An opportunity for Fruitvale residents to gather for a conversation on what they want to see on the agenda for the municipal election next fall brought out approximately 35 citizens Tuesday night and it wasn’t just for the fried chicken that was offered.
Local small business people, elected officials, senior citizens, and millennials came together in the Fruitvale Memorial Hall for the first of three pilot project Community Conversations sponsored by the Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) and the Association Kootenay and Boundary Local Governments (AKBLG).
“We’re trying to encourage participation in municipal government, provide the opportunity for people to have direct input into the municipal conversation,” said Leslie Taylor, former mayor of Banff and facilitator for the conversations. “We’ll gather together the results from the sessions so all Kootenay Boundary communities can see what other communities are concerned about.”
In addition to the Fruitvale workshop, community conversations were held Wednesday in Grand Forks and again tonight in Cranbrook, garnering feedback from small, medium, and large communities in the region regarding what they feel are the important social, economic, and environmental issues and opportunities that their municipal governments should be focusing on.
“This is really good. It’s a good mix of ages; seniors, young families,” said Patricia Cecchini, Mayor of Fruitvale. “It’s good to hear from people when it’s not just over an issue.”
The group was encouraged to look more at “big picture” issues and opportunities that their community might consider as opposed to personal issues like the pot hole in front of their house or the neighbour with a barking dog.
Some of the ideas expressed by the group ranged from a local museum, enhancing outdoor recreation opportunities, social housing, encouraging more cooperation between area municipalities, to a dog park and backyard chickens.
In addition to discussing what they want to see on the municipal agenda, the group was also encouraged to brainstorm ideas on how to engage more of their community in municipal elections; how to encourage people to run in elections, how to encourage voter turnout, and how to encourage citizens to become more informed about the issues and opportunities.
The broad age range of the participants who attended the Tuesday evening workshop wasn’t just due to chance but was part of a concerted effort by the facilitator and the CBT and AKBLG who funded the pilot.
“We publicized the event quite a bit on Facebook, which is pretty much a first for us,” said Taylor.
“I’m interested to see how many people actually came out as a result of it. I think when invitations are sent to events through Facebook a lot more people indicate they’ll attend than might actually show up but we’ll see.
“One of the objectives of the Request for Proposals for this pilot by the funders was to encourage the use of social media. This was an honest attempt to reach out to a different demographic.
“We’ll see how it all turns out after Thursday night.”