Criticizing and condemning seem easier than complimenting and congratulating. However, our local pols deserve some patting on the back, some praise and some lauding.
Why you ask?
Walk in their shoes awhile. Endless meetings, infinite numbers of events to attend, innumerable documents and minutes to read. One wonders…can how much more they can pack into days that are already longer and fuller than 24/7.
Our councilors are doing more than just yeomen’s service. They are here, there and everywhere. No matter the event, if it’s public, one or more councilors will be in attendance. These politicians recognize that seeing is as important as being seen, if not more so. They are present and accounted for at any and every public event. In the rain, early in the morning, late in the day…they are there! Tired, hungry, beleaguered…they are there!
Getting the word out is a challenge and difficult demand. Worse, though the councilors are meeting the demand, the constituents need to respond They need to read the material, heed the messages and respond to the invitations to attend. The councilors are working hard to get the word out, meet their constituents, hear their worries and anxieties and respond to constituent criticisms. More locals need to become motivated and participate in municipal political engagement.
Consider just some of the endeavours the councilors have launched in trying to bridge the communications gap between constituents and the council.
The majority of councilors have had, and continue having Town Halls, giving constituents opportunities of engaging with councilors. Some councilors have even cohosted their town halls with local leaders in order to better engage the community. The Town Halls have been productive and positive gatherings without fail. The earliest one seems to be the death knell of past such endeavours, the last of confrontational and truculent public meetings, now a norm of the past. Subsequent town halls have risen to higher levels of productive discussions and friendly parlays of differing views. Thankfully, the days of verbal embattlements seem to be behind us.
It is difficult to specifically pinpoint why or how the atmosphere of these town halls changed: new councilors with new attitudes, gender shift of council, youthful change of council, more open-mindedness, leadership mentality shift? No matter, the important impact is that these town halls have been successes in terms of engagement with the community. Now it is incumbent on the community members to respond. More constituents would benefit greatly from more participation.
Councilors are increasingly recognizing the importance of communication with constituents in more ways than just town halls. Some councilors are producing newsletters with explanations, analyses and examinations of issues in their constituency. Marvellous works written by the candlelight fueled by midnight oils. Be aware, these councilors have limited staff assistance, usually, the few service assistants they have are shared with other councilors. So creative pieces are personally written, pieces that are comprehensive and detailed covering current issues and constituency anxieties. Councilors are demonstrating their involvement in the community beyond just cursory policy announcements.
The changing council is showing new directions. These present councilors are demonstrating a willingness to dive into the deep end, to engage in sensitive and delicate issues. This is a courageous move as it opens councilors to more criticism and castigation. However, these councilors are willing to engage in tough issues, air opinions, and expand views not for argument’s sake but to open the doors to more discussion and greater considerations. The repercussions can be divisive and polarizing but they are affirmations that democracy is alive and well here, in our city.
To a person, from Mayor Ashe to each councilor, kudos and appreciation. Each of you is doing the best job you believe you can do and we recognize that. More importantly, we appreciate it.
More power to you, Mayor Ashe and Councilors Brenner, Butt, Cook, Nagy, Pickles and Robinson.