A Suggestion for Better Communication

Ron Bolin, Jan. 24, 2011

The following message was sent this morning with a request for response.  I offer it here for NCH Blog readers with a similar request for response.  What do you think about this approach?


Mayor Ruttan, Councillors and CAO Kenning:

A Suggestion for Better Communication:

In the interest of better community relations and communication, I would like to suggest your consideration for the development of a mechanism by which Staff, Council, and ultimately Citizens could be provided with coherent and complete routine information concerning complaints, requests for information and suggestions for improvements from the public.  This could take a form similar to that found in the Finance Department’s Budget Forum which currently addresses budget questions from citizens, and can provide a model for the collection of input from other areas of city operations as well.

The City currently receives complaints, requests for information and suggestions by snail mail, email and telephone.  What is missing, at least as far as the public is concerned, is a means of recording and reporting on these observations or requests which one presumes can be quite repetitive when spread over 86,000 citizens.  The budget forum model permits these obstacles to be overcome relatively easily, with the system fed by internet from citizens or by secretarial entries where the mode of communication is by letter or phone.  All the players in our municipal endeavor could then use the same information in conducting the business of making Nanaimo a better place to live.  The information gathered can be invaluable in identifying problems early as well as identifying those which are of broad public concern.  Suggestions from the public could likewise prove quite valuable.

This mechanism also has the advantage of working through Staff who are responsible for operations and who are therefore best equipped to respond to most of the traffic generated in this manner as they do in the Budget Forum.  It can also take much of the load of handling operations related matters off the shoulders of individual Councillors and would provide all involved with the same information.

I often find myself in a quandary over whether I should contact a Councillor or a Staff member, and if the latter, which one; or whether all inquiries to Staff should go first through the CAO , who I suspect might not wish to directly bear all this traffic, though it might make some sense for his secretary to coordinate the function.

I look forward to your consideration of this suggestion and to hearing your comments about it.

Ron Bolin