March 22nd, 2018

Don’t limit forums to elections

By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on September 29, 2017.

Civic election forums are great! In Lethbridge, at least, they offer a real “finger on the pulse” of citizens’ views.

Do Lethbridge people want a more effective, more affordable transit system? Yes, judging by participants’ questions and council candidates’ answers at one of this week’s forums.

Are we in favour of a new performing arts centre? A convention centre at Exhibition Park? Yes again.

Are we really concerned about taxes? Apparently not – just one of 29 councillor candidates named that as the top issue. Nor was it the focus of many participants’ questions.

Not even the need for another bridge stirred great debate. The city is planning to build one when traffic volume requires it, citizens were reminded – and when we can afford it,

A number of other issues were also raised: the need for an emergency evacuation plan; the amount of water wasted by errant park and boulevard sprinklers; the racist appearance of police “carding” people who are walking down the street.

More help for poor families and homeless people was another issue raised. So was urban sprawl, the need for a ward system on city council and the ongoing value of downtown revitalization.

On another current issue, most voiced support for the curbside recycling plan recently approved by council. But some want the city’s private recycling companies to play a role.

And the list goes on. In a city this size, there will be many opportunities to pursue, many decisions to make.

We don’t want city council or our civic administration to make all those decisions. These election forums, with vocal participation by a cross-section of Lethbridge residents, provide a snapshot of public opinion today. Candidates elected on Oct. 16 should take note.

Unfortunately, at least from this perspective there are four years between elections. Human nature being what it is, all we may hear for the next four years is the voices of those who want to complain. Citizens who want to offer council their ideas or praise have no public forum.

Granted, city officials make an effort to get citizen input on the city’s plans and projects. Our soon-completed Legacy Regional Park is a wonderful example of how public participation can enhance a city project.

Getting citizens’ ideas for other important issues – like racism or homelessness – is more difficult. Some are simply too complex.

But here’s a challenge for our soon-to-be elected city council. Why can’t we hold an ongoing series of public forums, maybe spring and fall, to gather residents’ views on topical concerns? Getting the public more involved, we’d suggest, will make for a more informed and proactive community.

Do our readers agree?

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One Response to “Don’t limit forums to elections”

  1. snowman says:

    why do we not have citizen forums the answer is simple city council will no allow proper citizen participation yes they allowed citizens to participate with their salary increase’s by council the
    system of a democratic process called a CITIZEN ASSEMBLY for a city council purpose .
    A request was made to the past city council for a Citizen Assembly on the Residential Curbside
    the reply y mayor and council NO take it up in the election.
    The recycling problem there was not a total yes in favor of by residential households, all concerns,
    on costs of service and the fact the recent spending of $1.5 million on a new recycling depot which residential greatly approved. The question why do need a duplicate service was not answered
    by council. The question on the issue why the Mayor and some council members “changed their
    minds” and dumped a $15million debt on property tax, was the administration in favor we doubt it a duplicate service not needed, yes political pressure from enviro groups is established won the day. this what you call no democratic all citizen participation.

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