At this week’s meeting, council approved a series of changes to Public Advisory Committees (PACs) that will give the public greater influence on the City’s decision making processes.
“Through the Dialogue Charter, which focused on creating a new relationship between the City and the public, we’ve been reviewing and strengthening our public participation process,” said Elaine Vincent, director of Development Services. “As part of this process, a review of the Public Advisory Committees was undertaken, and several changes were recommended to better engage the public in decision making.”
The review, which included consultation and communication with members of existing PACs, highlighted that there was confusion and lack of clarity in the current PAC structure. Members also expressed a desire for more influence in the decision making process.
“City council is committed to engaging with our public to ensure we are representing our community in a way that is responsive to Red Deerians,” said Mayor Tara Veer. “Council recently adopted a dialogue strategy which expands the scope and modernizes the many ways we consult and seek feedback from our public. This new approach to public advisory committees is grounded in council’s Strategic Direction for the City’s ongoing citizen dialogue and intends to move local government towards a strengthened public participation process.”
As a result of the review, council approved the ending of the Greater Downtown Action Plan Committee (GDAP), Heritage Preservation Committee (HPC), Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC) and Municipal Features Naming Committee (MFNC) as of October 2016.
“We are grateful for our many volunteers and look forward to continuing to work with our public in additional ways as we fulfill our community vision for initiatives such as protecting our environment, building a vibrant downtown, and preserving and celebrating our heritage,” said Veer. “The City of Red Deer continues to look for opportunities to gather input and engage with our community to ensure our citizens are heard and have an influence on decision making.”
Council approved a few actions and changes in relation to some of these concluding committees and their work. In relation to the Heritage Recognition Awards, a report will be brought back to council by Oct. 31st on the future of the awards program. For the development of the Environmental Master Plan in 2017, a public participation plan, including a citizen advisory group, will be developed to create an updated master plan. The advisory group terms of reference will come forward to council for consideration in October. Lastly, due to the limited number of municipal feature naming opportunities, council will take ownership of this decision making process.
In October, the Public Art Jury will become the Public Art Commission to reflect a new level of empowered decision making. The commission’s purpose will be to provide expert and community input on public art; to recommend and advise on public art policies, guidelines, plans and issues; review all acquisitions and donations of public art; and, adjudicate all public art projects and grant applications in accordance with current policies. Council members will not have a seat on this commission.
Both the Community Housing Advisory Board (CHAB) and the Community Safety Committee will continue their work. CHAB’s work will continue until a governance and leadership structure review is complete and recommendations relating to the future of the committee are brought forward, based on the Five Year Plan to End Homelessness and continued discussions with our community partners and the Government of Alberta, for review by council. If no recommendations come forward by the end of 2017, the future of the committee will be revisited. The Community Safety Committee will continue their work until their mandate is fulfilled.
As one tool within the Public Participation Toolbox, citizen advisory groups will be utilized to, generally, serve a collaborative role with administration in the decision making process. “In the future, citizen advisory groups will be developed with a specific purpose, term, and mandate,” said Vincent. “This review was completed to ensure the public can influence decision making in the right ways at the right time. In some cases, this may include a citizen advisory group. In other cases, it may include a charrette, a world café or a multitude of other participation opportunities.”
All bylaw amendments related to the changes in the public advisory committees will be presented to council for review by September. Recruitment for the other committees of council, including Municipal Planning Commission and Mayor’s Recognition Awards, will begin in September 2016.
Meanwhile, council tabled a decision on changes to the playground zone and school zone areas in the City at this week’s meeting. It is proposed the playground zone speed reductions change to 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on all days to reduce confusion. The current speed reduction time in playground zones is 8:30 a.m. to one hour after dusk. Currently school zone speed reductions are in effect from 8-9:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 3-4:30 p.m. It is recommended school zone speed reductions are changed to 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on all school days.
Council will discuss the matter during operating budget deliberations in January as the change comes with a $120,000 price tag for signage changes and for communication campaigns.