If you look at the agenda's requirement that no cell phones, pagers or Blackberry devices be in the room, it shows someone with one foot firmly in the past and the other foot firmly in their mouth.
By James Arlen
Published May 05, 2014
Weird one at #hamont property standards, where they're debating whether to allow recording for electronic note taking. Pens still allowed.— Matthew Van Dongen (@Mattatthespec) May 5, 2014
Property Standards Cmte being forced to stop recording by @cityofhamilton staff. This is not their choice - they are debating own position— Joey Coleman (@JoeyColeman) May 5, 2014
I know that there are often good reasons for the business of the city to be confidential. There are methods that are used to invoke that need for confidentiality.
That City Staff are preventing Matt and Joey from doing the job that they have been deputized by the residents of the city to do is 'entertaining' (note the quotes).
There is a staffer who is obviously afraid and hiding something. If you look at the agenda's requirement that no cell phones, pagers or Blackberry devices be in the room, it shows someone with one foot firmly in the past and the other foot firmly in their mouth.
I promise that I'll keep my 2004 technology out of committee meetings as long as that staffer promises to retire when they reach the mandatory age of too damn old to be connected to reality.
The saga of Transparency and Accountability in this most recent round of civic politics has underscored to me the level of disconnect of many councillors and many many staff. Is there something in the Kool Aid delivered to civic politicians and staff that causes these hallucinations of grandeur?
I can't go to the many meetings that take place during business hours because I'm, you know, working. I can sometimes keep track by watching the livestreams - and not the blurry, proprietary, thousand-yard view that I pay taxes for - but I am regularly reading the news (Hamilton Spectator, Raise the Hammer, and Joey) to keep up with what is transpiring in my adopted city.
If the situation around journalist access to City proceedings - including timely release of agendas and supporting materials, access to meetings, ability to use modern note-taking tools, and deputized/proxy presence tools like Joey's livestreaming - cannot be rectified in a permanent manner with due haste, I will not be the only person who takes up Hamilton's City Hall as my new favourite co-working space/coffee shop.
I'll be in every meeting with my coffee and laptop still doing my job, but keeping an eye on the goings on. And I will not hesitate for even a moment to publish the names and photographs of the city staffers who impede resident/citizen access to information regarding the actions of our city.
This is something that the journalists are not currently doing out of a sense of professional ethics and notional shared professionalism with City Staff. I don't have that particular impediment and no compulsion whatsoever to save a staffer from their own shortsightedness.
Who will be the first councillor who stands for the people and makes Transparency and Accountability the second issue of this year's elections?
Editor's note: a version of this letter was written to James Arlen's councillor, Sam Merulla. With Arlen's permission, it has been edited slightly for publication here. It is licenced under Creative Commons CC-BY.
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