Last week, I had my first chance to cover municipal politics as a photojournalist when I followed an issue which had been brewing at the Belleville City Council.
Given the pandemic, the Belleville city council meetings are held online so unfortunately the image with the story is a boring screen shot, a disappointment for a photojournalist. But it is a good representation of today’s reality as so many meetings and even social events are happening online.
I must admit the sitting through a two-hour plus city council meeting can be a little tedious but it was educational nonetheless. As it turned out, the issue I covered was discussed in the last few minutes of the council so I sat through the whole session. But as it was an issue that had become a controversial one in Belleville, I was glad to be able to see it first hand and produce a useful article for The Pioneer.
The issue at hand was the balance of importance between democracy and the desire to improve diversity in the city council. Up to Nov. the city council in Belleville included six male councillors and two female councillors. With the passing of Pat Culhane, one of the lady councillor in Nov., it was time to decide on the appointment of the replacement councillor.
The common practice in similar cases is to appoint the nominee from the last election, in this case 2018, who did not win but who had the next highest number of votes. In this case, that candidate is Tyler Allsopp, another man, which means that the council becomes even more weighted with men, with seven men and one woman.
With a desire to improve, or at least maintain, diversity at city hall the council had voted in Dec. to set up a committee to make recommendations on who should be appointed the replacement councillor. 19 members of the community, 13 women and 6 men, put their names forward and the committee recommended the appointment of one of the woman.
However, by Jan., all the councillors and the mayor had heard strong feedback from the residents that democracy should be upheld and the tradition of appointing the candidate from the last election with the next most votes should be appointed and that is what was voted by the overwhelming majority in the end, with seven to one in favour.
Although such meetings can be long and tedious, it was a valuable experience in covering this type of news. It was also a positive experience to witness the workings of democratic principles.
I’m looking forward to any comments any of my readers may have.