On Monday, councillors Kate MacNaughton and Phil St-Jean held the first of an ongoing series of Town Hall Meetings at the Picton Town Hall.
With about 20 people in attendance, it was a modest start to what both councillors hope will be an ongoing dialogue between them and their respective constituents.
St. Jean explained the reason behind hosting this event, stating he and MacNaughton discussed the concept a few months ago.
“It’s about staying in touch with residents and getting feedback,” St. Jean said.
Councillor St. Jean iterated after he and MacNaughton realized the number of concerns their constituents currently have, both through phone and email inquiries, they decided to create this public forum through which citizens can voice their concerns.
Imbued with all the nostalgia and democracy the name implies, the Town Hall held this past Monday was an informal platform through which residents could voice concerns.
Some of the comments and concerns mentioned included: biking infrastructure, developments, accommodation taxes, the County tree policy, sustainability, property standards, and property taxes.
Yet, as St- Jean noted, he was more surprised at what didn’t arise at the meeting.
Regardless, “You can’t make decisions in a bubble,” said St-Jean.
MacNaughton told the Gazette that she had always planned on having town halls. Both councillors have invited all members of council and Prince Edward County residents to join.
Mayor Steve Ferguson participated in the first of many town halls, being the “first to arrive and last to leave,” according to MacNaughton.
MacNaughton took some time to speak with the Gazette, recalling a conversation she had with her daughter upon becoming councillor, “Everyone in Prince Edward County is my boss, so I’m accountable to them, which means I have to make myself available to them,” said MacNaughton, with a light-hearted chuckle that belied the conviction in her statement.
“I have to be candid and honest and essentially report to them,” she said, “I truly believe this and I think this model of a town hall is the best to get an opportunity to access local representatives.”
As well, there will be upcoming town hall meetings, with the next one in approximately 6 months.
Fittingly, the meetings will be held at the Picton Town Hall on Ross Street.
Having been saved from private ownership, for now, the building would seem to be the perfect setting for residents to voice their concerns and speak freely, regardless of their perspectives.
“Regardless of the fact that we have different interests, we’re still thinking about a lot of the same issues from our varying perspectives,” MacNaughton notes, adding that, “The same is true for the councillors themselves.”
“Most of what came up were things we had both separately spent considerable time thinking about,” she added.
The town halls will serve as a hearth for the community where all manner of people can come together after a long day to share their opinions, expertise, and concerns.
“You get all of the different experiences in a room,” MacNaughton noted. “We had a public health nurse. We heard from Steve Ferguson about what he’s been hearing from developers on housing problems. We had a tree expert too- we were all able to better inform each other.”
“Municipal politics is often where a spark begins,” MacNaughton mused. As such, the town halls may serve as an important avenue through which constituents can affect change, be it large or small.
As individuals chosen to represent their constituents, both St. Jean and MacNaughton must be held accountable for decisions made on the behalf of many.