Mimi Williams

for Edmonton City Council - Ward 7

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Improved Public Engagement

“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”

- Jane Jacobs

Public discourse need not be adversarial. I believe that by expanding rather than restricting the ways the public can inform council, we can mitigate some of the bitterness we’ve seen characterize the debates over controversial issues over the past few council terms.

The best things about our city grew from the grassroots up so we’ve got to improve the opportunity for Edmontonians to not only influence the choices that council makes but also to influence which choices are presented.

Current consultation processes – while showing some signs of improving – fall short on facilitating the sort of two-way communication we need to fully engage citizens in city-building.

I want to amplify the voices seldom heard (women, disadvantaged youth, indigenous peoples, New Canadians – to name but a few examples) through the political process. We need to ensure our boards and commissions, as well as our bureaucracy, properly reflect the diversity of our population.

I’ve observed and participated in numerous public hearings and the behaviour of councillors is disheartening. They play with their blackberries, read, talk to each other – every thing but listen to the public to whom they are supposed to account. We need to increase the level of respect members of the public are greeted with when they make the effort to participate in public hearings and other consultation forums.

All to often our public consultation processes take the form of “We’re doing this. Deal with it.” We need to find better ways to identify the needs of our citizens and communities and work together to find ways to fulfill them. I propose we hold a series of meetings that involve nothing more than citizens telling the city what they want/need/experience.

In addition to a full open-door policy at my office at city hall, I plan to hold informal community drop-ins at public libraries every month at different times of the day and in different locations to accommodate the schedules of Ward 7 residents. I’ll always be up for a coffee and can guarantee that every concern will be addressed. Elect me and I can assure you that never again will hundreds of residents of a community take the effort to submit a petition and not even receive the courtesy of a form letter response from their councillor.

Through the course of this campaign, I can tell you that I am the only candidate in the ward that has accepted every single invitation from all corners to attend events and engage with voters in the manner in which they were most comfortable. I’ve been at tweet-ups, barbecues, brunches, and film screenings. Whether there are two or two hundred or two thousand people present at an event, I would never turn down an invitation to engage with the voters in this ward and that commitment will continue if you honour me with election.

I offer my full support to initiatives like the Centre for Public Involvement – a joint venture between the City of Edmonton and the University of Alberta and would like to see firm commitments to pursue avenues to engage all Edmontonians in the discussions and decisions that will shape our city. I want to see increased proactive efforts to include members of diverse communities in our decision-making processes and make sure that cultural organizations, non profits and all service organizations are treated as partners not after-thoughts as we establish public policy.

I propose that we offer significant resources to community leagues and other NGOs to establish a Community Liaison Program which fosters engagement and builds capacity within communities to identify and solve their own unique problems.

With the appropriate supports and minimal funding from the city, province, and federal government, we can tap into the incredible knowledge and wisdom that is at our doorstep and help all Edmontonians feel like they are playing a meaningful role in building a better Edmonton.