This is a frequent complaint about Ottawa's consultation process.
— Chris Begley (@BegleyChris) September 6, 2013
For the engaged civic folks out there (more than you'd think!) who invest time in attending meetings and offering their views, it's frustrating. We are ready to not only opine on each project - but we are ready to come prepared with detailed recommendations and alternatives. But to really be useful and make best use of resident's valueble time we need to see materials in advance. Even 18 hours would help. If nothing else, it would help to NOT HAVE TO GO if you think the city has done a good job.
So I took Chris' question to the coordinator. I'll won't say who because staff can't be faulted 100% for this. Either there is a governance direction to get materials online in advance or their isn't, so my beef is with Council. Is consultation really a priority?
The following is my entire contribution to the "consultation on consultations": When materials are sent to the printing firm, in-house or otherwise, for the poster boards and handouts, send PDFs to the website team too. If you have time to print them in advance they can go online at the same time.
Start there and we'll have progress. I'll take "6 hours" in advance at this point. I've added a public consultation crawler to OttWatch so tweets will go out and give people a heads up. But the data needs to get on the website.
NEW Consultation: Sunnyside Avenue Traffic Calming and Green Street Treatments http://t.co/E25nakwW9Z
— Ottawa Watch (@ottwatch) September 11, 2013
Anyway, here was my question (in this case for the one upcoming 170 Second Avenue parking consultation):
I'm very interested in seeing the designs, etc, prior to attending the actual meeting (re: http://ottawa.ca/en/city-hall/public-consultations/planning-and-infrastructure/open-house-september-19).
Given any posters/boards need to be printed and translated in advance, can you confirm when PDF copies will be online on the public consultation page?
It is very difficult to come prepared with informed questions for staff without having a chance to review the materials in advance.
And the answer:
Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. We have been extremely busy making sure all material that will be on display is accurate and translated for public viewing. That being said, we are not there yet so any distribution of this material will not be available until the Open House on the 19th.
So - is it worth dragging my kid to a meeting on a school night to give staff my thoughts on this project? I can't know unless I go, since I can't review materials over my lunch break that day.
I think Ottawa can do better.