Councillor promotes town hall conversations

Coun. Eric Zhelka launches series of town hall meetings to boost public input and share information about how local government works.

One Oak Bay councillor hopes a series of pre-committee town hall meetings will add public to input and inform residents about how local government works.

Coun. Eric Zhelka learned from a neighbour about a community engagement working group report from 2012 that detailed recommendations to increase engagement, such as the revamped municipal website and public participation during council meetings.

“I’ve been having meetings with community associations about once a month anyway,” Zhelka said. “It’s almost like a civics lesson, ‘how does governance work here in Oak Bay?’ I like to have a guest speaker to start off, then Q&A related to that, then walk through the agenda of the committee of the whole … really that’s the place where the public has the most opportunity to talk about it.”

The next committee meeting is slated for July 13 and Zhelka will hold the town hall the Saturday before (July 11), at noon at municipal hall.

“This seemed to be a way to not only get feedback on how I’m doing, but also to share in an easy-to-digest format,” he said.

During the recent Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities convention, he met the Oak Bay assessor for  BC Assessments, Reuben Danakody, who will be the guest speaker on July 11. He’ll address valuation in Oak Bay.

During its final council meeting of June, Zhelka said, council opted to refer the 2012 community engagement report forward for possible action in 2016.

“We’ve got some important things to talk about now,” Zhelka said. “I would prefer the dialogue be every month or every couple of months at most. In my opinion, there’s never enough community participation in our council business.”

The town hall is Saturday, July 11 at noon. Committee is July 13 at 7 p.m. both at municipal hall.

The next committee of the whole meeting is scheduled for September and Zhelka plans to have  Bryan Gates, president of the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society, speak during a town hall meeting the Saturday before.