Published: September 7, 2016
BY JENNIFER PARSONS
There are two true indicators that summer is over in my mind. First is when the kids go back to school. Nothing says put away your beach towels like school buses and bagged lunches. Although with no school aged kids in my house the sign for me is often the day I walk out of the house and think “man, I really should’ve put shoes on and grabbed a jacket.” This moment happened to me a day last week and it was more than the wind that sent a shiver up my spine.
This is almost all my summers recently – we camped and then it was over. The fire hazard remained low this year, which meant a ton of campfires and with that campfire conversations, the great melding of the minds that can only happen after dark while listening to logs snap and crackle. There is something poetic about sitting around with old friends (or newly made campground friends), speaking in hushed tones despite the fact that the squirrels and the bats really don’t care what your opinion is.
Earlier this summer, around one such fire, the topic of my new job came up and how I feel about the state of our community. I am as PC as the next gal but campfire me has less of a filter and I admitted that I am disappointed in the lack of awareness those who live in our community have about the goings on of our municipal government to which this question was shot back at me:
“Even if we all paid attention, would it truly change anything?”
In that moment I was adamant that it would, because you don’t make a memorable campfire moment by being agreeable. However, as I reflect on this now I am really not that sure.
I do believe that we should be more aware of what our councillors are saying and advocating for at meetings and beyond. Having attended many municipal meetings on and off for a number of years I can say with great confidence that it is rare that there is more than one person who shows an interest in attending the meetings. Times when the chambers do fill up are brief. As an aside: The Mayor issues an invitation to each delegation that appears before them to stay and take in the rest of the meeting and the sentiment is almost always laughingly declined by the person who is packing up their stuff and quickly retreating to get back to dinner or their other commitments.
Just before I left the NSN the Municipality was looking at wiring up the council chambers in order to broadcast meetings online. At the time I thought there goes the good stuff – those unexpected moments when one councillor lets down their guard and shares something one would thing they wouldn’t want the broader public to know.
Fast forward a couple years, the cameras are installed and I realize that those moments are still there.
However, is anyone watching? I can count on my pinky finger the number of people I know that tune in to catch up on not only the decisions being made, but the discussion and thought process that goes into making those decisions. To be fair I should note that the Municipality might have stats that prove that I just don’t know that many people and that my assumption on the viewership at this point is purely speculative.
So if more people either watched or listened to how decisions are made in our municipal government, would anything truly change? Campfire me says we would be more informed of their positions on issues and that would be reflected at the ballot box, either proving we have the leadership team that we are happy representing us or a complete overhaul would occur. The realistic me says that getting a community to tune in is the challenge in itself.
So I am doing my part. I am encouraging everyone to grab some popcorn and log into a municipal council meeting every once in a while. Because an informed electorate can influence a ballot box and if nothing else you may find out why your neighbours street is being paved, not yours, right from the source.