White Rock’s political leaders are being offered opportunities more and more frequently to hear from those who elected them.
As part of the burgeoning development proposals for the small city, proponents are asked to host public-information meetings to present and discuss their projects to their would-be neighbours.
And, in recent months, the public is doing their part, attending in droves.
Yet conspicuous by their absences are several members of council, who clearly could learn a thing or two about residents’ views.
No matter what reasons or rationalizations these members have for missing individual meetings, a pattern has become evident mere months into their long four-year term. And that pattern seems to break the compact they entered into with voters when they were elected last November.
We are talking about the opportunity to meet with voters face-to-face and hear their concerns, their fears and, yes, even their anger. We are talking about the opportunity to start a conversation – no matter how difficult – that might, eventually, lead to mutual understanding on the need to balance our priorities for the future and our responsibilities for the present.
This, we dare to suggest, is the role of council members in a community; indeed politicians at all levels of government.
In this day and age, in which soundbites and social-media posts seem to define our ‘reality’, we have seen increased reliance on a political concept that has actually been around for a long time – the notion of government by photo-op, geared only to keeping up appearances.
We have seen, too, what an easy road this is for elected officials to take. But the fact is that our representatives were not elected simply for the fun stuff, the feel-good stuff.
With the public question period at White Rock council meetings now a matter of history, there are few remaining toe-in-the-water opportunities for such direct feedback. People can make appointments for future delegations to council, it’s true, but that is a vehicle only for another speech – not a dialogue. And that’s why attending public meetings is so important.
Unless council members henceforth plan to govern by edict only, there is one appearance that must be preserved – and that is the appearance of being genuinely concerned.
That is, assuming city council members still want to represent the opinions of the people who elected them.