District staff asked to develop communication strategy

The public isn’t hearing the positive things accomplished here, says council, prompting politicians to request staff to develop a communication strategy.

Announcements such as the Mission health care centre project, and Fraser River Heritage Park trails are two examples, said Mayor James Atebe, who delivered a verbal report to council last week.

The trails, he said, were built under budget, and the leftover funds will be used for bike paths.

The community was extensively consulted on these two projects, but it hasn’t been communicated well and a lot of people don’t know about them. A lot of the information on social media networks is misconstrued, he added.

Coun. Paul Horn said a recent attempt by the district to engage the public in talks about the community amenity contributions at an open house attracted enough bodies to fill about 20 per cent of the chairs at the Leisure Centre.

Horn believes most people are trying to understand what’s going on, but don’t have the necessary information, and come out when they are upset.

“We don’t want to provide a spin, but we want to know where people want to get their information and how,” said Horn.

In the absence of information, people can say anything, and it’s usually the first voice out there that sticks, offered Coun. Mike Scudder.

Coun. Jenny Stevens also acknowledged the district has been slow at putting news out on time, and reminded her colleagues it’s up to them to be accessible and be out in the community to hear what’s being said and answer questions.

She was also concerned this move might have a negative effect because it’s an election year.

It’s a strategy to move forward and something council has to address, said Horn.

“The way people communicate has changed.”

Council will discuss the issue in further detail when staff return with a report.