Other Municipalities have begun to realize how important communication is, not just with the public but internally with staff as well.
The recent communications plan from the City of Guelph nails it: "Nowadays, the old model of 'communicating' with stakeholders - a process whereby organizations send a message to an audience - is outdated."
As we plan how we want our community to grow and develop over the next 50 years, we need the input from all of our friends and neighbours. We must find new ways to listen to residents so we can all shape the Beaumont of the future.
Too often in the past, "community consultations" have been scheduled at inconvenient times, set up in awkward formats or inadequately promoted.
One of the things I frequently hear from my friends and neighbours is "they won't listen. They're just going to do what they want anyway."
We will create a better way.
We need to engage in two way communication. As the City of Guelph puts it - "By engaging in two-way communication, the City will foster effective relationships with the stakeholders; ensure City Communications are well coordinated, effectively managed and responsive to the information needs of the public, employees and Council."
My first job as Mayor is to listen to our neighbours throughout the Town. My second job is to ensure council also listens and holds this as a priority.
I will extend opportunities for public participation in council meetings. If our friends and neighbours in the Town wish to share with us, we need to be prepared to listen. If that means that council meetings take longer, then that's a good thing. If that means that we need to schedule more council meetings to accommodate these presentations (and make sure that we're not inconveniencing residents by meeting too late), then that's what we'll do.
I will ensure that formal consultations are scheduled to allow for as many people to participate as possible. Not everybody is available during the day to attend Town consultations. Some work shift work. We need to make sure that it is convenient for many people to participate in these consultations.
I will ensure that consultations are accessible. Not everybody can make it out to consultations. We need to make sure that we use technology effectively to allow those who can't come out to participate.
I will ensure that events are communicated well in advance. It's not fair to expect people to drop everything at a couple days' notice to show up at a hearing or consultation. Good planning and strong communications can make sure that people are aware of events well before they take place, rather than at the last minute.
I will ensure that consultations happen before the decision has been made. Too often, consultations are really an attempt to sell a concept, a plan or a decision. I don't have a monopoly on good ideas, and neither does council. We need to discuss ideas before they've gone too far down the road to pull back.
I will be available for less formal opportunities to discuss. Not everybody wants to speak at council, or at an engagement session, or at a hearing. Sometimes, a conversation over coffee - or across the aisle at Sobey's - does a better job. Not everything needs to be stage managed, and I'm always open to a good conversation.
This is how we will build a better Beaumont.