Saturday’s town hall meeting at Langley Events Centre marked the first time that citizens were able to engage with four levels of government in Langley at the same time, and do so in two vastly different but complementary ways.
Credit for this goes to Township Mayor Jack Froese, who made inter-government dialogue a key part of his campaign platform, and followed up soon after taking office in December. The Township took the initiative to stage this meeting.
It also belongs to MP Mark Warawa, who began holding his own town hall meetings with the assistance of The Times, and expanded them to include other levels of government. It goes to MLA Mary Polak, one of the first provincial politicians to actively make Twitter engagement a part of her routine.
And credit also goes to Langley Board of Education chair Wendy Johnson, who for the first time represented the board at the town hall meetings, and as it turned out, received many of the questions.
The meeting attracted about 150 people, including many senior staff from the Township and several members of both Township council and the board of education.
However, it was opened up to anyone who uses Twitter as well, and many questions were fired at the four politicians via Twitter. This meant that politicians were accountable to and under scrutiny by not only those who were present, but also by those interested enough to follow the meeting on Twitter. Indeed, some people were present at the meeting and also using Twitter as it took place.
This type of two-pronged direct engagement is the wave of the future. While it is sometimes hard for citizens to take a couple of hours out of their busy schedules to attend meetings, it’s easy to keep abreast, using Twitter and still doing the day’s activities. Many took advantage of this opportunity.
Robust participation by citizens, using both methods of communication, shows they do want to be engaged with their elected representatives, and they do want to be heard.
They are very concerned about schools in Willoughby and the lack of co-ordinated action on that front. That message came through loud and clear and now it will be up to the province, the Township and the board to work much harder on this issue.
Many other issues were also brought up, and politicians can’t plead ignorance about any of them now.