I often get asked if I like being on Nelson city council, and so far the answer is yes, very much — even after a series of brain-melting seven hour budgetary meetings (no, it’s not one of Oso Negro’s roasting days, that mild burning smell is coming from me).
I love learning more about how things work, and the nerdy side of me is deeply nourished by all of this new information.
Plus the people are great: our staff is great, and my fellow elected officials here in Nelson, and across the Columbia Basin, are great. I feel tremendously lucky, and excited.
Although feeling fortunate comes easily when you’re from a tiny city that can raise over $40,000 in one night for affordable housing. Where small children in pink shirts flash mob city hall to prevent bullying on the same day that the Kootenay Writers Society doles out literary awards, and our cultural ambassador sings her heart out in a musical about the cross-dressing victim of a botched sex-change operation.
Nelson is truly capable of anything when we put our minds and talent to it, so a good question from my perspective as a new city councillor is: What’s the best way to reach out and connect to one another so we can continue to work for the common good?
I recently read a humorous article online that compared getting university faculty together for a meeting unfavourably to herding cats. It made me reflect on the challenges of organization in general, and public engagement in particular.
We all want to weigh in on issues that matter to us, but are often happy to delegate decision-making around other issues, and most of us don’t want to be inundated with more information that we’re not interested in. Many of us are not particularly political. Most of us are very busy.
How do you most like to be communicated with? How do you get your information? I get a lot of mine from Facebook — I subscribe to organizations I like and have smart, diverse friends who post interesting articles on everything from current events and innovations to opinion pieces and cute cat videos. I like it when my friends in town tell me about neat things that are going on, and I love workshops and panel discussions. I like surveys, too.
On the other hand, I don’t even see posters. Want to keep something a secret from me? Put it on a poster. Also, sometimes I rely too heavily on people I know telling me about upcoming events. I miss out on things this way if they don’t tell me in time. I get many online newsletters emailed to me, but admit I don’t always have or take the time to read them.
What about you? Where do you go for your information, and more specifically, how would you like the city, and the council, to communicate with you? Would you appreciate public meetings, conversation cafes, coffee table visits, surveys, Facebook discussions, pieces in the paper, print materials, social events? What sounds fun, interesting and easy enough to be something you’d actually do? What do you do already that works for you?
You can give any councillor your ideas on this, and feel free to email me at apurcell(at)nelson.ca or leave a note at city hall. I also have a public Facebook page (I’d like to keep my personal one for close friends and family), if that’s a forum that appeals to you: facebook.com/annajpurcell. You don’t have to be a member to see it, but you do to comment on it.
We all have four years to work with this particular council as a tool to keep Nelson vibrant and wonderful … and to make it even better. Let’s get really good at inviting everyone interested to contribute to the discussions, decisions, plans and hard (fun) work of doing that. More to come …
Anna Purcell shares this space weekly with her Nelson city council colleagues.