While I didn’t actually attend and watched online, I must say that this week’s meeting of Prince Rupert City Council seems like a step in the right direction in terms of opening the doors to the residents of the community with the change to a more open budget process.
In years past the budget from the City of Prince Rupert came as pretty much a completed document that people were then invited to comment on within a certain period and at a public comment meeting. And all the years that I covered those types of budgets I would read in our sister paper The Northern Sentinel a play-by-play account of what decisions were made relating to certain line items and, in some cases, who voted for what. This seemed like a much more open and transparent way of conducting business and made the elected officials that much more accountable in regards to how they spend the money taxpayers give them for services.
Just to be clear though, in reading these budget accounts at no point did I get the sense that public involvement was encouraged or allowed. I suspect, and I could be wrong, that the budget meetings now open to the public will take place in much the same way the council meetings take place – which is the business of council is conducted by council and the public is there as spectators. And, to be honest, I have no problem with that. Council was elected to make decisions and the budget decisions are theirs to make based on what they feel is best, the info they have and feedback they hear.
As such the turnout at these meetings is often low in Kitimat, and I expect the same will happen here.
As you can read on pages three, four and 14, there are going to be some tough decisions ahead for the council related to community and infrastructure in the years ahead.
To me, it’s just nice to think that residents and groups will be able to hear who is saying what and why.