New public input strategy starts

The days of City of Red Deer open houses may be numbered.

The days of City of Red Deer open houses may be numbered.

Dubbed Amplify Red Deer, the city launched a new public engagement strategy to improve its interactions with residents at a press conference at the Collicutt Centre on Wednesday.

Coun. Tara Veer, acting as deputy mayor, said the world has changed with technology and social media and residents weren’t necessarily engaging in traditional means used by the city, such as open houses.

Veer said what they have seen in some of the more controversial issues over the past year or so has been citizens engaging after the issue has transpired.

“Our goal is to get it right the first time,” said Veer.

“So the hope is if we can engage with citizens on the front end that hopefully in our decision-making we will recognize our community values and opinions on the front end and do things right the first time on the front end.”

Julia Harvie-Shemko, director of communications and strategic planning, said they realize they don’t always reach everybody through their open houses, advertising and other efforts.

Harvie-Shemko said the decisions made by council directly impact the lives of residents.

She said they want to hear from the public at the right time, when they can make the right impact on projects so it does not cost more time or money.

Making the processes better and easier for residents to get involved is a major goal.

Harvie-Shemko said they do not want to be stuck in the “open house” rut where the processes are the same, but there will likely be some open houses.

“We want you to get loud, Red Deer,” said Harvie-Shemko. “We want you to turn up the volume on public engagement.”

The project has been in the works for several years. It stems from the dialogue charter, one of the six themes in the city’s 2012-2014 strategic plan. The dialogue charter has a $116,690 budget over three years to improve public engagement and interaction with the city.

Throughout June, there will be focus groups, social media discussions and polling and small group discussions. The city is also encouraging residents to pick up a workbook for small group discussions available at City Hall or by downloading online at www.reddeer.ca/amplify. This portion of the project will end in June.

Findings from Amplify Red Deer will be summarized in a Report to the Community and presented to Red Deer city council for consideration by early 2014.

crhyno@bprda.wpengine.com

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