Councillors to go high-tech

BALLINA’S councillors may become a group of high-tech laptop and iPad-wielding trendsetters if a suggestion made at yesterday’s council meeting makes it to reality.

The suggestion was made during a discussion of councillor expenses, after A Ward representative Cr Susan Meehan said she wanted all councillors given laptop computers, partly as a way of reducing the amount of paper the council used.

“The hard copy issue is huge and this month is the tipping point,” Cr Meehan said, referring to the phone book-sized council agenda. “We get four days to read it and it can be overwhelming. Sometimes it’s really hard. I’ve had to devote a day to (reading) it.”

Cr Meehan’s suggestion got a mixed reaction from her fellow councillors – partly on the merits of the idea itself and partly because her suggested method of paying for the computers involved scrapping the council’s Northern Star subscriptions.

One of the councillors who liked the idea of going electronic was David Wright, who trumped Cr Meehan’s suggestion of laptops for councillors by suggesting the council invest in Apple’s new touch screen tablet, the iPad.

He hinted at a future were council meetings were untarnished by paper, where councillors instead used the iPad’s e-reader function to flip through electronic copies of their meeting agenda.

“Laptops, in a few years, won’t be used much,” he said. “The new technology is smaller, easier to carry and has more functionality. It’s like a large mobile phone. You could have (the minutes of) every council meeting for the last umpteen years right at your fingertips.”

Cr Keith Johnson was also enthused about bypassing laptops and heading for the cutting edge of consumer technology.

He noted there had been a discussion a few years back about giving councillors Amazon’s e-reader, Kindle, for agendas. That idea had been dumped because councillors couldn’t jot notes on Kindle agendas. However, the new range of tablet readers was changing that.

“Since then, the technology has moved on to the iPad and Samsung’s got one running the Google (operating system, Android),” he said. “I applaud that technology.”

However, that support thinned if it came at the exp-ense of the council’s Northern Star subscriptions.

“If there’s a trade-off, then we should make it – but not just yet,” Cr Johnson said.

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