Mayor Darrell Mussatto beams as he shows off the City of North Vancouver's newly renovated council chamber.
While council was on its usual August break, work crews were dismantling the 1975-era bunker made up of yellow, brown and more brown, and replacing it with a much lighter and more modern design.
"We really want to make it more friendly for the public. That's the major driver on this," Mussatto said on a tour of the chamber. "We wanted to make sure it fit in with the renovations of city hall. You can see it's much brighter."
The chamber will get its public debut at the first council meeting of the new season on Monday night, when the city's elected members are expected to debate funding a memorial to residential school survivors, and designs for public spaces in Lower Lonsdale.
After receiving years of complaints, both from the council table and the gallery, about the old technology, bad visibility and worse acoustics, council resolved in the spring to go ahead with the $600,000 reno.
Gone are the dark wooden walls, carpets and seat upholstery. The city has pushed back the rear glass wall and put in another row of seating and a convenient aisle down the centre. The lights, cameras, mics and speakers have also received a sorely needed update. The south wall behind the new semi-circular council table is now adorned with two 90-inch, flat screen TVs - a big step up from the overhead projector on white canvas system council had before.
"The technology also allows for better broadcast quality for television, Internet and our mobile accessibility for iPads and iPhones. It meets all those standards now when we were stuck in the '80s for a long time,' said Connie Rabold, city spokeswoman.
The hope, beyond allowing everyone to hear and see council much better, is to make the council experience more inviting, and increase engagement with the city.
However, the revamp, is more than esthetic and technological; there's also a shift of philosophy present in the new design. The mayor's chair will no longer be elevated above the rest of council.
"I'm off my pedestal. I'm back down with everybody. No more grand poobah," Mussatto said. "It reflected the council of the day. In the new council, I'm one member of seven. I think it's more appropriate that I sit down there."
There is also now a desk for members of the public to sit at while making a presentation, which is meant to be less intimidating than the lectern they would stand at before.
The photos of the old mayors that once decorated the council walls will be re-hung on the second floor overlooking the hallway leading to the chamber.
Council funded the project out of its IT and facilities budgets.
In order to protect the investment, council watchers can expect one new rule to be enforced, Mussatto said: No food or drink on the dazzling new upholstery.
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