The city has initiated a review of the Official Community Plan (OCP), a plan that will guide the development of Chilliwack over the next 10 to 30 years, depending on the rate of population growth.
The first phase (2012) was intended to focus on community engagement and identification of key issues.
Public engagement included two open houses (at UFV and Evergreen Hall) and four community talks (at Ryder Lake, Yarrow, Greendale and Rosedale).
I attended the UFV open house and the Yarrow and Greendale community talks. The UFV open house had a fine display of posters and lots of staff on hand, but relatively few visitors. After two hours there were only a few points on the "general comments" chart, a couple dozen dots on the population map, and very few other responses. Staff did not take notes of discussions held with visitors, nor recorded who they were talking with. So what was learned?
The Yarrow "community talk" was attended by approximately 70 residents. This is the "independent spirit" settlement according to city charts. People sat at tables, were provided with summary information about the area, and had opportunity to brainstorm in small groups guided by consultants from Urban Systems.
Ideas recorded at tables on forms provided were collected. Residents were asked to respond to a set of fairly standard questions (i.e. almost identical to those asked at Ryder Lake) and feedback in chart form provided. Paper copies of the survey were available.
A few days later I attended the Greendale meeting scheduled in the fire hall. All was ready to go with five staff and two consultants. Four people showed up (counting me); only one from Greendale. It was a nice opportunity to ask questions and get answers.
As of this writing, the PlaceSpeak website has registered 43 comments posted in the discussion or notice-board. The City of Chilliwack page on Facebook has 601 "Likes" registered (but these are not specific to the OCP) and a quick scan of the council members' pages found nothing about the OCP. How many completed the survey?
Some 4,600 people participated in the development of the present OCP in 1997-98; to date a few hundred have participated in supposedly identifying the key issues. Will the city forge ahead with making plans for the next 10 to 30 years based on so little input?
If the current approach was not successful will it be blamed on the public's lack of interest in their future?
What is the measure of success in public engagement? Was this public engagement?
Victor Froese Chilliwack
© Copyright 2013