Lake Cowichan town councillor Bob Day.

Low turnout for public hearing highlights lack of engagement

Social media: Councillor uncertain how effective online presence would prove to be.

Last Tuesday (June 23), town council hosted a public hearing regarding a zoning change request to a business in downtown Lake Cowichan. Though council designated a part of the process to public input, the floor was quiet, as only one member of the public was present at the hearing.

“I have certainly no objection to the [proposed] change, but I do question the process,” resident David Ridley said at the public hearing. “There’s nothing in writing saying who this applies to or what the process is. From the point of view of the public, something on what is proposed would be helpful… It’s not really open to public debate if the public isn’t aware of what it is.”

Though town council’s weekly meetings are open to the public, residents seem to take little interest in what transpires. Even meetings formatted for public participation, such as the recent release of the Town of Lake Cowichan’s year-end report – which contains information ranging from the town’s budget to projects initiated and completed in 2014 – see a very small turnout.

“People complain all the time, but they don’t know the facts,” councillor Bob Day said. “That book has all the facts… People complain about council not being transparent – there’s the booklet, it’s all laid out there.”

The town makes their meeting schedule, as well as the agenda for each meeting, freely available through their website (www.town.lakecowichan.bc.ca). But is that enough to engage residents? Day feels that the problem may be with the meetings themselves.

“I think the process intimidates people,” Day said.  “We get a bigger turnout at our bi-annual meetings at Centennial Hall, people feel less intimidated at that venue.”

Day added that the new town hall planned for Lake Cowichan could help alleviate the intimidation factor he feels is holding town officials and residents apart.

While many municipalities have taken to social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and Reddit, to bridge the gap between government and residents, Day said that the online avenue is simply too large of a job for the town to handle on its own.

The Cowichan Valley Regional District recently discussed the possibility of hiring a social media officer to manage these duties for Lake Cowichan and the rest of the Valley. However, the expected $110,000 salary would only pay off if enough residents were present on social media websites.

“There’s only so many people on Facebook,” Day said. “The boil water advisory is a good example of that — how do you get the word out? I’ve racked my brain, I’ve spent over 100 hours in my head thinking of how to get people engaged — through email? By knocking on doors? Through the newspaper?”

The next regular council meeting is planned for July 28 at town hall at 6 p.m.

How can the town better engage residents? Email editor@lakecowichangazette.com and share your thoughts.

Just Posted

Duncan Minds in Motion program has space available

Minds in Motion runs on five Monday afternoons beginning on May 27

Anticipation building for trip to D-Day anniversary for Chemainus students

Experience of being there promises to be a memorable one

Retired teacher’s generosity provides huge opportunity for two Chemainus Secondary students

Blitterswyk and Brown looking forward to being at Juno Beach for 75th anniversary of D-Day

Breakers battle into girls soccer provincials

Kelsey takes aim at top-eight finish

Killer of Calgary mother, daughter gets no parole for 50 years

A jury found Edward Downey guilty last year in the deaths of Sara Baillie, 34, and five-year-old Taliyah Marsman

Body of missing snowmobiler recovered from Great Slave Lake

Police confirm the body is that of one of three missing snowmobilers

Christmas morning burglar sentenced on Vancouver Island

Justin Redmond Feusse, 20, sentenced to 240 days in jail for Dec. 25 break-and-enter

So, do you know ‘Dave from Vancouver Island’?

Ontario man searching for fellow he travelled with in Europe 50 years ago

Toddler seriously injured after falling from Okanagan balcony

RCMP are investigating after a two-year-old boy fell from the balcony of an apartment in Kelowna

Cost jumps 35% for Trans-Canada Highway widening in B.C.

Revelstoke-area stretch first awarded under new union deal

Is vegan food a human right? Ontario firefighter battling B.C. blaze argues it is

Adam Knauff says he had to go hungry some days because there was no vegan food

Winds helping in battle against fire threatening northern Alberta town

Nearly 5,000 people have cleared out of High Level and nearby First Nation

Most Read