On reading the Oak Bay News headline and article Oak Bay council set to consult you on how to consult you (oakbaynews.com), I was surprised by council’s decision to strike another Mayor’s Task Force on community and public engagement.
Engaging with residents on community issues that are important to them is not rocket science. Public consultation and engagement are a normal part of what every local government does throughout its term. There are all kinds of examples of effective community engagement tools and models used by other municipalities throughout the region.
Closer to home, Oak Bay council can also find successful examples on how to effectively engage Oak Bay residents. Many of Oak Bay’s local organizations, such as clubs, community and neighbourhood associations and the municipality’s Oak Bay heritage group, to name just a few, actively and frequently engage the public in the work they do, noting that many events attract a “standing room only” crowd.
All Oak Bay council members are long-term Oak Bay residents and all but two of them are multi-term Council members so there is more than adequate experience at the table on how to engage this community.
Yes, there are statutory rules about certain kinds of Council engagement with residents, such as public hearings, but statutory guidelines do not prevent community dialogue in more informal settings.
While it’s true that the mayor generally speaks for council, it’s important to remember that each council member is also independently elected and therefore is entitled to have a voice on community issues.
If you get public consultation right (i.e. timely, moderated, regular and well planned and advertised), then everything else should fall into place. Just do it.