WHITE ROCK â€” If you organize it, they will come.
That was the situation on March 7 when the first of Coun. Dave Chesneyâ€™s monthly â€œCommunity Conversationsâ€ took place, drawing 55 people.
â€œWe packed the room and it was beyond my wildest expectations,â€ said Chesney. â€œOne of the things that was really pleasing to me was the majority of the people that made up the crowd, I didnâ€™t know personally and they were just ordinary residents that responded in kind. People were just thrilled with the opportunity.â€
The talk was the first in whatâ€™s set to become a series of ongoing monthly community discussions, all set in what Chesney described as a â€œcasual, informal setting.â€
Coun. Helen Fathers also attended the meeting, during which residents outlined waste collection as being one of their biggest concerns.
â€œ(The city) already made the decision to contract out commercial and multi-residential garbage pickup and judging by the feedback, people are very confused about whatâ€™s going on,â€ recalled Chesney.
He said while commercial owners seem to be fine with the privatization of waste collection, condo owners arenâ€™t exactly sure how the change will affect them.
â€œThey are very concerned about what this is going to do, are they going to have to incur these costs â€“ will that be reflected in their taxes?â€ he said, noting residents with single homes are also concerned.
Chesney said he was disappointed that he and Fathers were the only council members present.
â€œI did invite all the council members and reiterated again as we were leading up to it that the meeting was happening and that I hoped they could all attend. They chose not to,â€ he said.
Mayor Wayne Baldwin said he did not feel it was necessary to attend the meeting as council was in the midst of preparing its own community forums.
He likened Chesneyâ€™s meetings as being similar to the Coffee with Catherine meetings that former Mayor Catherine Ferguson used to host.
â€œSo she would go to a local coffee shop and chat with people and I donâ€™t know how effective that was,â€ he said.
â€œBasically, itâ€™s a vehicle to make someone more approachable but itâ€™s also a vehicle to promote yourself and Iâ€™m not interested in promoting any one member of council. Iâ€™m more interested in council as a whole.
â€œIf Iâ€™m going to one Iâ€™m going to one thatâ€™s sanctioned by council and organized by council as opposed to one thatâ€™s organized by another member of council.â€
To that end, Baldwin said a three-member committee of councillors, which includes Chesney and Fathers, is currently working on creating a city-endorsed forum in which members of the public can come out to engage council.
â€œSo it may take the form of a monthly or bi-monthly forum where some or all members of council attend and provide an opportunity for people to talk if they feel like they want to,â€ the mayor explained.
â€œIt will be done in a very non-threatening environment so people wonâ€™t have to get up and speak in front of a whole bunch of people. Weâ€™ll have conversations instead of speeches.â€
Baldwin said the city-endorsed meetings would likely come before council in about a month and start shortly afterwards, pending a favourable vote.
In the meantime, the second Community Conversation is set for April 4.
â€œHopefully this thing will grow very organically, thereâ€™s template for it,â€ Chesney said. â€œI donâ€™t want to refer to it as my community conversations, itâ€™s our community conversations.â€
The next Community Conversation takes place on April 4 at the White Rock Library at 10 a.m.