Even though he’s only in his first term, Matthew Green has very sophisticated views on the mechanics of city council meetings. We explore his strong pro-video streaming beliefs and the plague of long-windedness.
Q: You sometimes Facebook Live stream your speeches from the dais. You talk a fair amount at council meetings, so how do you decide what moments are worthy of Facebook Live?
A: When I started, the old-school model was councilors would give inside information to mainstream media in exchange for favorable coverage. I found that in not doing that, my positions at council were miscommunicated or misrepresented. I remember getting upset about it. I had a media expert, she said to me, “don’t get mad at the media. Become the media.”
A: Facebook is a hyper local medium and so I choose Facebook to communicate to my residents.
Q: Have you ever watched a Hamilton council meeting online through the city’s website?
A: It is horrible.
A: It is terrible. An incident happened in council chambers and I wanted to open an investigation. In doing so, I looked at our live stream and realized our live stream did not cover major sections of the whole chamber. So I had to [freedom of information request] my own city to get the security footage to provide me with the incident I believed I saw. We’re very fortunate [to have] an independent journalist. He runs a live stream called “The Public Record.”
A: He has built a reputation for himself in capturing the circus that is often city hall: the inappropriate comments, the workplace toxicity, or some of the decorum issues. He creates a prism in that people are aware that he’s there and sometimes, I think, it raises the decorum and the level of discourse because they know they’re being recorded. When there’s no media present, we sometimes say the zaniest things.
Q: It’s curious you mention decorum because on everything I’ve seen, the Hamilton city council behaves relatively well. Again, maybe it’s because he’s there recording, but what are some of the issues you’re referencing?
A: One of the governance challenges we have, in my opinion, is that we don’t have a strong chair role. We rotate the chair, which allows councilors from month to month to use that position as a bully pulpit. It provides a situation where chairs will allow councilors to speak at length or speak in very harsh and personal terms to staff, which should be shut down.
Q: Are you ever worried when you become the chair that people will have similar reservations about the job you’re doing?
A: I’m actually comfortable chairing meetings. We’re not THAT bad. It’s really a conversation around time. We’ll have four or five of us who monopolize all of the time. In the technology of our microphones, they’re supposed to shut down after five minutes.
A: The idea is that if I’m the chair, I don’t want to shut you down at five minutes. So I let you just go! I do that with the understanding that sooner or later you’re going to be the chair and I’m going to have an issue that I want to go on. It’s a bit of nudge-nudge, wink-wink that I think is problematic. But we’re all guilty of it.
Follow Councilor Matthew Green on Twitter: @MGreenWard3