It was only after I had registered my candidacy for mayor that I went to my first City Council meeting. I have always been an avid reader and, since my last few years of high school, have had a deep interest in politics at all levels. I have always believed that voting is more a duty than a right, and as an extension of that, being knowledgeable about your community, society and the world is important. This though was my first real foray into active involvement in politics.
Since the fall, I have now been to six or seven Council meetings. What I have discovered, aside from the unsurprising tedium, was that my knowledge of city affairs was perhaps not as deep as I had thought. Like many people I know, I read the various newspapers, and assumed that my perception of City Council decisions was fairly well informed. There was a degree of naivete in this assumption of mine, because there is a certain degree of subtlety that gets lost in any reporting. Also, I in no way wish to disparage the reporting that is done, it is simply a fact of life that the necessary brevity of any article cannot fully convey the full truth of any situation. Most commonly, it seems to me, what is missed by not going to the meetings is the information on which City Council makes its decision. You can read about the end result, but how that decision is reached, what options have been weighed, can change significantly how you feel about the final choice.
Certainly this last election saw major changes in Council, and I keep being asked how the new Council is doing. My response, inevitably, is that I’m not sure yet. Even with an almost complete change in City Council, it is harder than one might think for them to affect a noticeable change, especially in the short term. If you imagine a large ship moving through the water, you might get a good sense of how the City works. It’s only with time that the changes can be perceived in the ships course. With their first budget, we will get the first clear indication of the direction they are steering.
One thing I have definitely seen in this new Council is a strong desire to be receptive to public input. This was perhaps one of the biggest issues in the election, and I am happy that everyone seems to be taking this seriously. However, there is always the danger of public input being skewed in a certain direction if only certain segments of society are giving feedback. There is a strong presence of business-focused people on Council, and I would guess that in turn, this could lead to a lot of business-centered feedback being sent their way. City Council can only realistically represent everyone’s interests if people actually voice their concerns. I hope, and believe, that this Council will be receptive to the public, but they need everyone’s help to do this. This last election showed a strong public engagement in politics with the number of voters who turned out. Civic engagement does not end on voting day though, and I hope that people continue to stay involved. I know I will.
Michael Brooks-Hill is a Revelstoke resident and former candidate for public office