Citizens offer opinions at Let’s Talk

Let’s Talk, an annual event started 16 years ago as an opportunity for Red Deerians to have chin-wag with their mayor and council, made its debut on Saturday as a formal means of seeking public opinion.

Let’s Talk, an annual event started 16 years ago as an opportunity for Red Deerians to have chin-wag with their mayor and council, made its debut on Saturday as a formal means of seeking public opinion.

The City of Red Deer has kicked off a process looking at the amenities it offers its citizens by asking them on Saturday about the sorts of improvements and additions they would like to see in the years ahead, said acting communications director Charity Dyke, who is among the staff running point on the project.

Suggestions heard by mid-afternoon included increasing the number of outdoor gyms and adding more children’s playgrounds in residential areas, said Dyke.

Comments from Saturday will be included in a report to council late in May, which will be followed by further consultation during which members of the public will be asked for their input on how various projects should be prioritized.

Staff will then prepare a report which will be given to department heads in fall as they are preparing their 2015 budget, she said.

Also on the agenda at this year’s “Let’s Talk” session, held in the aisles of the Parkland Mall, was further discussion on whether the city should allow backyard hens and what sorts of rules should be created to control them.

Public opinion is still mixed, with many people associating chickens with smell and noise, said consultant Joyce Boon, former permitting and license supervisor for the city. Boon was at the event, conducting a survey concerning how people feel about a backyard hen bylaw. She said she received only two complaints about chickens while she was with the city, of which one involved crowing roosters. A hen bylaw would likely limit the number of hens that would be allowed and exclude roosters entirely, said Boon.

Hen owner Adrienne Tetz, founder of CLUCK Red Deer and city councillor Lynne Mulder credited a lack of adversity and a willingness of hen owners, staff and council to work together in creating a suitable bylaw. That’s in stark contrast to the City of Calgary, which went to battle with hen owners and eventually banned the birds altogether.

A number of people in Red Deer, including Tetz, had kept hens quietly in their backyards for years.

When the issue became public, city council agreed to a pilot project that would test public reaction. Boon said she visited each of the 30 homes that were registered in the program and found very few problems.

Mayor Tara Veer called the 2014 edition of Let’s Talk a great day and a fantastic opportunity to connect with citizens, bringing streams of people together with council and staff to talk about issues and share ideas.

“The day has absolutely gone by so quickly. We’ve had many citizens come and they just have been so fully engaged. Some citizens wanted to just drop by and say thank you for what they think is going well in the community and others dropped by an maybe were more intentional wanting to convey areas of issue or concern for them.”

All city departments along with a number of arms-length boards and societies took part, said Veer.

This was the first time the event has been used as a formal means of gathering information for a project, she said.

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