Holding more town hall-style meetings, creating a culture of open government, and simply having Pitt Meadows city hall staff being friendly and available to the public were some of the recommendations of the citizens committee on open government released this week.
In the last municipal election Mayor John Becker and his team campaigned on the “Four Ts” platform of taxation, transportation, transparency and teamwork, and soon after election they struck the committee to address transparency at city hall.
Their aim was to make the city more responsive and accessible, and remove barriers to information release.
Therese Mickelson, a Port Moody consultant, was the chair of the citizens committee on open government, which held six meetings over three months. The group also conducted two community surveys, including one done online.
The group identified four broad goals:
• Council and staff are open, friendly and responsive to the community:
• Council and city information is shared with the community proactively and openly:
• The community is meaningfully engaged early and consistently;
• Policies and procedures support open government and are applied consistently.
They came up with 23 recommendations to achieve these goals. These include a directory of city staff with contact information, developing a strategic communications plan, and responding to Freedom of Information Act requests without charging fees or taking the 30 days allowed under the act.
Mayor John Becker praised the committee report as “Amazing work, on time, on budget and certainly exceeded expectations on my part.”
He noted that councillors let the process play itself out without political influence.
“Council we owned this particular exercise, but part of that ownership was to let it unfold without us even being present – even sitting in the corner, because that would probably have affected the dynamic,” said Becker.
He noted that council has already changed procedural bylaws to allow more public questions.
“This is absolutely not going to languish on a shelf,” he promised.
Coun. Tracy Miyashita asked that the committee meet again in six months or a year for a follow-up report.
“We want to hear from citizens – how well are we doing in addressing these actions.”
Michelson noted that the 24 residents who took part may stay part of the process. She called them “A really informed group of people” and “a great resource.”
Coun. Mike Stark suggested that the group could remain an ongoing committee of council.
“I only wish we’d done this years ago,” said Stark.