If Facebook, online blogging and Twitter can help generate votes, social media may be the missing link needed to engage more residents earlier in the political process, says a newcomer to Esquimalt council.
“I’m going to do it the way I was elected councillor,” said Tim Morrison, who credits his online voice with helping him earn 1,655 votes – the highest number cast in Esquimalt’s municipal election.
He wants the township to revamp its website and become active on social media channels, while councillor-elect Dave Hodgins suggested webcasts of important council meetings could improve communication between council, municipal hall and residents.
“People are frustrated,” said Hodgins. “They want more and better communication, more open and transparent government.”
Lynda Hundleby, who was voted to her fourth council term, agreed voter turnout this time was disappointing. There were 2,300 ballots cast, representing 18 per cent of Esquimalt’s 12,782 eligible voters. In the 2008 municipal election, 3,437 people voted.
Hundleby said she is encouraged by the results of the non-binding referendum – 1,510 people voted to move the Esquimalt Village Plan forward. But she is mindful of the 690 who voted against proposed zoning changes that would permit two residential buildings, up to eight and 12 storeys high, to be built at municipal square.
“I think it would be good for us to see if there’s any way for us to see if we can make any changes that might support them, but we have to know what their issues are,” Hundleby said. “We still have work to do, there’s no question.”
Mayor Barb Desjardins sees the referendum results as a tangible reflection of the community’s positive attitude towards building height and density.
“We can’t put (those tall buildings) everywhere but clearly the community has said, ‘We understand the need and we like what we’ve seen so far and we don’t want to see this sit on the shelf,'” said Desjardins.
Still, more public input will be needed as the process continues, she said.
A town hall meeting may be a good way to refresh the community’s memory of the village plan, and allow council to understand the concerns of people who voted against the concept, said Desjardins.
“Don’t just say no,” she said.
The ballot count, which remained unofficial until after press time, revealed that incumbent councillor Meagan Brame received 1,631 votes, Bob McKie earned 1,594, incumbent Lynda Hundleby drew 1,570, Dave Hodgins received 1,415, and David Schinbein garnered 940 votes.
Sandra Dixon and Josh Steffler were beat out with 819 and 800 votes, respectively.
They will be sworn in at their first council meeting on Dec. 5.
Voting results (unofficial):
• Tim Morrison: 1,655
• Meagan Brame, incumbent: 1,631
• Bob McKie: 1,594
• Lynda Hundleby, incumbent: 1,570
• Dave Hodgins: 1,415
• David Schinbein: 940
• Sandra Dixon: 819
• Josh Steffler: 800