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Community gathers for Cranbrook Conversation

About 65 people gathered at the Heritage Inn in Cranbrook on Thursday, March 13 to talk about the issues facing Cranbrook ahead of this year's municipal election.

The lively crowd was at a free workshop called Cranbrook Community Conversation, a joint initiative of the City of Cranbrook and the Association of Kootenay and Boundary Local Governments, with funding support from Columbia Basin Trust.

While around 100 people RSVP'ed for the event, reaching the maximum for the workshop facilitation, actual numbers were around 65 on the evening.

Mayor Wayne Stetski introduced the event, reminding participants that the purpose of the evening was brainstorming what would make more people vote in the November 15 municipal election. The last election in 2011 had a 32 per cent voter turnout.

"How do we get people excited about the municipality, enough to get them out to vote?" Stetski asked.

The group was split into tables of about seven people each. Facilitator Leslie Taylor, the former mayor of Banff, led the group through a series of exercises designed to spark discussion about civil issues and local engagement.

First, each table was given a list of government services and asked to separate them by which level of government provides the service: federal, provincial or municipal. Each group then stuck the services to a wall display for each level of government. It was visibly clear that most of the services fell under local government.

Next, the groups were given a paper printout of a loonie divided into 10 "pieces of pie" and asked to guess how much of each tax dollar goes to each level of government. After the exercise, Taylor told the group that about 50 cents of every tax dollar goes to the federal government, 42 cents to the province and 8 cents to the municipality.

In the third, most complex exercise, after tables were shuffled around, each group was presented with a grid of 20 squares and asked to discuss and name 20 issues facing Cranbrook.

Then each person was given five red dot stickers and personally asked to place those dots on issues they felt were most important. Following that, each group was given five larger blue dots, and asked to decide as a group which issues were the most important for the city.

At this reporter's table, the issues included hot topics such as replacing aging infrastructure (such as roads), enhancing a park and walking friendly community, and youth engagement. Interestingly, while urban deer management did make the list, it was one of few tables that considered it an important issue, and it received only one red dot and no blue dot.

Then each table was asked to think of a fact-based question related to each of the five important issues that would help the group have a more informed opinion. An important issue one table identified was the family physician shortage, and the question posed was, 'How many more family physicians would be needed so that every person in Cranbrook has a family doctor?'

After another table shuffle, the groups were asked to brainstorm on three questions: how can we encourage people to offer themselves as candidates in the municipal election?; how can we encourage people to get informed about municipal issues and candidates?; and how can we encourage people to get out and vote?

A report will be prepared from the evening's ideas and presented to the AKBLG spring meeting of elected officials, and to Cranbrook city council.

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