Communication strategy needed
There have been a few issues discussed at the council table recently that have left residents feeling blindsided by the municipality, leaving us to believe Clearview council should consider developing a communications strategy.
A clear communication plan can go a long way to helping people understand why decisions are being made and help mitigate hard feelings.
The strategy should consider a number of scenarios and always aim to get the message, no matter how unpopular, to the people most affected because people take upsetting news better when they feel they have received honest information and when they still have time to comment and provide meaningful input.
There have been a number of issues lately that have left people feeling shocked and betrayed by their local government. For example, in the last round of committee restructuring, at least two boards were taken by surprise when it was recommended they be dissolved (not counting the committees that were dissolved in earlier rounds). When council agreed to let ATVs have access to certain township roads six months after they were denied, it was voted down that residents on the new routes be alerted to the change. Now residents are surprised to hear that a medical marijuana facility is adding a massive structure because they never received notification through a planning process.
In all of these cases the municipality may not have been required to inform people about the changes but it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t.
Council could and should develop a communications strategy for how to get information to people, even if it means going above and beyond the prescribed protocol. In the three examples noted, it would have been feasible to communicate directly with volunteers or residents affected by committee restructuring or changing road and land use.
Barbara Harvey makes a good point about communication. She told council Tuesday her neighbours were well informed when she wanted to build a porch at her home near Stayner, yet she was not informed about a 300,000 square foot addition to a nearby business.
The existing process has failed to inform the people most affected by the decision.
Council should consider a communication policy when development exceeds a certain size or when there is a perceived threat to the character of their neighbourhood.
Medical marijuana as agricultural use, with its large scale indoor manufacturing facility, is considered outside the norm to most people in this area and no one is taking issue with the crop, it is the way it’s grown – indoors with no need for sun or soil.
There is no claim here that there is any intentional deception. The fear is that the same blunders are being made time and time again and people are getting angry. Newspapers, websites and social media can support communications planning but getting out ahead of a story and directly informing the people who are so obviously impacted by these decisions should be the first step in good communication.