Manager of Corporate Services with the Town of Golden, Jon Wilsgard, is hoping people in Golden will come and find out how local government works moving forward in 2013.
He said that communication is an issue for all levels of government, but especially those at a municipal level, and Golden is no different than most other communities.
“We do not have the ability, because we do not have the staff and expertise, to manage communications professionally. Being able to communicate with the public is a balancing act between what we are required to do by law, and the effort and necessity of communicating with the public about the vast array of things we do on their behalf,” he said.
Wilsgard explained that staff from the town use many different ways to try and get the word out to those people in the community about what they need to know, but it is a challenge.
“Communication is a two-way street. I mean, you can only bang your head against the wall and try as much as you can to let people know what you are doing, but you have to have an electorate that is inquisitive, curious, concerned and even enthusiastic about understanding how government works,” he said. “If you don’t have that and communication is both ways then you get problems.”
Wilsgard said this is the area where rumours can take over, and this only causes confusion based on not enough data.
He added that finding people who take the time and effort to come and learn about all of the aspects and points that go into making a decision, do not seem to be in the majority, but it is the job of the staff and council to continue to try and engage the people of the community.
“We are constantly struggling with how we can engage more people on a cost and time effective basis. To get our collective communities to really appreciate what we do for them,” he said. “I think there is an agreement amongst most of societies’ members on what they define as essential services. As soon as you break away from that hold, then what people feel their local covenant should be doing for them begins to grey.”
Wilsgard said this balance is one of the most difficult things for local governments to handle.
“There is a breaking point on how much money you can collect to provide those services. Within that scope of services there are cut offs, and some people would say we have gone too far, while others would say we have not gone far enough,” he said.
He said the issues that are out there in Golden are no different, in many cases, than issues that face all levels of government.
Wilsgard did share some important points, from his point of view, about how tax money is used.
“The first thing is that local governments do tax the local populous in order to provide benefits to our local society. But what we collect isn’t everything that we spend. We are a tax collectors for other agencies out there. Roughly half the taxes we collect comes back to Golden while other agencies get the other half,” he said.
Wilsgard also looked at how taxation and utilities are very different.
“The other is the separation between taxation and utilities. They are separate because utilities operate, in theory, on a self supporting basis. What you pay in is what it costs to run them,” he said.
He added that he is very happy to help anyone who has questions to understand the full picture of what decisions are being made, and why these choices are happening.
“It is very important for people to come to us…Having discussions in social media about the government and its services is not productive. We would love to have people call us and make an appointment to talk to us about what we do,” he said. “Tell us how we are doing, but before doing that, come in and understand what it is we do first.”