Town Hall Meetings are different things to different people. For instance at the last meeting of Cobourg Council Cllr Bureau thought they would be a wonderful idea, however his fellow Cllr, on the other side of the Chamber – Cllr Barber thought they would be a complete waste of his, and everybody else’s time. The idea of having regular Town Hall Meetings (THM) came about as a result of a large number of delegations to Council and the topics they brought forward were being brought forward for the first time and Cllr Bureau thought he needed to listen more to the Citizenry – hear what’s on their minds. So he decided that perhaps having Town Hall meetings might be an answer to that problem. Cllr Barber says the opposite. “People need an agenda to follow in a THM” I paraphrase. Perhaps he doesn’t like arenas of discussion that he can’t control?
It’s a pity that the Mayor of Cobourg was absent – he’s off trekking in Nepal, obviously taking a break from his heavy schedule! He might have had some insight into the way the public thinks these days. After all as he says, “When my door is open stop by and talk to me” It would be interesting to hear about his three months experience of ‘open doors’. I would suspect he would have had two types of visitors; the sycophants who would boost his ego with glowing compliments and the other people who might really tell him what they are thinking!
The BurdReport thinks that Town Halls are useful and a necessary part of participatory democracy. If they are not well attended than that could be taken as either sign of satisfaction or one of cynicism, “Those guys don’t listen to anybody and then they do want they want.”
The problem with THMs is that usually there is little active listening done by the people who put them on. How many times have we had an opportunity to vent in the open and then find that the opinions expressed have been ignored in the resolutions of Council.
As the pols know good listening is a people skill that they all should have. Unfortunately, as people who appear as delegations know, that is not always the case. How many delegations have had questions asked of them by the audience of Council they were addressing? How many times have delegations seen the fruits of their vocal cords thrown on to the garbage heap of bureaucracy by having their address “received and filed for information purposes”?
We do not say that THMs will solve any of this but having Council receive questions from the audience makes them more responsive, and being politicians not one of them is going to let the others speak, in answer to a question, without they themselves chirping in. However we do say that Cllr Bureau may be on to something and we encourage him, and the others to consider the idea.