Creating a culture of openness

Though I try to stay informed, I recognize that often there are others that are closer to particular issues or that have information that I don’t. One of the roles of elected council members, according to the Municipal Government Act in Alberta, is “to consider the welfare and interests of the municipality as a whole and, to bring to council’s attention anything that would promote the welfare or interests of the municipality.” This requires a dialogue with the community. Council has made some strides since the last election to enhance openness and communication (summaries, policing open house, etc.). There are several areas where I see opportunities to continue adding to the enhancements that have already been made. I’ll share some specific ideas below, I’d love to hear your thoughts too.

  1. Summarize: Continue to provide better summaries of the activities of council each week online. Support those with more traditional summaries via mail, newspapers or email newsletters for those that don’t have access to the website or other social media.
  2. Video: Provide better access to meetings through live and archived video
  3. Social: Become a leader in the use of social media in municipal administration. This could include engaging more on Facebook, using more live video, posting more updates on Town projects, etc. We can build on established best practices, like the Alberta Urban Municipalities Social Media Guidelines, but also look for ways to innovate and lead.
  4. Open houses: Have regular open houses or council meet-and-greets focused on gathering ideas, gathering feedback and having an open dialogue with the community.
  5. Accessible: Ensure public meetings are at times and locations that allow access for those with limited mobility. Consider occasional use of other community spaces to better facilitate viewing and participation (ie. theatre, lodge, etc.).
  6. Fewer surprises: Try to ensure that any long-term municipal plans around town facilities and parks are easily accessible to the public. Help the community feel engaged in and an ownership of these projects. Help the community to understand plans for raw water, park enhancements, new facilities, paving, etc.
  7. Openness: Evaluate the current use of closed sessions and ensure that no decisions are made in closed meetings as outlined in the Municipal Government and Freedom of Information Acts.
  8. Authentic: Use open houses and meet-and-greets to help shape municipal direction and policy not to convince the community of decisions that have already been made.