Innovative new Community Advisory Assembly launched
Three dozen New Westminster residents met for a shared dinner last week, but this was not any get together. Most of the participants were meeting for the first time, and their numbers represented a near perfect sample of the demographics of the City. This was the first meeting of the New Westminster Community Advisory Assembly.
An innovation supported by Community First members of New Westminster Council, the Assembly is the first example of a community seeking engagement with a true representation of the community’s diversity. The makeup of the 36-member assembly closely matches the demographics of the City and will be inclusive by providing a deliberative dialogue model of consensus-building.
The Mayor and Community First Councillor Tasha Henderson, along with Councillor Nadine Nakagawa, were at the kickoff meeting to meet and greet the Assembly Members. They were inspired by the diversity of the group, and the keenness that the members expressed about active engagement in the community.
"Walking into that room, it was evident how different this group was from previous committees, said Community First Councillor Tasha Henderson. “So many people let me know this was their first time engaging with any city process and really, that's what this is about: hearing new voices, new perspectives, and new ideas.”
What makes this group unique compared to previous advisory committees is the selection process. Instead of Council members selecting people they know in the community, the Assembly used a demographic algorithm to sift through more than 200 applicants while keeping the names anonymous. As a result, the group closely matches the demographics of the City.
Demographic factors such as neighbourhood of residence, age, housing type, gender identity, and visible minority status were considered.
“New Westminster is a city where nearly half of residents are renters,” said Mayor Patrick Johnstone. “This is the first time we have had an advisory committee that is also half renters. This is only one example of how we worked to assure previously underrepresented voices in our city are provided a voice.”
During the January 22nd Council meeting, Councillor Henderson read some quotes from members of the assembly reflecting what she heard at the first meeting:
“I’ve always wanted to share my ideas but I never thought someone like me could.”
“I see New West as so diverse, but I don’t see that at City Hall. I see it here, though.”
“I’ve never felt so comfortable at something the City has planned before.”
The Assembly will be advising Council on numerous topics of concern to the community, and will work through deliberative dialogue to provide advice to Council. The first topic arises directly from the City’s Strategic Plan, as the Assembly considers how the City can better foster community connection and belonging in the community.
More information on the Community Advisory Assembly, including the demographic breakdown of the membership and terms of reference are available at the City of New Westminster’s website here: https://www.newwestcity.ca/committees/community-advisoryassembly
For further comment, or to arrange an interview, contact Community First New Westminster Chair Nancy Kato: [email protected].