by Chris Pickup

Someone seriously needs to give County staff a primer on how to hold a public meeting.

We’ve just come off a series of six public meetings on Parks and Recreation and it was almost a complete waste of time. Basically we sat there while the consultant presenter droned on in front of a large screen on the back wall with difficulty in hearing much of it because he was facing the screen rather than the audience.

Meanwhile staffer Sheila Wilson stood against the wall.

Then we were supposed to fill in sheets with questions as to what we were satisfied with, what we would like to see, etc., which presumably were to be taken back to the firm to be correlated into some sort of plan.

But no public discussion was invited, no to and fro of questions and comments, no debate to spark off interest. It’s difficult to know what you might want if you don’t even know what exists out there. A new trend towards pickleball was mentioned by the presenter, however I had to come home and google it to find out what it was.

The presenter did say, and I’m not sure whether it wasn’t with some tinge of condescension, that Haldimand has Soccer, Soccer, Soccer.

Indeed it has, and it came about some 40 or so years ago when my soccer-mad husband looked at our son and remarked sadly that it was too bad we didn’t have soccer for him to play. Being owners of a newspaper we published a piece asking if anyone was interested in getting soccer going and received some interest. A few weeks later an informal meeting was called which resulted in two British expats heading the ball down the road to forming a league.

That summer they had kids out learning moves and scrimmaging, and parents learning the rules of the game so they could officiate. Next thing we had sponsors and uniforms and then the Broechelers donated some land for what is now the Broecheler soccer complex in Cayuga.

So yes, we have soccer because someone threw the idea out into a public forum and parents latched onto the idea. And that’s why open discussion is so important at public meetings, because someone might mention something that sounds interesting and other people might like the idea. Only they’ll probably never hear about it if, say, only one person writes it down and it gets discounted because no-one else wrote it down.

Incidentally, kudos to the county’s one-man forestry dept. representative Adam Chamberlin for running the best county meeting we’ve seen. It was regarding the new forestry bylaw and It was short, succinct, and he engaged his audience by speaking directly to us.

He threw the meeting open to the attendees and a lively debate ensued, not only directed to Chamberlin, but between each other. Finally, they were able to talk to someone about their beefs, and he was listening.

Maybe the county should pay Chamberlin a fee to educate the rest of the staff.