Who Cares About City Council?

Melanie Bellwood | News Director

Perhaps you laughed at the title at first read, but how many students at UNBC feel that they could confidently define “City Council” or its relationship to us kids high up on the hill? Before looking into it, I know that I certainly could not. The thing is, as of October 10, 2018, voting opens to elect Prince George’s own city council, and the question arises once again: will the students and youth of Prince George participate in the vote? I know what runs through my mind when asked this question: I’ve got other things to do. It’s not like it will affect anything with the university. I don’t know anything about any of the people running, so it doesn’t matter, right? Wrong.

The election of city council can hit closer to home than many would expect. It is up to the voter to feel informed about the economic, political, and social status of our city, and one of the best places to learn is on the City of Prince George website. Let’s start by defining exactly what the city council does. In the last issue of Over The Edge, Sam Wall provided a summary of the candidates for mayor and city council, but it can be difficult to know where that information fits in.

Looking at princegeorge.ca tells us some important things about our Mayor and City Council. On the “Mayor and Council Member” page of the website, Prince George’s city council declares the following:

Mission: To provide high-quality services and good governance for the City of Prince George within available resources.

Vision: To be a highly functioning, focused, effective, efficient, responsive, productive, and accountable Council.

Priorities: Council’s focus areas and priorities are described in the Annual Report and Corporate Plan (followed by a link to the aforementioned documents).

This is followed by several pages documenting the histories and community involvements of the current council, and the reasons they have chosen to be involved. While you might not think that those biographies are important, reading them could enlighten you to what our city council thinks about UNBC as a part of the Prince George community. Out of the eight council members and one mayor, four of them choose to mention how either themselves or their children attended UNBC, among other ways they are connected to the school. At least half of our council has placed an invested value in us as a university.

Okay, great. So, we know why they care, but what can city council do for us as students? Well, an article on howstuffworks.com about government and local politics actually provides a simplified version of their role quite well. “[City councils] generally act as the legislative branch of the city government, as well as its policy-making body. The council also looks to the city’s goals, major projects and infrastructure improvements ranging from community growth to land use to finances and strategic planning.”

Anytime a student has remarked upon the positive or negative aspects of major projects such as development of new infrastructure in our downtown area (like Prince George’s new Marriott Hotel or Wood Innovation Center), or the refinement of the city’s budget to contribute more or less to university funding, they have discussed something that city council deals with on a direct basis. The opportunity to have UNBC in Prince George at all? That was a city council decision. These council members are residents of our city with a vested interest in the community, and election season is a prime time to begin a conversation with them about what needs to change.

But, these are just the basics. What matters to you? There is a bounty of information to be found about what our city council has been doing over the years on the City of Prince George website, and if the important topics have been ignored, it might just be because they are not hearing about them. Luckily, there is good news for those of us who have not yet registered to vote, or are just realizing their empowered potential as a citizen of Prince George. Wednesday, October 17, advanced voting comes to the Bentley Centre of UNBC, allowing all university students the opportunity to participate without having to go down the hill. Because, let’s face it, that’s a deal breaker for some of us. Let’s get ourselves educated and I hope to see you there. We will show the rest of our community that we are a mindful student community, and we care about city council.