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A recommended motion to establish a Policy on how the public should be engaged in Town Policies was submitted to the Committee of the Whole on Monday but was deferred until the Public could comment. Three documents are involved: Guidelines, Policy and an Appendix with details.  More below.  The Guidelines can be considered a procedure manual for Town staff, the Policy is the official, legal bylaw mandating its use and the Appendix is a Toolkit with details on what to do.  Closing date for comments is November 25th

The premise is that the Town wants to follow their strategic plan that includes the objective:

1.2 Develop and implement a policy and process for public meetings that encourages citizen engagement including education and information sharing.

The proposed Policy basically says:  get the public involved and you’ll get better policies plus citizens will be more willing to buy into the final decision.  It covers a lot more than just public meetings.

A Guideline document has also been produced which spells out how staff should go about deciding the degree of engagement and what exactly they should do.  Included is an Appendix to the Guidelines that gives even more detail.  Amongst other things, the Appendix includes a 6 page matrix listing all the different ways to engage:

Newspaper Advertisements, Information On Website, Press Releases/Public Notice, Posters, Hand Delivered Letters, Digital Screens *Coming In 2018*, Portable (Road) Signs, Television/Radio, Fact Sheets/Faqs, Email, Telephone Hotlines, Twitter,  Facebook, Open Houses, Town Hall/Public Meetings, Tours & Field Trips, Interviews. Information Kiosks, Surveys Online, Telephone, Mail, In-Person, Hand-Out, Comment Forms/Cards, Focus Groups, Task Force, Charrettes/Work Shop, Citizen Advisory Committees, Participatory Budgeting, Voting.

The Policy is seven pages and too long to include here but it includes:

  • Requirements
  • Council responsibilities
  • Communications Officer Responsibilities
  • Municipal Staff Responsibilities and
  • Citizen/Participant Responsibilities

Download links are below.

I thought some of the Citizen/Participant responsibilities listed show what some Town staff think of these “engagements”.  These clauses are crying out for insertion of sarcastic comments but I’ll leave that to the reader.

Selected “responsibilities” (4 of 13)

  • Recognize the Town must consider the needs of the whole community.
  • Listen to understand the views of others.
  • Work in a transparent, respectful and cooperative manner which may include compromise.
  • If meeting/participant is deemed to be disrespectful, vexatious or counterproductive they may be subject to termination of rights to participate.

But the meat of the Policy is contained in the Guidelines (15 pages) and the Appendix to the Guidelines (16 pages).  Taking the overall view of the three documents, it seems safe to say that they constitute nothing more than some common sense.   I guess that sometimes needs to be spelled out.

Download Links

Public Engagement Policy
Community Engagement Guidelines
Appendix A - Community Engagement Toolkit

Comments are to be submitted to the attention of the Municipal Clerk, Lorraine Brace at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Town of Cobourg
55 King Street West
Cobourg, ON, K9A 2M2

The last day for public input is Friday, November 25, 2016.

 

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