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City Holler

Trish Kelly explores the issues and challenges that face our growing city.

Become more engaged with the city in the New Year

Resolve to become more engaged in your city in 2017 -- in a political sense, and in other ways too, writes Trish Kelly.

Looking for a New Year's resolution? How about becoming more engaged in civic affairs, writes Trish Kelly.

Jennifer Gauthier/Metro

Looking for a New Year's resolution? How about becoming more engaged in civic affairs, writes Trish Kelly.

Many of us are itching for 2016 to be over. Not only did 2016 take David Bowie, Leonard Cohen and Prince, it also took our hope that Justin Trudeau would walk his election talk on pipelines and our relationship with First Nations. Also, Trump waltzing the U.S. to the verge of fascism was a downer.

Many of us can’t wait for 2017, but how many of us are really thinking about how to make next year more than another stinker of dead heroes and dysfunctional democracy?

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I think the pathway out of the funk is to resolve to become more engaged in your city. I mean that in the political sense, and in other ways too.

Let’s start with the political. Municipal government is a very human scale of government; the people you elect live where they rule. It’s vastly more intimate than voting for your federal MP, who basically moves to Ottawa to do the job you elected them to do. Local government officials bump into the people who voted for or against them when they’re at the corner store, or their kid’s soccer game.

Why not make 2017 the year you make it to a city council meeting to see what local governance looks like? You literally just google your city name and the words “city council meetings” to find the agenda on line for upcoming meetings. I’m not promising what you see will necessarily tickle you with democratic pride. What you see might make you mad. You might think you could do better. In municipal government, you can tell those who rule to their faces.

In Vancouver, key decisions will be made about the False Creek Flats, the viaduct removal, and responding to the fentanyl crisis. You can sign up to speak at a council meeting and you get five minutes to say your peace.

In Surrey, 2017 begins the process of rewriting the city’s parks, recreation and culture strategy. Maybe you have a dog, or you play sports, or think diversity is important. Tell them what you want to see.  In Surrey, you can even apply to give a presentation about an issue to city council, and you get ten minutes to make your case.

If I’m talking a bit over your head, and direct political involvement seems too big a step, resolve to get civically engaged by volunteering. Promise to not live in a bubble. Get to know people in your neighbourhood who aren’t exactly like you. Visit govolunteer.ca and find something that sounds at least half fun, and is somehow a social stretch for you.

Let’s do what we can to make 2017 a better year, starting with our own backyards, and ourselves.

Trish Kelly hopes to see you around the city in 2017. Follow her on Twitter @trishkellyc.

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