The need to increase and improve communication in the municipality of Oak Bay is apparent.
From an Official Community Plan that has not been updated since the mid-90s, to an outdated website, it’s no wonder improved communication was on everyone’s lips during the fall election campaign.
Popular belief may be that Oak Bay residents are mostly older folk who aren’t using the Internet or smartphones to communicate. Accepting this as fact would be a disservice to our residents, who are clearly keen to communicate.
Even the mayor, who is no spring chicken, opened a Twitter account and vowed to learn how to use it – although Nils Jensen’s last tweet was on Nov. 20, which indicates his learning curve is steep with that particular technology.
Recent recommendations to improve the muncipality’s website and broadcast council meetings, if accepted, are welcome changes to the way the council communicates with its citizens.
Making full agenda packages available to citizens on the district’s website will help them get a better understanding of the issues facing council and the community, and may even lead some to attend meetings they might otherwise miss.
The reluctance to put councillors’ telephone numbers on Oak Bay’s website, however, is baffling. Most councillors are listed in the local telephone directory and online, and most indicated their willingness to put their contact numbers on the district website for the public to see. So what’s the holdup?
Staff concerns that there may be some legal ramifications to posting council members’ phone numbers on the website doesn’t seem to hold water. With most Capital Region municipalities including that information on their websites, Oak Bay being a holdout on some vague legality doesn’t make much sense.
The residents of Oak Bay, both young and old, are interested and active in the community. They have a desire to engage with the mayor and council in a meaningful way. Making two-way communication easier is just a start, and including telephone and email contact information on the website is the easiest and least expensive solution.
The next step in improving dialogue between our politicians and citizens is for residents to pick up their own phones and make a call.