Sit in any social circle where government decisions are kicked around, be it the coffee shop, bar, or the dining room table, and you are sure to hear the phrase, “Why don’t they just…?” or “I don’t understand why they don’t just…” The speaker then completes the sentence with a perfect solution to whatever current hot issue is under discussion.
I hear it in my home, especially when the in-laws visit. I heard it when I worked for a church. And now that I work at City Hall, I hear it even more. One thing that has become apparent to me is that the person making the comment usually believes they know the whole story. Their solution, based on their knowledge of the situation, seems straightforward and obvious. Their statement, when taken literally, is correct: they actually do not understand why certain decisions are made. There might be a very good reason—a reason they haven’t thought of because it’s not something they deal with every day. In some cases, the person doesn’t necessarily want to be better informed—they only want to express their opinion.
Expressing your opinion is great, and we’re fortunate to live in a country where we are free and encouraged to do so. Voicing uninformed opinions, however, can make you look … well, uninformed. Getting all the facts may or may not alter your view. But doing all you can to obtain information before expressing—or even forming—an opinion will make you appear wise, gain you respect, and raise your credibility level.
When our local paper reported that Council was reviewing Portage la Prairie’s by-law regarding school speed zones, a Facebook friend of mine posted a link to the media report and expressed his opinion. I rarely jump in on anything political, but because I had seen the actual report and because I knew it was available to the public, I commented on my friend’s post with a link to the Report to Council on the City’s website. It included a lot more detail than the media could cover, and made it easier to see why the RCMP and School Board favored maintaining the by-law as-is, based on results in other cities. My friend read it, posted it for everyone, and agreed he needs to take advantage of these public records more often. I don’t think his view changed, but he was more informed and better able to back his opinion either way.
So today I want to remind you that all reports going to our City Council for review or resolution are matters of public record. You can view them by noon on the day of a Council meeting by going to www.city-plap.com and clicking on Government, then Council, then the link to the meeting agenda. You’ll see exactly what Council sees, in most cases two weeks before a decision is made. Items on the Committee Agenda are up for discussion and will appear on the Council Agenda in two weeks’ time. Items on the Council Agenda will be resolved that evening. And directly below those links, are links by which you can email any member of Council to share your view. Following Council meetings, the minutes are posted by the end of the week and remain available to the public for years.
Take advantage of this information, and next time you hear someone say, “Why don’t they just…?”, you might surprise them with the answer to their question!