It’s hard to believe that we are in the last months of this four-year term, one of the most challenging I can recall. The pandemic was the primary factor and hollowed out the term when it came to public engagement, person-to-person interaction and community events. Council and staff found themselves moving to the online world of Zoom and Microsoft Teams, as we struggled to maintain a regular meeting schedule and connections to each other and the work.
As for any meaningful public engagement, for me, the sense of loss was profound at times. Apart from email and telephone, the cancellation of public attendance at meetings and familiar events and activities, suspended some of my work and key relationships with staff and colleagues, organizations and our community. I often describe it as “suspended animation,” but knowing that core services were still intact and municipal business continued humming along thanks to staff.
The lack of direct public engagement interrupted the regular flow of information on many levels, which left me often feeling less informed on issues that mattered to the public. That strong public engagement leads to better informed knowledge and decision-making at the Council table was underscored time and again during the pandemic. Now, I feel a sense of urgency to complete outstanding projects and address unresolved issues. I know that real work begins to ebb as summer approaches and by late August, the pre-election season begins.
By September, incumbents who are running again are gearing up their campaigns and. understandably, finding their attention diverted to campaign activities and demands. At this point, it’s impossible to predict what campaigning will look like in the fall, given that we know COVID has not disappeared. Campaigning door-to-door may not be a good option and candidates may have to pivot to find new methods of reaching the public with their message. This will be the first election cycle in a post-pandemic world and will undoubtedly pose some new challenges and barriers.