Port Moody is establishing a new Citizen Advisory Group with up to 250 members who will meet twice a year in Inlet Centre and
provide input in a number of civic matters. Photograph By Diane Strandberg
The Tri-Cities' smallest city is experimenting with a super-sized committee to get more people involved in city business — and new
technology may help.
Members are being sought for the Citizen Advisory Group (CAG) the city of Port Moody is striking in September that the mayor hopes will
expand civic participation to people not usually involved.
And to get direct feedback from the 250 or so members during the twice-a-year meetings, the city will employ a new audience-response system
that gets participant viewpoints via smartphone.
"It's a way to get feedback in a large committee," said Mayor Mike Clay, who said the city is casting a large net for members — from
young adults to working people and parents — who he said are currently under represented in council committees.
"The more people you have in your tent, the less people are outside," said Clay.
Tuesday, council approved a $1,400 investment for the equipment and a two-year trial. When the system is running, CAG members could use
their smartphones to indicate their choice as issues are being discussed.
"You can shape and mould stuff on the fly," said the mayor, noting people will still be able to speak out via microphones and the new committee
and audience-response system won't replace other forms of public consultation but will enhance what is currently available.
Input could help shape financial plans, recreational priorities, updates to zoning bylaws and new master plans, said Clay, who said he
has seen the technology used at Union of BC Municipalities conventions to get feedback from participants.
While some might be skeptical of the large committee format and council's efforts to get more input — because council, not the committee,
will make final decisions — Clay said council was hoping to at least broaden the scope of decision-making now that technology is
available to make it easier.
Indeed, the rise of public comment via social media has shown that people do have an interest in how their city is run even if they don't
always have a way to shape policy.
"There's a different mentality in the world today," he said.
By keeping meetings to just two a year, the city hopes that time-strapped citizens may be willing to sign on for the maximum five years.
According to a report, the audience-response system would engage CAG members though interaction, confirm their understanding of issues
presented and collect audience input with the option of segmenting responses by groups.
"If people want a voice or even if they want to be critics, when they want to be critical, they will at least know what we're doing," said