Along with many St. Albert residents, I was saddened to hear that a cow moose had been shot and killed in our city. Many concerned residents spoke out online in public forums, several addressed City Council, and many wrote to the Gazette with their dismay about the handling of the situation, including concerns that public were put at risk.
Our City Manager, Kevin Scoble, addressed the concerns of witnesses to the moose incident by "writing the assistant deputy minister of Alberta Environment and Parks asking that the ministry conduct a review of the incident and share the information with the city.", but as far as I know, this response was not communicated to the public until the city council meeting later that day. The response was appropriate, it addressed the safety and animal welfare concerns of residents, and it respected the jurisdiction of a provincial body. It failed, however, at addressing residents directly.
The city must make effective and timely communication a priority.
And emergency situations are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to weak communications.
In my own experience with non-emergent concerns, it took two winters, several phone calls, and the direct email address for someone at Public Works to have a section of public sidewalk near Ted Hole Park added to the snow removal schedule.
Another year, when the staff at a St. Albert biking summer camp lost my seven-year-old daughter and two other campers, the parents had to initiate communication with administration themselves, we were initially provided incorrect information, and I had to contact the Director of Legislative Services to access information about the event; it was surprising and frustrating how difficult it was to obtain information about my own child's care.
And something as simple as requesting basic repairs at a public facility can be painful; When I asked the city to fix a lock that was being held open by duct tape in a change room at Fountain Park, I received no response - It wasn't until a month later, after I made a casual joke about it to the City Manager that it was repaired.
Residents should not have to contact the city repeatedly to get a straight answer, and staff should act on concerns when it is within their power to respond effectively.
What I expect of Administration in situations that are of concern to residents:
1. Have open communication with other city departments/law enforcement/other agencies affecting happenings in the city.
2. As events are unfolding, communicate to the public how they can assist/stay clear of the situation (which, interestingly, they did with the following week's incident in Woodlands).
3. Empower staff to make decisions about communication when the situation warrants it.
3. Once the situation has ended, communicate this to the public and/or interested parties.
4. If there are questions or concerns brought forward, address them directly.
What I expect from council:
1. Ensure that an expectation is placed on Administration to effectively communicate their response to all matters that affect residents. Expect communication to be timely.
2. Let Admin do their jobs.
3. If Admin is dropping the ball, address it. Respectfully.
We have residents who are engaged and passionate about the city. We have an extremely talented staff of professionals. We have the ressources to empower St. Albert staff to communicate with each other, to provide timely responses, and to be proactive in our communication... but we have room to improve. Let's do it.