like feedback from your readers on the issue just voted on in committee, of destroying Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) meeting recordings.
For years I have been asking for accurate or verbatim minutes, and or easily accessible webcast or podcasts of minutes for FVRD Board and Committee meetings. Although I have had the issue deferred more than once over the last few years, one concession that I did get was that they would save the audio recordings of committee and board meetings for 2 years (they always had them anyways for the staff and secretaries to use until the minute in brief were accepted).
At the last Regional and Corporate Services committee meeting (RACS) (which I am not currently on but attend anyway) they voted unanimously in favor of destroying the audio recordings after the minutes are accepted of committee and Board meetings. At the Electoral Area Services Committee (EASC) they voted twice on the issue, (one example of a meeting worth listening to, as to how they reached that vote) but at that committee although it was not unanimous but it did pass.
The recordings that are currently available by request are easily stored and already copied, so your readers should ask, why would they feel the need to have them destroyed? It was brought up that they had only had one recent request for recordings from a member of the public who was at a meeting, other than 2 directors as a reason for not saving them. I would like to ask feedback from your readers if they were even aware that recordings were available if requested? The person that made the request for the recording told me that she only knew that she could get the recording because she was at the meeting.
Written minutes are currently in brief and not always an accurate portrayal of opinions and what is actually said at meetings to arrive at votes. Unless you are at a meeting you don’t get all the discussion as to what directors or staff say about a topic, or which way people voted unless you (a director) ask to have your vote recorded on the record. They are still considering whether to do a webcast as an issue, but that has previously been deferred to staff for years and was deferred back to staff again for more study. Although it would cost more for a webcast, I wonder if it would help people to get more engaged in local and regional timely issues, and help to know who they would vote for, if they could just watch or listen to meetings from their homes.
In the meantime staff and most directors did not like the idea of the cheaper podcasts, saying that you wouldn’t know who was speaking. Contrary to that opinion I would contend that the chair needs to say your name before you are allowed to speak, so I have never had a problem with that unless someone speaks out of turn. Often in the reduced written minutes they will generalize or minimize what was said without saying who said it. Although in the new policy paper that was approved by most directors last November it says that the CAO is responsible for accurate minutes, I have been told on more than one occasion that it is up to me to correct any mistakes.
Staff brought up that you would not want all the grammar inaccuracies like the ums and ahs that people often have in vocabulary as a reason for not doing verbatim minutes. That was not my intension, as I said in a previous email to area residents: Before I was elected I never imagined that motions or minutes from meetings would be anything but accurate. I guess my point for you is, that unless you are at the FVRD open meetings you can’t be sure what really goes on. Unfortunately there is a lot that never comes out of closed meetings, or some things shortly before it goes to a vote. I would like feedback as to how citizens would expect that minutes should be done. When I asked for clarity at a legal forum in February if minutes have to be accurate, I was told that they do. I went on to have confirmed that minutes should not surmise or opine what others think, or cherry pick words out of context. (as has often happened)
One of the questions that I recently asked people on my email list was:
What do you think, should government meeting minutes be accurate and should recordings be easily accessible to the public at home?
The feedback was that yes minutes should be accurate. Some wonder why meetings were not online like many cities have been doing. Hansard: http://www.leg.bc.ca/hansard/ was brought up as a good example of how minutes should be done.
In closing I would like to invite your readers to come to the next board meeting where they will need to ratify the vote to destroy the audio recordings of meetings. You will not be able to speak before the vote, but you could hold a small sign with your opinion on it.
The Board and committee meetings are on the 4th floor of the address below:
Fraser Valley Regional District
45950 Cheam Avenue, Chilliwack, BC V2P 1N6
If you take the Young street exit off the freeway and go north it is at the corner of Young st. and Cheam ave.
The Board meeting is at 7 PM. on May the 27th
Director Area C
Fraser Valley regional District
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