Public office comes with a responsibility

As The Mayor Sees It with District of Barriere Mayor Bill Humphreys

The minutes of council regular and committee meetings are on the District website. Just be aware that the minutes are a condensed version of what has been said. Also, in most cases they do not record who voted against the motions unless that person asks that their vote be recorded as such.

If you do not have access to a computer District staff will be happy to provide you a copy of the information. To make the best use of your time, and to be fair to staff, it may be an idea to call ahead with your request.

Quite a lot of information is posted on the District website. This has become the primary method of getting information out to the public. The District does not assume that all residents have access to the internet.  To try and get the most coverage possible the District does advertise in the Barriere Star/Journal, and posts notices in various places throughout the community.

Why am I telling you all this? It is election time again and once again some people are saying that the council is hiding things from the public. They claim decisions are being made on issues, and that residents have not been given a chance to have their views known. None of this is true, but it serves the purpose of those that claim to want to make a change in the way things are done.

The truth of the matter is that in most cases when issues are brought to council decisions are indeed made without going back to the public. The reason for this is that the public elects councillors that are supposed to represent them on these issues.

That is how the system is designed to work. However, if a councillor does not properly engage residents throughout their term of office it may happen that the views represented are those of the individual councillor and not necessarily those of the community. Engagement of the public is the key to building trusted relationships with local governments.

Quite often special interest groups can sway decisions of council. If individual councillors are not seeking out public opinions but relying on their own thoughts on a subject, sometimes the public is not properly served.

This happens when popular, but perhaps not feasible or practical projects are brought forward by groups that are passionate around the idea.

Councillors are people, and some people find it hard to simply say the majority of people do not agree, so no, we cannot do that at this time.

The majority of the public are very private people. It is unrealistic for a council to think that residents need to come to council meetings to give their views.

It is rare to have a social environment were each individual feels welcome to say what they think with no fear of backlash, and I would say that public meetings are avoided because of this. This also carries over to writing a letter to council that may expose the author to criticism on the radio or in the paper.

Elected officials should never lose sight of the fact that they were chosen by residents to represent them and to speak for them when they are not present.

Residents should think about the last time they were asked by a member of council what their opinion on an issue is. Individual opinions are important. The sum of those opinions should form the basis for a decision. Unfortunately, in some cases the silent majority are drowned out by those that shout.

Now, before anyone jumps up and down and declares I am describing their actions I would suggest that they take the time to go back and read what I have written again.

If you are in public office, or have been in public office, and you think you may have fallen into the trap of not bothering to check with the people you represent on an ongoing basis, you may not want to own up to that in private let alone to the electors you have been representing.

Happy 40th Anniversary BC Ambulance Service. Thank you all for your dedication to making our communities safe and healthy.