Participatory government is the way forward

In all my years of public service, I have often thought that there must be a better, more open and inclusive way

Steve Christie

In all my years of public service, I have often thought that there must be a better, more open and inclusive way to govern, so that our residents are not just customers of the City of Lacombe, but active participants in the democratic process, who are involved as our partners in municipal decision making and problem solving.

I am pleased to say that I, along with the other members of council, have affirmed our commitment to an open, transparent and more citizen-centred approach by including, for the first time ever, public participation in the annual budgetary process.

Council initiated the ‘Citizen Submission’ program in order to engage with the public to solicit their comments and suggestions around citizen priorities for 2015. We introduced this new component to the budget process in May 2014. Residents were asked to share their ideas with council before Sept. 1st.

Written submissions were accepted from the public over the past few months regarding their project ideas.

I am pleased to report that we received 16 submissions, containing 28 ideas, for council’s evaluation.

On behalf of council, I thank the citizens who took the time to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, to submit what they thought the City should include in the upcoming budget.

We received some very good ideas, including some that we have already planned for as part of our long-term capital projects.

After conducting a careful review of the citizen submissions, council has requested that City administration provide costing for seven approved ideas. I will briefly mention the shortlisted ideas below.

Citizen project ideas include a walk-through entrance to Heritage Park, an observation deck/wharf/boardwalk/canoe launch at the northeast corner of Cranna Lake near the parking lot, a park setting with benches, trees and flowers, a waterslide at the Kinsmen Aquatic Centre, sidewalks and a stop sign along Fairway Drive, crosswalk lights at the 54th Ave. and 58th St. intersection and employing youth for walking trail maintenance.

Once project costing is available, council will continue to evaluate and prioritize the seven submissions for further consideration and possible inclusion into next year’s budget. Please keep in mind that due to financial and other constraints, not all projects will make it into the final budget.

The 2015 budget timeline, inclusive of the Citizen Submission program as follows – in June, the advertising campaign for citizen submissions will begin with submissions being accepted from July to August.

Citizens will then be advised of the submissions received through a media release in September. Also in September, council will evaluate and prioritize these submissions and provide administration with directions for costing of submissions.

In October, council will review costs of the priority public submissions which will be included in the draft budget presented to council. Then in December, the approved budget will be presented to the public through various media sources and the status of each submission will be highlighted in the final budget report.

It is heartening to see the number of thoughtful, community enhancing ideas submitted by our residents, even though this is the first year for initiative and I fully expect council to receive even more submissions for the following year.

As mayor, I will continue to encourage an open, ongoing dialogue with residents pertaining to any and all issues facing our City. I will also push for the inclusion of more participatory mechanisms so that we can get increased public participation in local government decision making, so that it really is government for the people, by the people.

Steve Christie is the mayor of the City of Lacombe.