Saturday, January 9, 2016

Can We just Talk?



There's a lot of talk these days about "engagement" in Nova Scotia.  I think it's on Lunenburg's To do List.  -Start engagement sessions.
At least I read something about that in the paper.  A couple of months ago.  For all I know there could be a staff report sitting on a desk somewhere in Town Hall just waiting to come before some committee that will then present it to council and then we'll be rarin' to go.

Engagement has been on my mind quite a bit as well.  It's a result of all this Home Based Business drama.  You see, in every story that I wrote about there was a common thread.  Businesses were suffering and nobody was listening.  Businesses are people, so let me rephrase that-  People were suffering and nobody was listening.  I continue to watch this happen in Nova Scotia and I still see that no one at the municipal level is reaching out to help. The province seems to be listening, but I think it's municipalities that can affect the most change.

So, how do we make this Engagement thing happen?  I can only approach this question as I have approached every step in my life. It was the basis for my very elaborate Hat Junkie business plan......  Just do it.     That might sound simplistic, but I have found that this strategy works.  It might not work for everything or everyone, but I think for engagement it's the only strategy you need. If you are a councilor or a mayor just go out into the community and talk to people.  Listen to the people.  We even have something called the internet that has made engagement easier than ever.  But here's the thing, government has to be willing to listen to the people that don't agree with them and government has to talk about the real issues. And.....Government has to actually want to engage.  I'm really not convinced of that one yet.

In my last post I tried to get people to see why I felt so strongly that we should go to council meetings.  There were six of us there.  A bit lonely, but I can understand.  Nobody really missed anything.  The meeting began with a letter of request to declare September, Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.  This was tricky because this council meeting was in October.  Seems the e-mail that came in July was lost in the shuffle.  Next item....15 minutes spent on discussing the terms of reference for the Live/Work Task Force.  The thing is, the terms of reference were already set and written clearly, so it was discussion after the fact.

 There was some really good stuff in the attached documents to the Agenda package.  Reports on the state of fire protection in Nova Scotia.  Did you know that Nova Scotia is the only province that does not have a set standard for fire safety?  Should we share services with other municipalities?  Can we bulk buy fire equipment with other municipalities.  All this was in the reports, but it didn't come up for discussion.  There was a report about the progress of the Lunenburg Academy.  Questions about five bathrooms being needed on the top floor.  Questions about how to make the Academy not be a financial drain on the town.   That didn't come up for discussion either.   This is the good stuff.  This is the stuff that keeps people engaged. Not the little, bitty, tedious, mind numbing topics, but the real topics about the future of Lunenburg.  How do we use empty buildings?  What do we want the Lunenburg of the future to look like.

Now to be fair, it is possible that the good stuff was discussed in a different committee meeting and I realize we also have to get through the mind numbing agenda items but we don't need to discuss these items as though they were the future of Nova Scotia.    Is it too much to ask that big topics like fire safety, how to use empty buidlings, attracting businesses and residents, The Lunenburg Academy be discussed openly?  Shouldn't the people of Lunenburg be given a venue where their voices can be heard?

It has taken me six paragraphs to get to the funny looking guy in the photo.  Some of you probably already know who he is, but I confess, I had no idea until very recently.  His name is Naheed Nenshii and he is the Mayor of Calgary.  I am smitten.  He is simply the best.  I came across a video of him speaking to a group of twenty something year olds in Halifax when I googled the words 'Engage Nova Scotia.'  One video led to another video and before I knew it I was binge watching Naheed Nenshi talks.  I am not sure what this says about me.  He talks about how he tried to get people to come to him with their concerns, but when he could not he figured out how to go to them.  This is a mayor that truly reaches out into his community and inspires everyone to work for a better future.    He is the gold standard of Municipal leadership.  He is a champion of the people.    This is the first of 14 short videos of his talk in Halifax.   Click here

 And then if you also fall madly in love with this guy then take an hour to watch this.  click here.  Just about the most beautiful words I ever heard, you will hear them over and over again, his mantra.  .."Because it's the right thing to do."

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