New orders from the provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, have resulted once again in almost-empty Richmond council chambers.
Over the past few months, some councillors have been attending meetings in person, separated by plexiglass barriers, and delegations have been addressing council from within council chambers.
But following legal advice after further restrictions were put in place Dec. 2 on gatherings, the city had to scale back on in-person attendance.
At Monday’s council meeting, Mayor Malcolm Brodie was the sole council member in chambers joined by just a handful of city staff including the city clerk.
Delegations but must now pre-register and dial into meetings to speak to agenda items.
“We have been advised the public is no longer allowed to attend meetings such as this council meeting,” Brodie explained at the meeting.
Currently, all Richmond public meetings, including finance, planning and general-purposes committee meetings, are being broadcast via YouTube whereas before the pandemic, only Monday evening council meetings were broadcast. (The Richmond board of education has also been broadcasting its monthly public meetings via Zoom since the pandemic began.)
The new orders impose “more stringent prohibitions” on council and board meetings, hearings, committee meetings, open houses and other in-person meetings, according to city spokesperson Clay Adams.
Councillors and city staff attend meetings via videolink, sometimes with spotty connections – Coun. Michael Wolfe was in the dark on Monday night because of a power outage in Hamilton, and connected first via his iPad, then his iPhone.
Since April, most committee meetings have been cancelled, but last week Richmond council held its first public planning committee meeting.
Brodie said most committees should be up and running again in January.
The community safety committee, the public works and transportation committee, the planning committee and the parks, recreation and cultural committee haven’t met since March.
Brodie explained to the Richmond News that issues that would have been dealt with in those meetings were moved to the general purposes committee that meets normally every second Monday.