Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
On Monday, a member of the public made a presentation inside Winnipeg’s city council building for the first time since April.
That delegate, Aaron Simoes, welcomed the chance to come back inside the building.
"I think there’s an advantage to meeting in person… being able to make eye contact and also being in city hall, there’s a little bit more visual communication that can happen," he told the Winnipeg Free Press following his presentation.
The architect had just offered an update to the Assiniboia Community Committee on a retail building that’s set to become part of a mixed-use Bridgwater Centre development.
As of April 3, only previously registered delegates could enter the council building for a meeting that took place that day, with the facility otherwise closed to the public to reduce the spread of COVID-19. On April 14, the city announced citizens would be able to offer feedback once more, but only through telephone lines, and later, video feeds.
Simoes was the only member of the public in council chambers on Monday, the day very limited public access resumed.
To enter the council building, residents must now book an appointment with an elected official or register to speak on a council or committee matter.
Those who come will be asked COVID-19 screening questions, offered hand sanitizer and greeted by blue floor stickers that are strategically placed to guide social distancing.
The doors of the council chambers now also display five pages of pandemic warnings and reminders, including instructions on proper handwashing.
Most of the chambers’ public seats still display notices that ask visitors to sit elsewhere, since a maximum of 25 people will be allowed inside each meeting room at the same time.
Simoes said physical access to the pandemic-altered city hall is important, especially for those who are either not comfortable with, or becoming weary of, remote attendance.
"There’s some additional technological preparation for a meeting required, if you’re meeting (online), that we’re all struggling with," he said.
Coun. Kevin Klein (Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood) said he’s pleased the city is beginning to allow residents to return to the council building.
"This is where people should gather and should be coming to have their voices heard," said Klein.
But the councillor stressed he’d also like to see Winnipeggers keep the opportunities to participate in council and committee meetings by video or phone.
"This provides more options for residents to become engaged," said Klein.
He argues councillors should physically attend meetings, however, since their online participation has at times made it more difficult to record votes.
Remote presentations are still possible now but the city has yet to reveal if the option will become permanent.
On Monday, small weddings were also allowed to resume at city hall’s council building, administration building and outdoor space, though the city confirmed none was scheduled.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.
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