COLUMN: A refreshing change of city hall attitude

I’ve been pleasantly surprised over the past few weeks in interactions with staff at city hall.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised over the past few weeks in interactions with staff at city hall.

The attitude within the civic bureaucracy seems to have changed from an often negative perspective to one that, in at least some departments, is refreshingly positive.

While I have no real basis for the assumption, it seems that over the past three years the city has become more cooperative, and when a citizen raises an issue, it is dealt with in both a timely and helpful manner.

Whether to credit the mayor, or the new administration – which in a way must be a credit to the mayor since only one councillor is new – approaches to situation resolution are definitely different.

For example, I recently had an issue in my neighbourhood. Not only did the mayor respond, he passed the issue on to the city administrator who had senior staff contact me. Within a short period of time, action was begun.

As it turned out the entire issue was not, at least in my opinion, entirely resolved. I texted the senior staff member who replied immediately despite being on vacation.

Then this past long weekend, I again texted him, not expecting a reply until he returned to the office on Tuesday. Instead he got back to me immediately, asked for a more descriptive email to which he again replied, and yesterday morning at 9 a.m. both he and a staffer were on site to review the issue.

This dedication to the job, and the common-sense effort to resolve my concerns, is quite remarkable in comparison to a few years ago when the prevailing attitude seemed to be more no than yes.

I have been dealing with the parks department, not staffers who work on the development side of the city.

Perhaps there things have changed too, although business development and the job creation that comes with it still appears stagnant in comparison to what is occurring in communities to the east and west.

Development and investment in Langley, for example, is as remarkable in its growth as is the lack of it in Abbotsford.

Perhaps it’s the economy, or our location at the “fringe” (though development in Chilliwack seems to have leapfrogged us) that investors overlook our community.

Or it could be that bureaucratic delays and restrictive bylaws are turning people away.

My guess is that in other rapidly expanding communities, when an investor proposes a project, the response from their city halls is “how quickly can you open” rather than be handed a lengthy, time-consuming list of commitments and costs than must be met before any construction approvals are granted.

However, from what I have recently experienced, there is a sea-change of attitude in some departments at city hall. It would be comforting to know that similar positive activity is occurring throughout the bureaucratic hierarchy, soon supported by a surge in business investment and job creation.

Granted, no one can force investment here, but someone can make the road to long-term economic prosperity infinitely more smooth and responsive.

In the meantime, I must give credit where it is due. The parks and rec department has gone from a “no, you can’t do it” attitude of environmentalist control to, at the very least, a belief that they not only want to, but must work cooperatively with the community.

markrushton@abbynews.com

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