City advisory groups to have clearer mandate

Red Deer city council members will no longer serve on citizen advisory groups that will be revamped to give the public a better say.

Red Deer city council members will no longer serve on citizen advisory groups that will be revamped to give the public a better say.

The city adopted what it calls a Public Participation Toolbox last January, which gives staff a road map for gathering residents’ feedback depending on the issue.

As part of that work, the city looked at its citizen advisory groups, which include the Greater Downtown Action Plan Steering Committee and Environmental Advisory Committee, as well as five others.

Interviews with past committee members showed some were unhappy with the process. While they expected to be providing long-term direction for the city, committee members found themselves wrestling with much more immediate concerns, said Elaine Vincent, the city’s director of development services.

Some public members felt the need to come to some sort of consensus led to watered-down, status-quo recommendations.

The presence of council members on committees also proved confusing, in some cases, to both councillors and other committee members.

Under recommendations approved unanimously by council on Tuesday citizen advisory groups will have a clearer mandate and term. When an advisory committee should be formed will also be clarified.

Councillors applauded the changes, suggesting citizen volunteers sitting on advisory groups will feel they have a more significant say.

“I think this is a real step forward in valuing the time of our community members,” said Coun. Tanya Handley.

Coun. Frank Wong noted that the number of volunteers putting forward their names for committee positions was dropping, a sign he believes, that community members were discouraged by the current system.

Coun. Lynne Mulder predicted the revamped citizen advisory groups would provide “meaningful consultation and dialogue.”

City staff will come back to council with a report on how to make the changes by the end of March.