Talking With Citizens
I’m afraid this is a long one – but it is an IMPORTANT one.
After the election is over, and however the council is composed, this town must sit down together and start giving some serious attention to putting in place greatly improved means for citizens to talk to each other and for the council to talk to citizens. Not just talking either, both sides need to do some serious listening. People really want to be consulted and listened to and to have their wishes at least properly considered if not always acted upon.
There is a desire for bottom up rather than top down decision making.
It is refreshing to see in the various platforms distributed by candidates for election to the council that a very common (though not universal) theme is a wish to improve Council/Citizen communications. It is important that this does not become one of those subjects that is out there for the election and then conveniently forgotten once the votes are counted.
There must be action to make this happen and the public must attend council meetings and ask questions and demand answers.
What have candidates been saying?
Peter Fletcher: Live-streaming of all public meetings via our website, maximizing potential audience- voting on major expenditures and policy changes to take place only at regularly scheduled monthly public meetings- allow the Mayor and all Councillors to contribute each month to the News and Views publication
Alex Habrich: No citizen of Baie D’Urfé (especially a Councillor) should be required to complete an access to information request to receive public domain data related to the governing of our town. By using an open data approach to management of Baie D’Urfé the citizens will be truly enlightened about the town’s health and also understand when we have an issue. Not getting a straight answer on data that is readily available is simply not acceptable.
Maria Tutino: … work alongside citizens as partners in serving the Baie-D’Urfé community
Gérald Dionne: Facilitate the participation and intervention of citizens to the various debates in order allow for better decisions
Linda Phelps: ** No mention of the issue
Brian Manning: Increased transparency for citizens and the full disclosure of all information required for members of the Town Council, in order to make fully informed decisions. All members of council should be able to bring forward and debate various ideas or proposals in an open and respectful manner, otherwise residents are not being fully represented.
Wanda Lowensteyn: Informing and involving citizens in decision making. An up-dated town website
Giovanni Farinacci: I strongly suggest our council meetings be streamed live allowing transparency where everyone can join in on the conversation giving them a voice on the important decisions affecting our town. Just because a counsellor is voted into office it does not mean that the voices of their constituents fall on deaf ears during the remainder of their mandate. We are a democracy after all and should remain so after the votes are in. As councillor I will continue to listen to the ideas and concerns of my constituents throughout my mandate and strive to bring about positive results for our town.
Janet Ryan: ** No mention of the issue
Michel Beauchamp: ** Only limited election materials distributed – no apparent mention of the issue
Josie Caruso: ** Only limited election materials distributed – no apparent mention of the issue
Adrian Popa Rosu: City council meetings with web broadcasting to citizens
Isabelle Bisson: Improve communication among the council, the administration, and the citizens; make use of all of the great social and web-based media that are available while considering the needs of our seniors or other citizens that prefer other modes of communication – Mobilise, consult, and involve citizens to create a list of issues and priorities toward developing a strategic plan on the sustainability of our town – Understand the needs of the community across all sociodemographic and socioeconomic sectors to utilise our surplus in a strategic and sustainable way (that would benefit present and future generations) – Create citizen-based committees that would have the mandate to work on the priority action plans within the context of our broader strategic plan toward sustainability
Ross Cattrell: ** No mention of the issue
Andrea Gilpin: No mention of the issue on her flyer but she has just (30 Oct) posted a short video – http://wp.me/p9g4E4-az – in which she says she has heard people asking for better communications and that she has the ability to do something about it.
Amy-Rose Timmons: Optimize government transparency – record council meetings (making them) accessible from peoples’ homes – more modern forms of communication platforms through social media
Andrew Belcher: All committees must include citizen Representatives – All meetings to be held evenings only – Improve communications at all levels with the citizens of Baie D’Urfé
Kevin Doherty: **We have not seen any election material from this candidate. Unknown commitment.
Philipp Schumacher: I would like to improve and provide transparency about the towns inner works as there is nothing to hide.
Out of the 19 candidates above, some 13 include some commitment to improving communications and just six make no mention at all. Of those six seemingly not considering this issue to be of interest to the electorate, three are members of “l’Équipe”
So – What next?
- It would be a mistake to let the new council get too comfortable about this important issue. Let them have their first public meeting (on 14 November I think) and then question about what they are doing at the next meeting on 12 December. Keep asking them.
- A small citizen group of interested people, several of whom have laready self-identified via the Our Town facebook Group, might be formed to chart and monitor progress. An early action would be to formally ask the new council to nominate one elected councillor with a demonstrated interest in the subject to join with the citizens and that **the committee so formed **be formally recognised by the council and asked to prepare proposals for moving ahead.
- Decisons should not be taken without consulting citizens – this is not to say that popular opinions are always right (that way leads to Trumpism) but they should carefully considered by council, weighed in the balance alongside alternatives and the reasons for the final decison – especially if it differs from popular opinion – must be explained and justfied. Councillors, all of them, have to get out and meet people and listen – not just to their acquainatces but to as many as possible from all walks of life.
- Priorities might include the following (note, these are all ideas put forward by candidates or by citizens discussing amongst themselves in recent weeks):
- Finding ways to make News & Views available electronically, at first in parallel to the print edition and eventually to replace it. An electronic town newsletter has the benefit of immediacy, flexibility and reduced cost to taxpayers
- Having informal notes of decisions taken at council meetings available on the town website (or elsewhere) no later than seven days after each meeting. These would not replace formal minutes, but woould inform citizens of what the council is doing with minimal delay and they would include key points of discussion, pro and con, leading up to votes and decisons being taken. Everything out in the open. (Note: for the past three council meetings Citizen Marat has been taking and sharing notes – this “service: will be continued but it would helpful if other note-takers could join the team and perhaps improve the product)
- Some form of online topic-based discussion forum to inform councillors of the thinking of citizens.
- Continue the existing Our Town Facebook group OR replace it with an alternative of equal or better facility.
- No major decisons, especially ones with financial implications, to be taken at any meeting other than a regular council meeting held in an evening to which a majority of people are able to attend.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? Please consider the above when deciding who to vote for because without open democracy and participative action our town risks being run without our wishes being considered.
I INVITE anyone interested in getting this going as soon as practicable after the election to get in touch either via the Our Town Facebook Group or be email to firstname.lastname@example.org