Communication is key -
if we build community, we can leave a heritage
North Cowichan is a community of communities. Smaller parts of a greater whole -- neighbours who share one thing -- North Cowichan is our home.
Rex Murphy opined local politics are "the atoms of democracy."
Local politics -- schools, zoning, council elections -- hit us where we live. So why don't more of us actually get involved? Partly we're busy on the every-day-athon of life. Partly we don't realize our involvement can make a big difference.
There are more ways to keep informed now than when I was first elected. Council Matters is sent right to your inbox with a message from the Mayor after each Council meeting and Council meetings are streamed live and archived on the NC website. There is a public input period at the beginning of each agenda, where citizens can make their views known on agenda items, before Council votes on the issue. And Mayor and Council are available by phone or email, or chats on the street.
Government can go a long way towards inviting and keeping citizen engagement through better communication -- communication that puts as much emphasis on listening as telling. During my 1st term as Councillor I was pleased to serve on the Communications Committee that laid the groundwork for improved communication going forward.
This past term, Council has received considerable push back from the community in several areas and have taken steps to ensure the community feels they are being heard. I have to qualify this by saying, sometimes for many reasons, a Council decides to move forward on an initiative, even when there is community push back.
The entire region, the Cowichan Valley Regional District, has joined the online platform Placespeak where you can find information and comment on many valley issues.
- To continue to work to improve communication with the public and to seek input and share plans at the outset.
- To continue to work through education, communication and consultation to get support for major plans before moving forward, and alter or abandon plans that are not supported. This takes discernment, Council must be able to take the pulse of the community.
- Early in my 1st term I pressed for a regular "Council's Matters" column in local papers and online, to educate and inform the community and invite early input. NC currently publishes Council Matters online and you can have it sent directly to your email inbox.
- In 2011 I promised to press for a better designed and more user friendly website and I am proud of the website that NC now has which includes Council Live so that citizens can catch Council meetings from their own homes etc.
- Work to build a respectful relationship with First Nations with early and full consultation. This has been one of the most rewarding and growth producing parts of being on Council, and relationships between Council and neighbouring 1st Nations continue to be built, through meetings, meals and tours.
- Continue to work to reduce the likelihood of lawsuits through better, proactive consultation.
One of our most important needs is respectful communication, where everyone feels important and listened to. Feeling we have been heard is crucial for us to build community.
The politics of opposition and argument polarizes people, driving us apart instead of bringing us together. We need consultation, cooperation and collaboration, among all levels of government, all residents, First Nations and all Council members.
Forming and maintaining true community is a consultative process. A two-way process. What I hear on the doorstep and the street is a disconnect between Council and the public. People don't feel heard or consulted on the issues that matter to them, though I know that Council has worked hard to improve this. We need to bridge this gap.
Your next Council with embark on a kind of community visioning process, in the next term, taking a look at the Official Community Plan. I want to see it get real and practical support.