A new format, new venue and new addition made for a successful first city five-year-financial plan open house.
More than 50 members of the public attended the event, which was held at Echo Centre on Jan. 15.
The event was a success by all accounts, Mayor John Douglas said. “The feedback I got was positive. People felt that it was a big improvement over what we had at the Capitol Theatre last year.”
A common denominator among those who felt that it was an improvement was the interaction with city staff. “People could walk around more freely and there was a free-er exchange of ideas than before,” Douglas said.
Two of the things Douglas said he was asked most often about were video-streaming council meetings and kitchen waste collection. “There’s a strong interest out there in accessing council meetings over the Internet, either real time or through an archive,” he said.
The format at Echo Centre was different than last year’s formal presentation at the Capitol Theatre, resembling one that was held during the open house about a new Echo Centre.
Attendees could wander about stations set up along the room’s periphery. Each station had a placard with information about a particular city department and was manned by at least one city staff member who answered questions. Douglas and some city councillors were on hand to answer questions as well.
City staff evaluated last year’s presentation format and changed it in an effort to improve it, city manager Ken Watson said.
The new format was more user-friendly, attendee Pamela Day said. “At the Capitol Theatre you felt like you were being sat down and being fed. It was like ‘Open wide and take your Pablum,” Day said.
At the Capitol Theatre, people may have had a question but were intimidated out of asking it as the microphone. “Here, it’s easier to wander about and talk to staff.”
People would see a more accurate accounting of expenditures if they saw how the administration department cross pollinates across every other department, for instance. Or, how the cultural category appears very sports driven. “As it is things are separated into their own silos.”
Another new feature is the addition of ‘city bucks’.
The initiative involves imitation $10 bills called ‘city bucks’. One hundred dollars in city bucks was given to people when they entered the open house. People could write recommendations on the back of the bills then deposit or invest them in one of several boxes that represent different city services. The exercise demonstrates what city services are valued most.
The ‘city bucks’ will be accumulated until the end of the budget process then tallied. The results will be announced after the process is completed, Watson said.
Another public meeting is scheduled for Feb. 3 at Echo Centre. Departmental budget presentations continue at council chambers on Feb. 5.