It's busy times for city councillors at City Hall.

4,000 hours of useful reading in Nelson

As a rookie breaking the three month mark, I find myself still immersed in vast quantities of information.

I’ve been struggling to answer an innocuous and friendly greeting: “Hi Paula, How’s council?” The answer would need to be pleasant, but still honest and informative… and 10 seconds long. Perhaps I could sum it up as a weather report: Deluge-of-information with sunny breaks, plenty of wind gusts and possibility of lighting strike. Avoid high places… perhaps like this article.

As a rookie breaking the three month mark, I find myself still immersed in vast quantities of information. Every agenda is packed with more details than I can capture so I try to focus on big pictures and record specific questions to research later. I am still learning and listening, not about to ride off into battle armed only with a toothpick. Besides, I’m pretty impressed with the cross section of staff and council and believe we will work well together. We are diverse, like Nelson, and so have our work cut out for us to provide guidance to this complex little mountain town.

To get functioning as highly as possible, we have been oriented by local staff, inundated by annual reports, updates, budget presentations, meetings, and heaped with an estimated 4,000 hours worth of useful reading. We have updated policies, bylaws, selected individual council portfolios and attended meetings, events, more meetings. Nelson has a plethora of services, programs, groups and passionate individuals who need to link with the city, often through councillors and/or city management (who I suspect have clone assistants because they are everywhere and know everything).

Then there is the email… I could while away 40 hours a week just reading municipal governance newsletters, message forwards and reply-alls or the ubiquitous “FYI” emails (which often require a fair amount of investigation to determine what ‘I’ was intended ‘FY’). Ahh, email. I love you, I hate you. But, I actually enjoy emails titled ‘City of Nelson feedback’ or other messages from the public. In contrast to frequently frothy LTEs, these personally directed correspondences are usually thoughtful and earnest, whether framed as queries or offers of information. This more direct communication sometimes allows me to inform but always enhances my own understanding of another person’s experience.

The value of this type of informed public engagement was underscored during a recent three day “Elected Officials Training Seminar” put on by the LGLA. Though I sadly missed the “Acronyms for Newbies” lecture, I did leave with many gems, two of which I’ll share.

First, local government operates as an equal partnership between three groups: council (for leadership, policy, and direction), staff (for implementation and professional advice), and public (for informed participation). I was fascinated to learn that this partnership can be hampered by misconceptions of what government does based on TV programs (fiction and/or news) from other provinces or the US. Fortunately, the realities of Nelson are easier to grasp because we are small enough to be more connected with local governance and also less likely to draw false parallels with New York.

The other gem was gaining an appreciation for specific traits of highly effective councils. This was accomplished by portraying three types of councils (high functioning, moderate, and dysfunctional) by describing how they would respond in differing situations. Traits of high functioning groups include effective listening, sharing of responsibilities, competency, and consistently respectful behaviour. Conversely, dysfunctional behaviour occurs through loss of decorum, blaming, bullying/intolerance and, worst of all, displaying such behaviour to public. Dysfunctional public behaviour results in the loss of public trust for council as a whole and resulting decrease in effective engagement (see gem #1).

I was told by a long-time Nelson resident that current council appears to be on first rate behaviour while still representing a good cross section of Nelson interests. If we continue to function highly, respecting our differences and sharing responsibility for decision making, we should be able to maintain your trust and participation.

I’m sure you’ll let us know how we’re doing.

 

 

 

Paula Kiss is a city councillor who shares this space with her coleagues around the table

 

Just Posted

Ammonia leak shuts down Nelson Curling Club

It’s not yet clear when the leak was detected

Four points for Fawcett as Leafs win 7th straight

Nelson edged the Fernie Ghostriders 4-3

What’s Up: Things to see and do on Family Day

There’s plenty of fun to be had across the West Kootenay this coming long weekend!

Seven Nelson rec projects granted Columbia Basin Trust funding

Nelson’s baseball and tennis clubs were the big winners

Sanchez leads Leafs to 6th straight win

Nelson held off Spokane 3-2 on Friday

B.C. students win Great Waters Challenge video contest

Video, mural and song about saving the salmon claims the top prize

B.C. athlete takes home gold in freestyle aerials at Canada Games

Brayden Kuroda won the event with a combined score of 121.65.

Cabinet likely to extend deadline to reconsider Trans Mountain pipeline

New round of consultations with Indigenous communities is coming

B.C. government provides $75,000 towards salmon study

Study looks at abundance and health of Pacific salmon in Gulf of Alaska

Murdered and missing honoured at Stolen Sisters Memorial March in B.C.

‘We come together to make change within the systems in our society’

UBC researchers develop inexpensive tool to test drinking water

The tricoder can test for biological contamination in real-time

Disgraced ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner released from prison

He was convicted of having illicit online contact with a 15-year-old North Carolina girl in 2017

B.C. communities push back against climate change damages campaign

Activists copying California case that was tossed out of court

Most Read