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Public consultation needs follow through

Posted on June 11, 2014 by Taber Times

Town of Taber administration will once again be taking to the streets to ask the public what they want to make the town a better place.

That was the word Taber Recreation Board members received as several recreational, cultural, and sports user groups will be approached as administration looks to draft in-house a recreation master plan to put Taber well into the future for planning citizens’ visions, possibly in the fall.

It comes on the heels of similar consultations administration has done with downtown business, the highway corridor and industrial park interests.

Hopefully, if any recreation input open houses are in the works, they will be better attended than the above mentioned ones, whose attendance was scarce at best for the most part.

But even in small numbers, just one good idea can change Taber for the better forever.

But ideas only stay ideas if there is no follow through.

If administration takes all this feedback from downtown business, the industrial sector and recreation groups and town council simply files it away, acting on none of the suggestions, one has to wonder why the process is being done in the first place.

This is not to say this council will do that, but there is certainly a history of it being done at all levels of government, be it municipal, provincial or federal. Simple lip service that the elected are listening to its constituents.

Of course, there has to be some realism attached when it comes to listening to feedback.

It likely will not take a crystal ball to figure out at least some of the things that will come out of a recreation open house. Baseball groups will want more ball diamonds, soccer groups will want more soccer pitches and hockey groups will clamour for a second arena among various items on a wishlist.

What will be critical for administration is not asking recreation questions — but the right questions. Separating needs from wants and prioritizing Taber tax dollars accordingly. And also putting an emphasis on the recreation groups themselves on what they can do to improve the town.

What actions are they doing not only to improve their numbers in their respective pursuits, but also avenues their organizations can do to promote tourism and commerce in the town.

A recreation group who has had its numbers dwindling for several successive years will likely not have its wishlist fulfilled if they have little to no action plan in the works to right that trend.

It will need to be a team effort of town council, administration and the citizenry as well for any suggestion drawn from these information sessions to become a reality to a better tomorrow for the town.

But it starts at the top in the leadership of town council. If town council ends up not entertaining any of the feedback drawn from these open house consultations to any meaningful degree, the citizenry will start to take the attitude of ‘if town doesn’t care, why should I?’ as volunteerism begins to decay.

And rest assured any suggestion that has or will come out of these consultations will cost money. But simply dismissing an idea because there is a price tag involved is the definition of short-sightedness if a concrete vision/game plan is in place where short-term costs can net long-term prosperity through increased tourism, commerce or industry attracted to the area.

You have to look no further than the upcoming Taber Spray Park, the Taber Pheasant Festival and the M.D. Shooting Range to see what a little bit of drive can accomplish with municipal government helping grease the wheels of innovation.

Forward progress has never been made by a government at any level in paralysis through analysis.

As town council gets to sink its teeth into the feedback from the downtown, industrial and upcoming recreation sessions, hopefully it puts its tax money where its mouth is and have a vision aligned with the citizenry that elected them.

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