Golden Mayor hopes Community Conversations will increase civic participation

The first Community Conversations lunch is coming up and Benty is hoping that the facilitated discussion will be productive.

The first Community Conversations lunch is coming up and Golden Mayor Christina Benty is hoping that the facilitated discussion will be productive for all who attend.

“I’m hoping that it will generate the optimism that you have the power to change things, that you have the power to influence, and that you have the power to be involved,” said Benty.

Locals are invited to bring their own lunch to the Civic Centre at 12:10 p.m. on Oct. 23 for an hour of facilitated discussion with the mayor and council.

A limited supply of lunches will be provided at cost for those who forget to bring their own.

The idea for Community Conversations came about due to Mayor Benty’s disappointment at low voter turnout in the 2012 by-election and the 2011 general election. Turnout for the by-election was just 9.8 per cent, with 30 per cent of registered voters participating in the last general election.

“There’s no reason for [the low voter turnout]. There is absolutely no reason not to respect your opportunity and your right as a citizen to vote,” she said.

Mayor Benty believes that the low voter turnout and a general lack of involvement in community affairs stems from a public perception that the local government is separate and acting separate from the people.

“I think it’s important for people to realize that there is no us and them,” she said, referring to council and the citizens that they represent.

“We are all in this together. The local government is just a piece of the pie. Everyone has a role to play in the community for it to be successful.”

For that reason, the first question that Benty plans to ask is “How do you want to be engaged in community affairs?”

Plans are in place to make Community Conversations a monthly event in town and the second meeting is already scheduled for Nov. 20.

Benty hopes to see a good turnout for the first meeting and said that lunch hour was chosen because of how busy everyone’s schedules can be in the evening.

“I’m hoping that this will engage some members of the public that aren’t paying attention, that aren’t currently involved, and see this as a low commitment way to be involved and to have [intellectual] conversations.”