Moving Forward Requires Open And Frank Dialog

By  Ken Wuschke. The past seven years have certainly been a turbulent period for Abbotsford.

We have seen the rise and fall of Plan A, the Stave Lake Referendum, and now the homeless issue. It seems that every council out of the past three terms have had their lightening rod issue. That one issue that polarizes the community.

Last election the call from the two newcomers to city council was openness and transparency. Now two-and-a-half years later the community of Abbotsford is still waiting for that to happen. And the cynicism among residents is still there.

That does not mean there isn’t any change.

The planning department is embarking on a much needed review of the Official Community Plan and they are doing this by asking you, the public, what you want to see in Abbotsford. They are calling it Abbotsforward.

However, as with any large organization, the City of Abbotsford is slowly changing in how it deals with its customers. And we as taxpayers and residents are the customers.

You may recall a few years ago Halifax musician Dave Carroll’s guitar was damaged beyond repair by United Airlines baggage handlers. After trying the normal routes of customer service, Carroll did not get reimbursed for the damaged guitar.

So he launched a music video on YouTube that went viral. National media outlets showed the video. Suddenly it was making the news around the world. Meanwhile, United Airlines was put into a public relations corner.

Carroll had to put a lot of effort into what should have been a simple solution. If United employees damaged the guitar, then United should pay for a replacement. The problem was United took a simple matter and made into a much bigger problem. One that ultimately hurt United’s image in the United States. 

What was the core issue? You could say it was the lack of openness and transparency on United’s part. “We broke it; we’ll pay for it.”

I disagree. It was something more basic. Something that all of us as human beings want. Trust.

Once we lose trust with a friend, a spouse, or a community we have lost our friendship, our marriage, our home.

We have to trust each other.

The cynicism and apathy in Abbotsford are really symptoms that there is little trust between the city council and the community it serves.

That does not mean our elected officials do not have their hearts in the right places. It is hard to judge through news media. And whether the lack of trust is real or only imagined, that climate exists in Abbotsford.

That is the biggest question facing us as a community right now.

Yes, the homeless issue is very important. But there is a lack of trust between the city and the homeless. Otherwise we may have found a solution and have it in place now.

We are still dealing with the aftermath of Plan A. But the underlying issue is there is no trust left between many in the community and city council on how to move forward that will give us a new positive anchor tenant for the AESC.

And we have to have that dialog. One that brings in the whole community to discuss what we want for our future.

The Abbotsforward review of the OCP is a great start. However, it is just that — a start. Our community needs follow through. The city needs to keep asking the people who live here what they want to see for their future. The community needs to have open and effective communication to city council. And city council needs to be open to new ways and new people that are coming into our city everyday.

It seems everyone in Abbotsford wants a great future for our kids. Without discussion and dialog as being the first step to rebuild the trust between the people and the city council it will fall apart again and again.

Let’s move from a polarized community where no one trusts each other, to one of respect for different opinions and where we are moving forward. One where everyone’s ideas are welcome.

Ken Wuschke Ken Wuschke

Believing in community, Ken has been involved in several non-profits in Abbotsford since arriving here four years ago. He wants to build a strong community with focusing developing places where people want to be. From planning bicycle routes to creating social and cultural hubs, Ken wants a stronger Abbotsford that is ready for the future.

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