A public consultation meeting on council’s strategic priorities Wednesday night drew close to 70 residents to White Rock Community Centre eager to brainstorm ideas about where the city should be headed.
Over pizza, pop and cookies provided by the city, participants threw out their ideas on everything from the city’s economy and its social development, to environment, governance and infrastructure.
The almost three-hour exercise, involving round-table discussions facilitated and recorded by all city councillors, was to be repeated Thursday morning at the centre.
In addition to obvious priorities – such as repairing White Rock’s storm-damaged pier – councillors also heard suggestions on improving communication between residents and city leaders, improving transportation and parking, consolidating garbage collection, improving and streamlining infrastructure, encouraging greater business viability and boosting arts and social activities that help promote the city’s appeal.
Coun. Erika Johanson said she was not surprised by comments and suggestions she heard at the meeting.
“We were going door to door during the election campaign, and these things are pretty much what we were hearing,” she said.
Mayor Darryl Walker, who introduced the meeting and observed discussions – along with staff including chief administrative officer Dan Bottrill and corporate administration director Tracey Arthur – said he was pleased by the attendance, which allowed for groups of 12 to 14 people at each table.
Walker said that sheets summarizing residents’ ideas, which were noted down by councillors, would be transcribed by staff, who would consolidate points to whittle down duplication.
“Feb. 8 is when council will start looking at this,” Walker said noting that the information would be compared with “what we as a council, ran on.”
“It’s a great level of involvement, a really good start,” he told Peace Arch News, after opening remarks in which he encouraged residents to tell councillors what they feel the community should look like.
“There are no dumb questions and no dumb answers,” he told the crowd.
Professional local government consultation facilitator Gordon McIntosh, of North Saanich, who was overall leader of the meeting, told PAN he was also impressed by the engagement of participants.
“It’s a very contributory atmosphere,” said McIntosh, who had travelled to White Rock after facilitating a meeting in Whitehorse, Yukon, that morning. “You go to some of meetings where people are there with placards.”
“There were a lot of ideas, a lot of feedback,” Coun. Christopher Trevelyan said. “Bringing the public out and listening to them was what we promised to do, and this was a meaningful first step.”