When it comes to setting examples for engaging the community, Penticton is not the first place that is going to be chosen.
But will hiring a new engagement co-ordinator do anything to help improve communications between city hall and the people of Penticton?
Unless there is a bedrock shift in the way city council and staff operate, we don’t think this $70,000 per year spend — plus $15,000 for software — is going to help.
That’s because engagement is more than just numbers like 15 pro and 10 against, and city council especially doesn’t seem to understand that.
Since last May, when the deal to lease a part of Skaha Park to Trio Marine Group was made public, council and especially its spokesman, Mayor Andrew Jakubeit, has consistently said there are many supporters of the deal that could see a commercial waterslide introduced.
The fact that the Save Skaha Park Society now has some 4,500 members, more than 10 per cent of Penticton’s population, tends to indicate that opponents likely outnumber supporters, especially since there is no corresponding pro group.
Still, when questioned how much opposition was enough to sway council, especially considering the size of the crowd that rallied in front of city hall last July, Jakubeit commented that it was a mob-like atmosphere that night, and supporters were drowned out and afraid to voice their opinion.
Engagement is about talking to the people, and listening. Council already has a number of channels available to them any time they want to do that, from social media to simply walking down the street or perhaps, sitting down in a park for a while.
Numbers can always be spun to point whichever way you want. And all the numbers and professional communicators in the world aren’t going to do any good unless you actually listen.