I’ve had my nose in Williams Lake affairs one way or another since moving here in 1970. Over the years city councils have had the occasional disconnect with the community at large. This latest one on the branding project is a doozy. As an armchair observer it looks to me like some folks at city hall sincerely believe the only reason citizens are upset about the affair is because they don’t understand.
I hear the protesters saying they understand just fine but they don’t like the process or the product. Council is blaming poor communications but that’s only part of it. Hiring outside consultants always gets up entrepreneurial Cariboo noses, especially when local people could do the job. It didn’t help that the consultants listed millworkers and cowboys as weaknesses, nor when council indicated local citizens, particularly oldies, weren’t important to the process. That was a slap in many faces.
The protestors aren’t CAVE (Citizens Against Virtually Everything). The people speaking out at Wednesday’s meeting are among the many who have made huge contributions to this community as business people, volunteers, politicians, some all three. The clamour on Facebook came from all directions, young and old. Surely it isn’t unreasonable for people who have spent years establishing an image for the city to react when they see their efforts dismissed.
In 2009 council went to the public to get input into Imagine the Future of Williams Lake. The final document was strong on encouraging community and stakeholder collaboration, and getting the “wisdom and expertise of community members.” One speaker suggested a good way for council to communicate with people is to have conversations with them. Place branding apparently is the latest “in thing” for smaller cities. So, is there hard evidence that a change in our image is needed, or is it change because everyone else is doing it?
Diana French is a freelance columnist for the Tribune. She is a former Tribune editor, retired teacher, historian, and book author.