Lacombe city council delivered on a key election promise last night, when it approved a bylaw requiring that all council votes be recorded.
Coun. Thalia Hibbs was one of those campaigning on improving transparency and accountability at city hall. She was excited to see the Procedural Bylaw passed.
“Now members of the public will be able to see … how each councillor votes,” Hibbs said. “So it will record who voted in favour and who voted against, as opposed to past practice where it just said that it was carried or not carried.”
Administration compared city council practices with those of 11 other municipalities including Sylvan Lake, Blackfalds and Olds. It found that most do not routinely record votes.
However, the bylaw stops short of mandating blind votes, which were proposed by Mayor Grant Creasey during the campaign. Instead, votes will be recorded manually by the legislative coordinator and included in meeting minutes.
To conduct blind votes, council chambers would need to be outfitted with the proper equipment. Administration’s report stated it could cost as much as $25,000 to purchase the hardware and software, with annual maintenance fees of $6,500.
Electronic voting might come when the city replaces the room’s sound system, which is more than 10 years old.
“It’s just not something that we felt we needed to deal with this year but I believe council’s in support of it in the long run,” Hibbs said.
“We’d like to see a revamping of the sound system and ... then we’d be able to do things like live streaming. And also with the revamping of the audio system, there’s an opportunity to utilize technology that allows you to just press the button … (it would) show up on screens how each member voted.”
Opening up council accessibility is also a focus in the bylaw, with provisions for an open forum at each meeting.
Residents can now appear before elected officials if they’ve written to the Chief Administrative Officer by noon on the day of a regular council meeting.
They will be afforded no longer than 5 minutes to ask council a question or make a brief presentation, with a maximum of 3 people heard at each meeting.