Could MR council expand?

Citizens make suggestions for more open, accessible government

They’ve heard the ideas on how to open up Maple Ridge city hall, now the citizen’s representative committee will put them altogether and pass on the ideas to the politicians.

And one of those ideas could be for Maple Ridge to expand its council from seven to nine members.

“We had a really good turnout [June 3],” said Katherine Wagner, chair of the committee, also known as the citizen representatives working group.

“We had speakers for two hours and the room was packed.”

Two meetings were scheduled to allow public input. One was cancelled, leaving the other drawing all the input.

People were concerned about communications, fair processes, customer service and access to information at city hall, said Wagner.

They wanted to ensure information was accessible and easy to find.

“Sometimes you have to read between the lines,” about what people want.

One idea was to expand the size of council from seven to nine, which Maple Ridge is entitled to do based on its population.

That would allow more councillors to directly connect with the public.

Wagner likes the idea.

“It’s a huge workload on council.”

Operating an open government does take more resources, she added.

Some people from eastern Maple Ridge showed up saying they weren’t getting the information they needed on the medical marijuana facility being built on 272nd Street.

“The frustration I felt was they just felt they weren’t getting enough information.”

Wagner, who runs the Facebook group Maple Ridge Council Watch, said the more open a government is in its functions, “the less chance of anything untoward going on.”

Now that feedback has come in from the public via e-mail and the public meeting, the citizen’s group will compile a report for month end and present it to the mayor’s open government task force, composed of Mayor Nicole Read and Couns. Corisa Bell and Tyler Shymkiw.

“I assume the report is going to be made public,” said Wagner.

While the task force works on the grass roots input on making government more transparent, Maple Ridge council earlier approved two earlier recommendations from the task force.

Council earlier in the year approved the livestreaming of the council workshop meetings and committee of the whole meetings that take place on Mondays, continuing a process that was started by the previous council.

With regular Tuesday meetings also livestreamed, people can now watch all council meetings on their computer.

“I think that’s fabulous,” said Wagner. “I think it shows they’re really serious.”

Council has also ordered that basic information about contracts the city has signed be public.

Read also attended the public input session.

She agreed that city or mayoralty announcements made on social media also should be on the city’s website to ensure there is a record of communications.

Two letters released concerning the homeless camp on Cliff Avenue were posted on the Maple Ridge Resilience Initiative Facebook page but are not actually posted on the city’s website.