This column appeared in the Burlington Post on January 18,2012 and is available online at http://www.insidehalton.com/opinion/columns/article/1281539–connecting-people-government
January 18, 2011
One of the principal issues in the last election was community engagement.
I have always believed Burlington was a very engaged community. The community groups and volunteers epitomize this culture.
What needs some work is the connection between residents and local government. As a local government we are challenged to connect and communicate with residents. Part of this challenge is due to our location within the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area. While many forms of media exist locally, the focus is often centered on the larger Toronto communities. Burlington, along with other GTA communities is lost in the shuffle.
So how can we improve our connection with the community in this environment?
Certainly all my colleagues on council are working to keep residents informed. There are regular newsletters, town hall meetings and open houses to give residents an opportunity to connect. The city website provides access to a tremendous amount of information. We are always looking for ways to improve access and you will see continuing changes this year.
The city publishes City Talk three times per year and distributes to all households. City Talk is informative and covers many issues. All committee and council meetings are available online on the city website. We are introducing some new technology this year that will allow easier access to specific points of the webcast so you can go to specific discussions rather than sorting through hours of meetings to find what is relevant to you.
Council recently approved a new E-Government Strategy for the city. This strategy is intended to create and improve web-based services. We want to deliver the level of service the private sector does in terms of 24-hour access and the ability to do business with the city online, such as getting permits, paying bills and seeing the status of applications.
We are also looking at how we can improve using social media. We are trying to get information to you in every form possible.
I have formed a Mayor’s Community Roundtable and meet regularly with community groups which represent the many interests of the community. This includes sports, culture and the many social services provided by community groups. We are also trying to connect these groups so we all know what others are doing.
In my inauguration speech I quoted an old African proverb, “If you want to go fast – go alone; if you want to go far – go together”. We have to continue to work at being connected in order to go far.