Politically Incorrect: Will council hear you?

”I hear you.” (Art by Jacqueline Palmer)

”I hear you.” (Art by Jacqueline Palmer)

Tim Palmer

Special to the Review

As of Feb. 27, Revelstoke’s mayor and council officially announced they intend to hire a $100,000 communications officer “to support improvements to the city’s communications.”

Here are a few suggestions on civic communications.

I applaud council’s attempt to communicate. However, in my opinion council would better serve the community by hiring a chief listening officer. Or even better yet, they could just listen. Listen to those who voted for them.

Hearing is different from listening, so lets first get our definitions clear. They are important.

Hearing is “the faculty of perceiving sounds.” (Wikipedia)

Listening is “taking notice of and acting on what someone says.” (Wikipedia)

Hearing is authority; listening is empathy. When you listen, you care.

Politicians typically say, “I hear you,” but are they listening?

Taxpayers want their elected officials to listen. We voted because we thought they would listen.

We voted for them because we thought that they would take notice of what was being said and act on it.

Over the next four years, the communications position will have cost the taxpayer’s well over $400,000, moneybetter spent on a safe route for children walking to Arrow Heights Elementary School or finding a long-term solution for sewage treatment so southsider’s can breath on hot summer nights.

If council listened, they might hear that many of us say we don’t want a high-priced talking head.

Here are three alternative suggestions:

Suggestion 1: Include Facebook comments regarding community issues on the regular council agenda.

“What?” the bureaucrats object. “We can’t do that!”

Bureaucracy will say, “There are privacy laws, those comments aren’t representative of the community, it is not politically correct.”

I say, “Yes you can.”

Post just the comments and not the names to conform to privacy legislation. Something is more representative than nothing.

Yes, including social media comments is politically incorrect — for those still living in the 1990s.

Those who post on Facebook are hockey moms, railway workers and business owners. They are real people, with real identities, in our community who want to be listened to.

Facebook is convenient for them. The mayor expressed concern that there are people that aren’t on Facebook, so let those folks know what is going on by publishing the comments in the agenda.

Not everyone, including me, likes Facebook, but it is a reality.

Suggestion 2: Council and city staff, just be authentic. Don’t try and hide stuff from us. Please don’t be condescending.

Please don’t try to spin and control the message. It seems city hall has discovered that their script isn’t being bought by the public.

Is that why the new communications officer? It won’t work. Today there is a new reality, top-down communications will backfire.

Suggestion 3: Start resident and taxpayer satisfaction surveys that are balanced and avoid leading answers.

A communications officer isn’t needed for this annual task. Look to the many communities have been doing this best practice for years.

You, the reader, have listening ideas as well. If you are reading this on-line, share your ideas below.

I suspect most councillors will read them, and maybe even hear you. At least two or three councillors will listen.

If you want council to reverse course on creating a communication officer position or any other budget direction, you need to write a traditional snail mail or email to express your concerns, and they will hear you.

The civic bureaucracy is giving you minimal notice, only nine days, and inconvenient means to be heard. Your last chance to be heard is March 7, 3 p.m., in person at council chambers or in writing by March 12.

Thanks for listening.

Drawing from over 25 years inside the municipal bureaucracy, Tim Palmer, a local government consultant, explores non-traditional methods to helping towns and cities perform better.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Revelstoke Mountain Resort opens for the season tomorrow, Nov. 27, 2020. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
Know before you go: Revelstoke Mountain Resort opens tomorrow

Masks are mandatory, lineup opens at 6:30 a.m.

COVID-19 signage outside the Queen Victoria Hospital in Revelstoke. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
UPDATE: 22 COVID cases in 14 days in Revelstoke

Interior Health is calling the increasing number of cases a community cluster

Revelstoke City Council has appointed a chief election officer, requiring an election within 80 days. (Jocelyn Doll/Revelstoke Review)
City appoints chief election officer, has 80 days to host election

The suggested date to host the byelection is Feb. 13, 2021

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 65 new cases of COVID-19

Province-wide, there are 887 new cases of the virus

Revelstoke City Councillors approved increases to water and sewer fees for 2021. (Review file photo)
City increases sewer and water fees for 2021

Revelstoke City Council approved the increases at their Nov. 24 meeting

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry update the COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 887 new cases

Another 13 deaths, ties the highest three days ago

Arthur Topham has been sentenced to one month of house arrest and three years of probation after breaching the terms of his probation. Topham was convicted of promoting hate against Jewish people in 2015. (Photo submitted)
Quesnel man convicted for anti-Semitic website sentenced to house arrest for probation breach

Arthur Topham was convicted of breaching probation following his 2017 sentence for promoting hatred

Langley School District's board office. (Langley Advance Times files)
‘Sick Out’ aims to pressure B.C. schools over masks, class sizes

Parents from Langley and Surrey are worried about COVID safety in classrooms

The baby boy born to Gillian and Dave McIntosh of Abbotsford was released from hospital on Wednesday (Nov. 25) while Gillian continues to fight for her life after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
B.C. mom with COVID-19 still fighting for life while newborn baby now at home

Son was delivered Nov. 10 while Gillian McIntosh was in an induced coma

The Rutland IGA is located in Willow Park Shopping Centre at 590 BC-33. (Michael Rodriguez - Kelowna Capital News)
Customer asked to mask up, throws hot coffee at Kelowna IGA employee

The woman grabbed cat food on her way out when she refused to wear a mask

City of Armstrong Public Works Yard. (Google Maps)
Armstrong city staffer threatened in snow removal complaint

Community services manager says ‘veiled threat’ is believed to have been flippant, but is being taken seriously

B.C. Premier John Horgan, a Star Trek fan, can’t resist a Vulcan salute as he takes the oath of office for a second term in Victoria, Nov. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
Horgan names 20-member cabinet with same pandemic team

New faces in education, finance, economic recovery

The Okanagan Quality Life Society which usually gives tours of Okanagan Lake to seniors and shut-ins on its boat Heaven Can Wait has created a virtual tour video in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic which shut down the tours in 2020. (Morning Star - file photo)
Okanagan Lake virtual boat tours launched

Okanagan Quality Life Society normally gives tours on Okanagan Lake on its boat Heaven Can Wait

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Most Read