New Westminster seeks ways to engage with community

New Westminster is working on ways to reach out into the community and engage with citizens.

The city continues to work to implement a public engagement strategy that was approved by council in December 2016.  In addition to continuing to implement the strategy’s recommendations, staff are beginning to develop an internal policy that will guide the city’s public engagement processes in the future.

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“It’s been a couple of years since the public engagement task force completed its work with a series of recommendations,” said Mayor Jonathan Cote. “We continue to work through those recommendations and make improvements in our public engagement process. I think we are starting to see the results of that.”

Cote said the city is trying to find ways of reaching out and having more engaging conversations with community members.

“I think public engagement is going to be an ongoing effort,” he said. “It is going to be an effort that all cities struggle with: how do we have good conversations with our residents and how do we have conversations that are reflective of the population as a whole?”

Through a three-year action plan, the city is implementing short-, medium- and long-term priorities between 2017 and 2019. Some of those priorities include: training city staff on public engagement; creating a consultation and events calendar for staff, which is one of the new resources being developed to support engagement activities; and developing a civic education and leadership program for residents between 13 and 30 years to help build relationship with under-represented communities.

As part of a pilot pop-up engagement plan, the city has hired and trained 12 new auxiliary staff pop-up ambassadors called Community Connectors. The team has been out to consultations about various items, including the Q to Q Ferry launch and the city’s cannabis regulations.

Coun. Mary Trentadue said she can see that public engagement is now becoming integrated into the city and how it operates. She said she really likes the pop-up city hall engagement model.

“With regard to the popup city hall, I really like this model. I think it has worked well,” she said. “We still need to work at getting into places where we can communicate with people that don’t generally communicate with us. I know that some of the examples you have given – various festivals or various city events – I think that’s wonderful, but I also wonder if sometimes we need less of a reason to be somewhere and maybe just show up at Moody Park on a warm Saturday or another park in the city.”

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