ENGAGEMENT, CONSULTATION AND TRANSPARENCY are big words in governments of all levels right now.
Issues like pipeline expansion, electoral reform and First Nations rights come to mind but let’s stick close to home. The McArthur Island issue has made Kamloops City council sensitive to the meaning of communication with citizens.
There’s another important word to add to the list — empowerment. It means giving someone the authority to do something.
At this week’s City council meeting, during a report from communications manager Wendy Heshka about recent “engagement” activities, Coun. Bill Sarai urged — in view of the McArthur Island experience — that people be told their input “is just part of the bigger picture.” He called public engagement “a double-edged sword.”
Mayor Ken Christian has said: “There’s a big difference between not listening and not agreeing.”
So expect some sort of warning on the City’s website which, translated, will mean “We’ll listen to you but that doesn’t mean we’ll do what you say.”
Sarai and Christian are correct, of course, that City council can’t always go along with the majority in informal processes.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops, former school board chair, former editor of The Kamloops Daily News, and a current director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He was awarded the Jack Webster Foundation’s lifetime achievement award in 2011. His editorials are published Monday through Thursdays, and Saturdays on CFJC Today, CFJC Midday and CFJC Evening News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.