Branding A Community

By October 5, 2014Letters

Dear Editor. A group of interested organizations sought to organize a Public Forum to discuss an appropriate “Brand” for the District of Mission. I felt the process and attendance was flawed. Whereas the quality of Guest Speakers saved the night. However, after all efforts, only some 60 people attended in a venue that could have held several hundreds and attracted that many, at least, given the significant importance of the topic. I challenged why so few attended. I wondered if our friends at Abbotsford may be under similar situations and my perspective may benefit concerned Citizens thinking about a “Brand for Abbotsford”?

When (some) leaders remain in denial and only view circumstance through “rose coloured glasses” or idealistic positive positions, they try to demean opponents or persons expressing facts, albeit doing so, as with Advocacy, views may often be (negative) in nature. As, identifying the negative aspects one can seek to develop a positive plan and subsequent outcome. I sense the current “Branding” while the presentation was enlightening and motivational, some organizers cannot deal with any negativity. The same people cannot realize the organizational and advertising of the event, appealing to approx. 24,000 people only attract maybe 60.

To explain, in part, some of the dilemma faced from all aspects in order to try and stimulate positive direction that will be more effective and appealing to the masses, not just a small list of proponents and an appeal for some self-aggrandizement to those being only positive and dismissing any negative opposition or in my case, attempt to clarify why.

In my opinion the District of Mission is wise to follow many other Municipalites endeavouring to “BRAND” the “District, BUT the “key” may be who is to objectively and constructively create the process and content that actually and correctly captures “The District of Mission” as is and not a further figment of someone’s imagination about “what the District ought to be”. Too long and too often, the “spin” loses the imagination of residents desires and is focused by self-interest. A short time ago a Consultant aptly described Mission City and many Organizations, as being governed largely by “silos” and I, added “cliques” to further describe Mission in practice and fact.

Sadly, the “denial” of the many has restricted Mission progress. Essentially many of the same people keep getting involved, same approach and process, same basic conclusions and hence, the “true Mission character and being has escaped being reshaped and focused, hence the “Branding” may well be the same product in a different wrapper. That is, unless a very wide involvement and input is generated to accurately assess all components, good and bad, so we can work at elimination of bad characterizations, accepting the quality of elected leadership may indeed pale in comparison to needs but an election in November 15, 2014 may change the goal posts and playing field? Aside from further remarks, I will simply identify the process, in part, to arrive at the “Full Brandmark, comprised of Logo + Tagline”.

In essence this is fundamently complete now but it may be prudent to revise the “Tag Line component” to a more “active or pro-active description”? Thus the tag line exists as: “The District of Mission – On the Fraser”….. – BUT Mission has a major failing that needs to be addressed, first by a “NEW” Mayor & Council but a total overhaul of all Citizen services to formulate a more inclusive Community. While various studies abound and most gather dust on shelves, the current Downtown/Waterfront revitalization plan demonstrates merit. Similarly the Seniors’ Task Force has produced valuable and practical ideas that need to be implemented now! A new “Civic Downtown Centre” is a crucial ingredient
Missions perceived character traits leave much to be achieved, from apathetic, indifferent, self-absorbed, lacking awareness & vision, which sadly, has manifested in many of those we elect, to each level of Government and perpetuates this “beautiful environment & small town flair but too many backwoods mentality” .

But how do we change a mind-set, rid an ideology, create a sense of pride and wonder at new ideas and vision, get our leaders to accept facts and stop being in denial. In part, we are evolving through old-line thinking, changing political power base, diminished supporters and inaction giving way to a (more) progressive thought and needs approach but an absence of leadership. Hence, “Branding” may be a necessary evolution step.

The other component is the lack of Public engagement in most every aspect, with such devices to prevent any attempt at being inclusive. Major protest, impacting on every Citizen (approx. 35,000+ residents). Examples abound but starting with possible closure or MMH “ER” witnessed maybe 300 protesters. Arriving at a Council Budget presentation, impacting upon all taxpayers, the City Hall was packed with maybe 100 people, But following a heartwarming tribute to an ill Citizen, near everyone left, leaving maybe 20 Citizens to comment upon property tax increase and expenditures. Numerous meetings on a host of topics have been held, usually attracting maybe 30-50 Citizens, I think an all-time high 100 maybe attended some downtown development meeting. Council has held several Town Halls but sparsely attended. Indeed, with some 10,000 Seniors’ over 55 years of age, the MSCA sponsored the first in Canada, “Seniors’ Advocate” presentation for Seniors’ Week recently and maybe 30 Senior Citizens attended. We now witness a “Branding” meeting on the Sept. 25th but approx. 60 attended. Finally, after increased advertising, omitting RECORD who failed to publish an announcement, approx. 40 people attended to hear Lorraine Logan, President, COSCO (117,000 members). By contrast, illustrating the divisive nature, a Citizen wrote a letter decrying “too much noise from Raceway”, but 158 people, mostly echoing what a fine bunch they were, but near all bullying the writer, saying “he should shut up, don’t like the noise move, track was here first (untrue in this case) or how much revenue the Raceway brings to Mission and subsidizes homeowners taxes but this mentality does not spawn an inclusive community.

We find, as well, many of the attendees, at many public meetings are the same people; many members at most Seniors’ organization are largely the same people. The main point being, a mere 30% elected our Council, the same voices albeit wonderful that anyone volunteers to any venture, but a very small number, often exercising the same opinion, guide or diminish progress and thus, until significantly more interest and civic engagement increases Citizen participation, Mission is destined to remain largely in a time warp, a divided Community. Mission is in need of curtailing urban sprawl, environmentally and effective development will remain stalled, yet here to, we find practices and self-interest, not venturing forth to support others, hence perpetuating a divided Community. Sadly, even our Business Community expecting “shop locally” emotional expectations by Consumers fails to preach inclusiveness, can be found to support (Council) ventures over Citizens, not do their collective homework what Consumers want and then have audacity to expect loyal “shop local” customers.

Watch carefully what Candidates for Council have to say, what their vision is and can they be believed as to how they will make Mission into an inclusive Community?. We share these thoughts with neighbours at City of Abbotsford, as the same criteria may be evident and by replacing “Mission” with “City of Abbotsford” you may be surprised at the similarities needing your Citizen engagement.

George F. Evens
The Elder Citizen Action Coalition

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