When it comes to engaging the public in the municipal government process, Dave Meslin thinks Pemberton deserves an award.
The Toronto-based author, artist and activist will be giving a presentation at the Pemberton and District Library on Tuesday (May 29) that touches on his recent “political exhibit” called The Fourth Wall, which makes recommendations that would allow for the general public to become more active in municipal politics.
The Fourth Wall makes a total of 36 suggestions to improve this process — one of which touches specifically on public notices, which are often poorly designed while burying key information for constituents among fine print and bureaucratic language.
But that’s one area where Pemberton is a leader in a big way, said Meslin, who today (Thursday, May 24) will be presenting the village’s public notices to Toronto city council as an example of a municipality that’s getting it right.
“Pemberton right now, as far as I can tell, is the North American leader in terms of re-designing public notices,” Meslin said in an interview with The Question. “I’ve been waiting for some municipality to take the lead and say, ‘Hey, look: They can actually look much better, more attractive and catch people’s attention.’ And it’s coming from Pemberton.
“So, I think Pemberton might get an award while I’m out there,” he laughed.
The Village of Pemberton approached Meslin to stop by during a West Coast visit that will also include a briefing with the B.C. Institute of Planners.
Being approached by municipalities to share his ideas has been the norm for Meslin as of late, as he’s been in high demand since The Fourth Wall launched in December. Calgary and London, Ont., are among some of the municipalities whose city staffs have sought his expertise based upon the suggestions made in the exhibit.
Some other topics Meslin takes aim at in the exhibit are the timing and scheduling of public meetings, the lack of public participation in the budget-making process and the overall lack of information regarding municipal affairs that is readily available — all things that leave the average person on the outside of the political process.
While most of The Fourth Wall’s recommendations were based around making Toronto’s City Hall more accessible, Meslin said the same ideas still apply for a town the size of Pemberton.
“I think we often spend too much time focused on specific issues or campaigns — whether it’s about the environment, about transit or about whatever,” said Meslin. “My goal is to get people to take a step back, look at the whole system and say, ‘How is democracy working out here?’ and ‘Are there improvements we can make based on best practices from other cities to get more people involved?’
“You’ve got to be jolted out of your regular way of seeing things, and by traveling, I’m able to bring stories of what I’ve heard in other cities.”
Meslin’s talk, for which admission is free, is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. and will be followed by a reception hosted by the Rotary Club of Pemberton.
“I’m just really excited to meet people and see what the issues are there, to get feedback and to hear stories that I can bring back to other communities to inspire people outside of Pemberton,” he said.