The Council’s decision to hold a public forum at the beginning of certain meetings is a great idea. This will encourage public participation, which so many of our newly elected representatives said was very important during the campaign. At the moment, however, there is a major shortcoming with the public forum format in that it does not keep a public record and in particular an audio transcript. I think it is necessary to examine the issue of record keeping for the public forum.
What are the advantages of having a public record of these public forums and the issues that are discussed?
The advantages of having a public record include: –
· We have an accurate record of what was discussed with our elected representatives
· Future misunderstandings can be avoided.
· Everyone will be accountable for what they have said.
· There will be a clear list of actions, which need to be taken to resolve certain issues… etc.
Without a public record of the forum the community are denied their place in the Council’s institutional memory. This devalues the communities’ voice in the forums, furthermore there is no institutional memory of the forum and should council members change we run the risk of repeating previous conversations and the forum having little impact.
Community participation improves the quality of decision-making and by having it as a matter of public record it makes collaboration between the Council and the community much easier. Community participation gives us in the community confidence that our concerns are being given proper credence and respect; that we are a consideration in decision-making; which we are entitled to be. Public records also give those that are unable to participate access to what has been said and to remain informed of the issues being raised by other members of their community, empowering them to offer support or to raise a counter opinion, should they be moved to do so.
Despite the fact that the forum is an informal process, keeping public records allows the council to demonstrate both accountability and transparency, two edicts that are necessary for maintaining a democracy, and fulfilling a promise made by this Council for this triennium. Isn’t it time that the Council upheld the values of democracy and made good on their promises?
So Councillors, I am asking you to stretch out your arm and press the button for audio recording, allow the community a record of the decisions and discussions that take place as we go forward into the future; not as two disparate groups; but as a community; open, transparent, and empowering. Together let us make break down the boundaries that exist between people and politicians and together be accountable for our future.