Kitimat City Council received a review of their communications policy by Tyler Noble at a Special Meeting of Council on Monday, January 26th.
“This process began in 2013, it was actually before I was brought into the organization. Just recognising the need for what can be done differently, what can be done better, what is working well in terms of communications and making it more formal, putting it on to paper, having it written, having some targets, having some specific initiatives outlined, that would ideally, help us do a better job communicating, particularly with the public but also internally,” said Noble.
Councillor Larry Walker suggested to Council that both the public and Council should have better access to communicating with the employees of the District of Kitimat. He stated that the people who work for the District should be able to approach a City Councillor without getting their ‘knuckles wrapped.’
“I want to know what they’re thinking, what they’re doing. They are a part of the family,” said Walker.
CAO Ron Poole explained the communications policy is no different then what is being done now. He forwards the Councillors to the various department heads. He expressed the document is recommending the Councillors start at the top and work their way down to the staff members. He added it does not prevent staff from talking to Council.
Noble added the Department heads are available to the local media for when questions do come up.
Walker clarified that he would like people who work for the District (Such as the ‘guy who drives the grader’) to be able to come to the Councillors when they have a concern or question.
Councillor Mary Murphy expressed that when a Councillor asks a question of staff, the answer to the question is forwarded to the entire Council. She also expressed it makes her nervous when Councillors meet one on one with staff.
Councillor Rob Goffinet told Council he did not feel restricted by this document, although he would like some clarification on what Councillors should do and not do in relation to communication within the District.
Councillor Edwin Empinado explained Council has a role to perform as policy makers and they are not experts. They have to respect the structure of the organization.
“I’m not just interested in the social media, but the livestreaming and the television broadcasting, both video and audio, of our meetings. To me, the biggest concern with so many people who talk to me is, they desperately want to listen in to these meetings, they are interested in what we are talking about and where we go in our discussions,” said Goffinet.
He stated they need to have their meetings and their committee meetings taped and broadcasted out to the public. He pointed out the committee meetings were no different from regular Council Meetings at this time and he believed people were interested in what they were saying.
“People are desperate to watch and listen and then confront us on what we’re saying and why,” said Goffinet.
Feldhoff stated they need to get this resolved. Mayor Phil Germuth stated the IT Worker for the District of Kitimat will be presenting on the live streaming video system, he hoped the Television will be working for this.
Murphy commented there is a motion to host meetings on the District of Kitimat Website. She said they are recording the meetings and suggested the District put the video on their website with a link to it.
“I get calls all the time, the sound is off. They’re watching this and there is no sound. It’s a service that we’re not supplying right now, we should try and get that fixed or contracted out or something like that to get it done,” said Murphy.
Murphy suggested they improve the District of Kitimat’s communication with the public through town hall meetings. She said this was a suggestion from the CAO which was not well received.
Germuth said they should talk about town hall meetings.
Following a question from Councillor Mario Feldhoff, it was explained this report is a starting point, a living document which can change in the future along with circumstances and priorities.
The best time to bring in a policy like this is when we don’t have problems, and to be honest with you, I think the communication is good, from Council with staff between staff and the public and the media,” said Poole. “The reality is, this thing is going to be exercised with as much flexibility as possible. It’s not to deter anyone, it’s to encourage more input. I think there are some great ideas, we just need to work on them.”If you want to watch archived Kitimat City Council Meetings, earlier this year, we made a decision to dust off our video site. You can watch the Council Meetings from January 12th, 13th, 19th, 20th and the 26th on the Kitimat Daily Videos website by clicking this paragraph. We also post links to the videos on the Kitimat Politics Facebook Group.