With every election season, it’s a safe bet that every viable candidate will express an interest in gaining insight from members of the public.
We’ve certainly seen this on a provincial level, as our leading candidates, and even our Liberal candidates, found themselves at various public events, mingling with people in order to not only bolster their campaigns but also to help guide them.
While we typically only see this receptivity to gaining public insight during election time, both provincially and federally, we’ve seen a great deal of it from City Hall for the past year running, despite the Oct. 26 civic election date still months away.
Under direction of the city’s elected officials, last year saw city administrators hold 16 neighbourhood meetings last year — two in each ward. These meetings were followed up with an additional meeting last week and another set to take place at Vincent Massey School on April 6, starting at 6:30 p.m.
City administrators also held meetings on seniors’ transportation, the Alfred Jenkins Field House and various other subjects, all of which were open to the public and advertised as such.
Meanwhile, we’ve also seen city planning and development director John Guenther — the administrative head behind many of these efforts — meet with local students in order to help guide the city’s long-term planning goals.
Taken as a whole, it’s an unprecedented receptivity to gaining public feedback — an effort that should not go without praise for both city administration and the city councillors who have encouraged its continuation.
As a group of elected representatives and public servants, this is exactly what they need to take part in to best serve the city, and good on them for doing so.
There’s also the argument that, despite how many recommendations are made and how many reports and long-term planning documents are prepared, very little seems to happen. While it’d be nice to see greater progress made alongside significant infrastructure and beautification projects, the city’s elected officials must first find out what the public’s priorities are.
Is it the re-development of the city’s underutilized riverfront? A new aquatics centre? A new hockey rink? Second bridge? Large-scale renewal of the city’s downtown core?
One can easily say “Yes” to all of these things, but for city council to OK everything we’d find ourselves buried under a pile of debt that would make Justin Trudeau blush.
No, we need long-term planning, as guided by the public, to help determine which of these plans is tackled first and where we go from there.
That said, after a year’s worth of public consultations and more planned in the coming weeks, it’d be a slap in the face to all residents of the city if our elected officials didn’t do anything with the feedback they’ve been receiving.
This is where city council may have shot themselves in the foot. With all these public meetings — AKA vent sessions with members of the public — there’s an expectation that something will be done.
The city’s elected officials can’t feign ignorance. They know exactly what the city’s merits and shortcomings currently are. The question now, leading up to and beyond the municipal election on Oct. 26, is what are they going to do about it?
With so many public requests on the table, it’s not an enviable position to be in.
Prince Albert Daily Herald