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  • Writer's pictureRobin Plumb

An Engaged Community Makes for a Better Council

Updated: Jul 28, 2022

The Way It Has Been

Council and the administration have not provided much insight into its priorities and decision-making over the years.

The past couple of Councils have apparently just decided what is best for Carling with little to no engagement with the majority of residents. None of the Council members have run on any discernible platforms and no effective attempts have been made to seek input from the community on major projects and budgeting decisions.

Other than a fairly slim newsletter that mostly focuses on past activities, there is no effective forum for addressing plans for the future, the issues and concerns of the residents, and the game plan to move ahead. While our mayor and most of the councillors have been receptive to residents' complaints on an individual basis, there has been very little engagement and two-way communication on a broad community basis on important matters. From what I have seen, our voices have not been heard or sought out for a very long time in Carling. It's time for that to change.

Council has locked us into major financial commitments with no effective notification to residents and with no engagement at all with any part of the community. As mentioned in my Blog under Taxes, significant reserves have been built up through tax increases with no disclosed purpose or justification. A $50,000 per year contribution from the Pattern Energy Wind Farm has been set aside in reserves instead of being used to offset tax increases. There has been no public discussion at all around this decision. Pattern Energy is paying us that amount every year for 20 years to use for any municipal purpose including fixing roads, upgrading our equipment, or paying staff salaries. That's $1 million that Council just decided to set aside while increasing our taxes year after year.

We have also been signed up for major new financial commitments related to new recreation facilities, new sewers, and a new pool in Parry Sound with almost no communication and absolutely no engagement of the community whatsoever. These commitments to Parry Sound amount to over $400,000 per year and, unless a new Council takes decisive action, will require a 8-10% permanent tax increase on top of the usual 5-7% annual increases. These recent decisions resulted in the largest set of financial commitments ever made by the Township, and none of them were put to the community in advance for input or even simple notification and explanation of their actions.

To be fair, communication could also be improved on the many good things being done for us and Council's successes. The next Council should focus on taking community engagement to a higher level.

The Way It Could Be--Time to Engage & Respond

I believe that Council should be actively seeking the input, advice, and opinions of the community as a matter of course. Here are some ideas on how that could happen. Please send me an email or provide comments in the Contact section of my website with what you would like to see done to improve the level of community engagement with Council.

  1. Live-stream and record for later online viewing all Council meetings to make it easier and more convenient for residents to attend, participate, and view

  2. Establish a Scorecard for Council:

  3. Ask residents to complete a simple scorecard to use to rank Council's recognition of issues and priorities and its performance against some straight-forward objectives (like improving communications).

  4. Use the Scorecard to solicit input from residents on their concerns and ideas.

  5. Complete the exercise at least once a year.

  6. Publish the results and review at Council with plans to address issues.

  7. Set-up an online forum (moderated for effectiveness and decorum) where residents, staff, and council members can conduct meaningful discussions and share information.

  8. Produce more frequent and more informative Newsletters, which include requests for feedback.

  9. Introduce a management reporting process that Township staff can use to highlight what they are seeing as issues, trends, and areas for improvement and present the report to Council on a regular basis.

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