Right now the system is too slow. Minutes of the meetings must be approved before posted on the website, which is usually done in the next council meeting the following month.
Though we cover nearly every item on the agenda, our stories are not dictation of the meetings. We can't quote what every councillor says, especially if a debate runs 20 minutes or more. One motion could take an entire page of the paper, and most likely not be read through. What we do is sum up the essence of the debate so people so people know what happened. However if a constituent wants more, perhaps to know what their specific councillor says, they would have to call. Very few people do that.
Putting them out in a newsletter in everyone's mailbox seemed like a good idea when it was done. However a quick look in the recycling bin nearby showed most people just tossed them out.
Council meetings at night might bring out a few more people to the meetings, but not a broad range. It still would not achieve the goal of getting council out to the constituents.
Though it would be nice to broadcast it over cable, there doesn't seem to be much interest by cable providers to broadcast municipal politics.
A simple solution would be to video record the sessions and put them up for public viewing. This isn't as expensive as it sounds. A simple digital SLR camera has decent video capabilities that would be perfect to post on the Internet. Clear audio is the most important part to get right, and the new renovations being done to the chambers should make that easier.
Instead of posting one giant chunk of video online, it could easily be broken up by the items on the agenda. That way viewers could skip over the ones they aren't interested.
Council would not even need to pay for a complex system to store the videos. A simple YouTube account could be set up to upload the videos. The biggest investment on this would be time. Someone has to process the video and upload the pieces.
This isn't perfect of course. A computer and Internet connection is needed, and not everybody has that. However there are enough people that are connected that it would be worthwhile. Plus it will still reach more people than has ever been reached before.
It would also require a policy change. Council rules state no video recording can be done during the meetings.
With the technology available and the costs going down, there are easy solutions that can be explored. All the Region of Queens needs is the willingness to explore them.