Communicating with Residents in a Pandemic
Pivot seems to be the word of the year when speaking about anything pandemic related! I find not being able to attend events, or have in person meetings has dramatically shifted the way residents and I are able to communicate. I guess we can say ‘technology’ has saved the day in many of our communications, but – nothing compares to meeting in person. I have one staff member supporting my communications, and everything else we do in the office. Arian Arianpour started just over a year ago, and is providing outstanding support. Here is a summary of the ‘communication avenues’ I have put in place, and a summary of the office support provided to deliver these communication, and other services to residents:
Waverley West Ward Focus
- Much the same as pre-pandemic, I focus my communications on providing a local perspective on City Hall issues and decisions that impact the Waverley West ward. Local media does an excellent job of covering a city wide perspective, and please know I am always open to discussion any city wide issue.
- I’ve started using videos to relay messages. My one staff and I are no production experts, but through videos, we are trying to deliver a more personal message. This is not an area of expertise for either of us, we are learning, and while we won’t win Academy Awards for our productions, we are doing our best!
Zoom & Other Visual Platforms:
- For those wanting an ‘ eyeball to eyeball’ meeting, I am set up for just about every platform. I can arrange a meeting day / evening / weekend.
- Councillor Chambers and I have set up a ‘ward office’ – at Unit 80 – 2855 Pembina Hwy. (beside Planet Fitness)
- For now, the pandemic is limiting the use of this office to ‘appointment only’ meetings.
- We have great hopes for this office to become a hub of community contact once the pandemic is over.
Social Media Platforms:
- Twitter (@janicelukes) and Facebook (@councillorjanicelukes) are two platforms I use on a regular basis and provide responses through – if I miss responding to a question – please send again!
- I’m not so proficient on Instagram (@CouncillorLukes), but have a presence
Email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Telephone (204-986-6824)
- My office averages 20-30 emails and 5-10 phone calls a day.
- I will be the first to admit – sometimes we may miss an email and the call may take a day or so to return.
- Please be persistent – if you don’t receive a response in a timely manner – email / call again!
- Every 6-8 weeks I email a newsletter highlighting activities of the last two months. You can sign up for my newsletter here.
LEVEL OF OFFICE SUPPORT:
A cross jurisdictional review of other Canadian City Councils was conducted in July of 2020 to determine the level of support provided to Councillors to run their offices and govern the City (i.e.: communicate with residents, research and develop policy, fund office supplies, phones and salary for staffing). See Councillors Office Support Report
- In summary, the funding support for Winnipeg Councillors to run their offices and govern the City is the second lowest of all Canadian cities reviews.
- Members of the Mayor’s Executive Policy Committee, Acting and Deputy Mayor’s and Chair of Governance Committee each receive additional funding support, that is not included in the report analysis.
Each Winnipeg Councillor represents a ward consisting of roughly 47,000 constituents and is provided with an office budget of $83,924.00 (2019 funds). As noted, some Councillors receive additional funding support. The spending of these funds (details) are governed by the Councillors’ Ward Allowance Policy and includes allowance for such categories as:
- Staff salary, including for the employer portion of staff employment insurance and Canada pension plan, as well as the full costs for vacation pay and optional benefits.
- Office equipment (telephones, laptops, photo copying, office supplies, etc.)
- Tickets to community events
- Communication advertising (newsletters, benches, ads in local media, etc.)
The cross jurisdictional review identified the following support provided to a Councillor to communicate with residents, develop policy, research best practices and govern the City:
- City of Ottawa $6.36 / per person
- Toronto $4.87 / per person
- Calgary $3.27 / per person
- Edmonton $2.56 /per person
- Winnipeg $1.79 / per person
- Vancouver $1.39 / per person
And for a point of reference, the report also looked at support provided to Manitoba Members of the Legislative Assembly:
- Provincial MLA’s $6.33 per person
So – in summary, in addition to the regular ongoing work at City Hall, the pandemic has added another layer of demand.
Please know, if there is a delay in a response to a request you have made, it is because I and my one staff are working through the many requests. Please be persistent, it is our full intent to respond to every request.
But, there is an irony to the fact that Winnipeg Councillors have the second lowest office support in all of Canada, and the Winnipeg’s Mayor has the second HIGHEST office support ($1.8 million) in all of Canada, which is almost 50% more than ALL the office budgets combined of the 15 Councillors.