A council committee will soon be asked to take a look at the possibility of councillors participating in meetings by phone or other electronic means. The matter, which will be raised at the next meeting of the Governance Review Subcommittee, stems from recent changes made in the Ontario Municipal Act that allow municipal councils to make provision for electronic participation in meetings. One could envision electronic participation making sense in extreme circumstances, or perhaps in a far-flung northern jurisdiction where travel might be a barrier, but definitely not in Hamilton.
It is a good thing the councillors’ offices at 71 Main Street are closed to the public, because members of the public might be shocked to discover that on many days they are mostly deserted except on days when there is a meeting. Followers of the tweets of citizen journalists like Joey Coleman see his frequent references to meetings being delayed due to councillors wandering in late, apparently oblivious to citizens who have attended to make presentations to council or committees, who are kept waiting. And after the meeting finally gets underway, councillors will wander to the councillors’ lounge without bothering to see if their absence will create loss of quorum. And even when a citizen is making a presentation to council, often as not a number of them are disrespectfully nose deep in their cell phones, ignoring the speaker, texting nonsense to each other. Increasingly, media are being advised that various scheduled meetings have been cancelled. In Hamilton, at least, there is no need to make it possible for councillors to be more absent than they already are.