The issue of the return of the GO train encapsulates one of the city’s biggest struggles: how to communicate.
Back in September 2006, The Advance published a story about the federal and provincial governments signing a $27-million deal with Barrie to bring GO train service back to Barrie. Driving the engine was MP Patrick Brown; the city wouldn’t even comment on it and was left out of the story.
The city continued to stand beside the track this week, when word leaked out train service will resume Dec. 17. The info was posted not only on GO Transit’s website, but also on Ward 7 Coun. John Brassard’s blog.
The only place where people weren’t talking openly about the date of the return was City Hall, and even as communications officer Cheri Harris e-mailed council to confirm the date, the media was reading all about the project on the GO site. The story ran on the front page of Wednesday’s newspapers.
Barrie, did you hear that? Do you know which way the train is going? (Both ways, south in the morning and north in the afternoon, four times each way.)
Yes, information is power, but you would think the new council, which will celebrate a year at the helm of the city in two weeks, would understand that, especially since one of council’s strategic priorities is proactive communications with the public.
Well, here’s proactive: Back on one sunny weekend afternoon in January, a security firm swept City Hall for bugs. The place wasn’t miked, but still, information continued to leak out of City Hall.
This fall, the city hired a communications consulting firm to help, because city councillors were feeling the city was suffering because it wasn’t getting its message out, especially as communities in the area discuss growth. The tipping point was a Toronto Star story about growth, in which Barrie appeared as if it were a greedy gobbler of innocent communities.
Innisfil was even more on top of the issue than Barrie. The town had commissioned an Environics study, to ask people about whether they liked urban sprawl and whether they supported keeping Barrie at bay. Like statistics, surveys can tell you what you want to hear – the key is to ask the question in such a way so you can get the answer you want.
Now Innisfil residents are being surveyed again. And it’s not Innisfil that’s asking. Who, we wonder, who?
So we know that city staff have their challenges, and perhaps to stay sane, they need to have a sense of humour.
This was celebrated not only on Halloween, but at the Nov. 5 council meeting.
Everyone saw slides of the fun at City Hall. One of the most action-oriented departments was decorated as a cemetery: bylaw enforcement was decked out as a pet cemetery. Those are the folks that are quick off the mark to issue parking tickets or catch a dog running at large.
Stella the Studfinder was found up in the city’s building services department, which added a bit of humour to the day, and still another department featured Don Cherry commenting on the Leafs, which some might say is more sad than funny.
But perhaps the department with the most wicked sense of humour was that of the Mayor and CAO’s office.
That area was turned into a jail cell – while the OPP continues its investigation into the behaviour of Mayor Dave Aspden and whether he has accepted a bribe or a gift (a criminal offence known as Municipal Corruption).