TalkTober – Where City and Citizens Meet
By Mayor Lyn Hall
Over the past three weeks, the City of Prince George hosted five informal conversations in neighbourhoods throughout the City (Blackburn, the Bowl, College Heights, Downtown, and the Hart) at community halls, CNC, and the Wood Innovation & Design Centre. City Council is appreciative of all of the feedback we have received. Among many meaningful things, it gives us first-hand information to work with during budget discussions.
Hundreds of residents (including, in College Heights, a troop of Cub Scouts) came out to chat with members of Council and administration who are the hard working staff who help to maintain our roads, buildings, and other infrastructure, and take calls from residents every week.
So what did we hear from you?
At our first Talktober event in College Heights, parks were a popular topic. Perhaps this is not surprising as residents had their first opportunity to chat about the City’s draft Park Strategy with Laurie Ann Kosec, Robyn McConkey, Larry Ward, Chris Bjorn, and Sean LeBrun who are presenting us with a new vision for parks in Prince George.
College Heights residents were quick to identity the need for a bike, skate, and dog park, possibly at the current site of Malaspina Park, along the lines of Duchess Park, or the new skateboard park at Cpl. Darren Fitzpatrick Bravery Park in the Hart.
In the Hart neighbourhood, residents asked Engineering and Public Works staff including Dave Dyer, Blake McIntosh, and Gina Layte Liston direct questions relating to their concerns about sidewalks, roads, bike lanes, and lighting along Foothills Boulevard.
Citizens also had the opportunity to speak to members of the City’s Planning and Development team such as Ian Wells, Deanna Wasnik, and Mandy Stanker about what the City might have in store for seniors housing in the Hart. Council has made a lot of progress this year with the construction of the brand new RiverBend Seniors Community in the downtown area, but we recognize the need for such cutting edge facilities elsewhere in our city including the Hart area.
In Blackburn, we heard requests for improved pedestrian safety, particularly near Blackburn Elementary School. Residents also wanted a continuation of the City’s snow and ice removal improvements, as well as improvements to Midland Road.
Our downtown Talktober session brought a great mix of people interested in our downtown. Katy Fabris from Planning and Development saw great interest in the increase of development permits downtown and our Economic Development staff, including Christina Doll, Keenan Hopson, Bahar Afshar, and Melissa Barcellos conducted a survey of residents about whether they would choose to live in downtown Prince George. Josephine Macharia was there fielding questions regarding transit in our city. The Prince George Downtown Business Improvement Association (Downtown Prince George), and Community Policing were also valuable additions to Talktober this year.
Many citizens talked with Tiina Schaeffer and Jim Worthington about the Four Seasons Pool. It is one of Prince George’s aging facilities and residents were keenly interested in keeping it downtown.
Our final Talktober event was held on Wednesday at the College of New Caledonia. Despite being the last neighbourhood conversation of the year, we were pleased to see almost 50 residents there to talk about issues relating to the whole of the Bowl area.
Residents wanted to know about the City’s plans for student housing downtown, beautification of civic green spaces, improving park access to the rivers, and snow removal operations on public trails such as the trail along Tyner Boulevard.
Several residents also brought up how much they appreciated the entire Talktober effort and the opportunity to have their voices heard. Residents liked meeting directly with City Council as well as Chris Bone, our Manager of Social Development, and Sarah Brown to discuss their work on an innovative new framework to tackle complex social issues in our community. Hillary Morgan discussed ways of making Prince George more enjoyable for everyone, regardless of age or mobility.
They also met with Cheryl Livingstone-Leman, Marta Gregor, Brad Beckett, and Diane Bilodeau who let residents know about the City’s Community Grants Program. These grants enable residents with a great idea about how to improve our community acquire the essential seed money to turn their dream into reality.
Another fantastic element of this year’s Talktober events was the addition of Mauricio Plata and his team from the Service Centre at City Hall. Mauricio and his colleagues collected dozens of service requests from residents, a few of which, such as the grading of Midland Road, were attended to within days.
All of this was a reaffirmation for staff and Council of why we work hard every day for the residents of Prince George.
I would like to thank City Manager Kathleen Soltis and all the City staff for the hours of work and creativity they have poured into Talktober, and Council for the foresight of making it a strategic priority.
At each event, I tried to name every staff and Council member present to personally thank them and to help citizens get a little bit more familiar with the people who make up their City Council and Administration – and I have tried to do that again here. If I have missed anyone, please know that you too are very much appreciated.
Most of all, I would like to thank all of the residents who came out to Talktober to give us their ideas, learn more about their local government, and meet the people who make it run every day.
-Lyn Hall, Mayor of Prince George