You’d almost think that in this era of pervasive, persuasive and invasive communication the task of public engagement would be painless.
Hasn’t social media fed news junkies and community activists with all the information they crave at the touch of a keystroke? Who needs phone calls, letters and memos when you’ve got Facebook, Twitter and Instagram?
Alas, the communications professionals and their taskmasters at municipal government offices know their jobs are still challenging. And they’ll never be able to satisfy all the grumpy taxpayers, all the time.
But they’re trying, even if they don’t always get it right.
To that end, the Municipality of North Cowichan is bending over backwards next week in an effort to keep folks in the loop when it comes to two critical issues: licensing cannabis shops and managing the municipal forest.
Acknowledging that community engagement is vital, North Cowichan has booked the ballroom of the Ramada Hotel on Aug. 21 for its regular council meeting and a public hearing later that day. The six o’clock public hearing will deal with three bylaws, two of which involve proposed cannabis outlets.
The ongoing discussion of forest management will be on the agenda for the council meeting and that discussion as well as the public hearing in the ballroom later is expected to draw a large crowd in the ballroom. (Dancing will only be of the verbal variety)
Mayor Al Siebring has made a commitment to improve the communication strategy within the Municipality and as a media veteran – as well as a Facebook junkie – he knows the challenges and how important it is to get the right message into the public realm.
As recently as last Tuesday night, the rookie mayor was called upon to explain why North Cowichan’s plans for improvements to Chemainus Road were just then being unveiled, a mere month before the equipment is due to hit the street.
This project has been on the drawing board for a decade and there have been stops and starts along the way, Siebring pointed out at a public meeting in Chemainus.
The Muni fumbled the ball somewhat, Siebring conceded, but in an effective defence, he explained the project has a lot of moving parts, including a vital land acquisition and that matter was only very recently put to rest.
The audience appreciated the explanation. Communication counts.