Over the next ten weeks of the campaign, I will be discussing the issues facing Ward 11 residents. The first topic I want to dive into is how we can start improving The City’s Engagement and Communication Process with Citizens.

One of the reasons I decided to run for Councillor in Ward 11 was because of the concerns I have with the City of Calgary’s current engagement process. Over the past several years, many friends, family members, and residents of Ward 11 have expressed their concerns and frustrations with how the the City is sharing information and getting feedback from residents. In many cases, people tell me that they feel they were never properly informed of upcoming decisions or that the outcome of the engagement sessions were all but decided by the time the City came to the community for input.

Our Issues:

  1. The City spends a significant amount of money on engagement and communication strategies, without the ability to quantify the results of these practices.
  2. Residents tell me that they feel that the City does not listen or respect their input or concerns related to projects and services.
  3. When people don’t feel they are properly engaged on topics, they feel isolated and not heard on key issues.

My Strategies:

  1. Engage Earlier – Involvement should occur at the beginning and strategic stages of planning, not at the end, when you do not get a strong say in what is happening. City administration should be required to engage with communities at earlier stages of the process. As your councillor I will provide regular updates regarding major projects in the ward.
  2. Ensure Policy Best Practices and Compliance – The Engage Policy CS009 is already in place to govern the actions of the administration related to the engagement process. We need to ensure that these frameworks are being followed by city officials and that we are always improving upon processes. We should look to and reflect on best practices across other municipalities, and use those ideas to improve our own process.
  3. Leveraging Technology – There are a significant number of technologies and platforms, that can offer a more effective form of communication between us and the City. We need to look at updating the Engage web site to improve conversation and feedback.

Ward 11 Outcomes:

As Councillor for Ward 11, one of the tasks I will look into is improving the guidelines set out in the City’s Engage Policy CS009. The current policy and framework is open ended about the administration’s ability to decide when the engagement process occurs. A certain amount of flexibility makes sense to ensure that the policy can be applied to the variety of services and projects the City offers. It is important the rules relating to the stage at which the City talks with you must be better outlined and defined to ensure it occurs early on in any project process.

I will also start looking into the current online tools for engaging with you. There are two web sites that the city is currently using (and testing) to get citizen feedback – The Calgary Engage web site and Civic Innovation YYC. The current Engage web site is a good start, but when you drill down to a specific topic, you cannot log a comment or leave a message. Also we need to make sure that the data collected from the web sites is used effectively. We need to know: Are the web sites being used? How is city officials or staff using these tools? And are your comments and ideas reaching the administrators in charge of these areas?

The other item I will address is the engagement event process. In particular, city council needs to have an honest look as to whether or not these events are the proper way to reach you. The reach of engagement events has fallen due to changes in how we all communicate. The current event process makes it difficult for those with other commitments and cannot attend to have meaningful impact. Citizen impact should not be determined by your availability to attend meetings – all opinions deserve to be heard and respected. We need to look at the event process and see how we can improve this for your busy lifestyle.