City should revamp its public consultations

City should revamp its public consultations The city is planning to review the Protected Area Bylaw. As part of this process city administrators want to establish yet another task force dominated by special interest groups. Although administrators often

The city is planning to review the Protected Area Bylaw. As part of this process city administrators want to establish yet another task force dominated by special interest groups. Although administrators often suggest that this is the best option to follow, an increasing number of citizens are losing confidence in this task force form of consultation.

We have an alternative: The city informs its citizens through the media that it is going to review the Protected Area Bylaw and indicates its reasons for doing so.

A public meeting is held to arouse interest in the review, and to provide citizens with the city’s list of concerns with the present bylaw. Citizens are told how the city might address these concerns in the new Protected Area Bylaw.

It asks interested citizens and special interest groups to consult the city’s website and do the following: Read the bylaw and consult the relevant maps, and then read what city administrators feel should be changed in the bylaw. Comment in writing on the concerns and on the possible solutions to these problems suggested by administrators, and then add concerns of their own and suggest possible ways in which these could be addressed.

Special interest groups (including community associations) along with individual citizens would submit their comments in writing if interested in the subject. (People are more responsible and thoughtful concerning their comments when forced to put their ideas in writing.)

The name of the person or organization making the submission must be included. All submissions would be placed on the city’s website for public review. City administrators would review all submissions. The city would solicit the advice of its own experts (employees) found in applicable city departments, and perhaps in other municipalities. It might then call another public meeting in order to present its findings and receive comments from those in attendance.

Administrators would prepare a draft bylaw which would be reviewed by city council and citizens during the normal bylaw approval process.

This process would put all citizens and special interest groups on an equal footing. Only stakeholder organizations and individuals that are truly interested in the bylaw and have worthwhile comments would bother to make submissions.

In addition, it might well save the city the time and money involved in establishing and running a stakeholder-dominated task force, eliminate the frustration experienced by special interest groups not chosen to sit on a particular task force, remove the almost impossible job of coming up with a truly balanced task force, give hope to those not represented by special interest groups that their concerns will be given equal weight, and increase confidence in the public consultation process.

Keith Lay

Director, Active Trails Whitehorse Association