Old Law Impacts on Proposed New Law
What if they called an important meeting and nobody came? That could happen today as the provincial Utilities and Review Board (UARB) hosts a very important meeting this afternoon in Upper Nappan.
The UARB called for two public hearings today to consider Cumberland County’s proposal to reduce the number of council seats and add an election for Mayor of Cumberland.
One of the two meetings has already been cancelled because there were no public submissions. This is not a reflection on public disinterest, it is a result of the UARB’s failure to communicate.
A long out-of-date provincial law requires announcement of such public hearings and intentions to be advertised in “newspaper”. Given the closure of many local, community newspapers, such as the Oxford Journal, advertising in the paper no longer reaches the community. In fact, the newspaper industry acknowledges it is in deep decline, some going so far as saying a dying industry.
While the antiquated law insists that newspapers be used, there is no law that says more modern media cannot be used. The failure of the UARB to reach beyond the paper is why tonight’s evening meeting was cancelled. Nobody responded and I submit it is because most interested citizens did not know the meeting was taking place.
As a journalist, a reporter, I was shocked last night at the meeting of Cumberland Council to learn of today’s meeting. Like so many others, I had no idea the UARB would be in town to hear what people had to say about these important changes in municipal government.
There are four radios stations in the county, three of them community based. While I cannot speak for the others, Six Rivers Radio and its sister on-line newspaper, Six Rivers News, had not received any mention of the public hearing.
This is a repeat of the failure to communicate with the public during the county’s round of so-called public hearings on the same issue. The county also fell back on the provincial demand to advertise in the newspaper, although they also used their own website and Facebook. Even that produced very limited results, with a little over 140 people actually taking part in forming a policy that would impact about twenty thousand residents.
I know this will sound like sour grapes or self-serving as the manager of Six Rivers News, but be assured this is not about our little operation, it is about reaching people on important matters. I do not and have never suggested that Six Rivers should be given any special treatment. I continue to suggest that our public officials need to use all vehicles at their disposal to communicate with the people and taxpayers they serve.
Today’s reality shows us that newspapers no longer fill the need. The only newspaper in the county is now distributed in a bag of commercial flyers thrown willy-nilly throughout our neighbourhood. Yes, the older generation still treasures the tactile experience of paper and ink in their hands, but two or three younger generations now seek their news and information needs through a computer they carry in the pocket.
It is high time that our public servants realize the modern reality. If you really want to inform and communicate you have to reach people where they are, not where they used to be. Until then, don’t expect much in the way of feedback on serious public issues. Simply put, you have called a public hearing and most people have no idea that you want their opinions.
The public hearing will be held at the Municipal Council Chamber this afternoon at 1:00 o'clock.
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