Mayor schooled by an eight-year-old

I recently presented to grade 3 and 5 students at Columbia Elementary School about local government and being Mayor. I was both excited and nervous to speak. I knew some my staff had kids attending that school and had prepped them with tough questions like tax rate multipliers and rate class differential equations. Fortunately the kids opted not to ask the those technical questions as the opening questions from their classmates where all about building more playgrounds, parks and making “Local Landing” free.

I did get some harder questions like “How can kids be good community citizens?” I had to think about that question, but I think offering to help clear snow from their sidewalk and neighbours sidewalks along with ensuring they don't litter and clean up their dog dodo was a simple start. The next difficult question was “Name one law that you don't like or should change?” The City runs on bylaws and regulations, and we hear complaints from time to time, but seldom do we truly challenge ourselves on what bylaw changes we should consider to make Penticton a better place to live. We usually are reactive vs being proactive, and bylaw enforcement is complaint based. My personal view was the no skateboards on sidewalks bylaw should be relaxed - I'd rather have kids being active instead of watching TV or having their parent's chauffeur them around town - providing they are courteous to others while on the sidewalk.

Kids are so open to listen and learn, a trait adults should take notice of and emulate. There is no fear of asking a question or why can't we do something. Children often question why, and we should consider their optimism and perspective when formulating our own decisions. Too often we continue with the status quo, resist change and fear bold initiatives because we put up road blocks or rationales on why it can't work instead of how can we make it work.

Instead of a sophisticated and polished speech, I concentrated on simple phrases and giving examples to help illustrate so the kids would understand. Sometimes people just need a City initiative explained in simple terms and why something is a good thing now and into the future. City Hall sometimes makes a simple thing into a complicated matter. Because most residents are complacent, apathetic and don't participate when asked for public input, we tend to focus on what the vocal minority is saying.

I enjoyed meeting with our future residents, their enthusiasm, and respect for the Mayor's office. I even got asked by several students for an autograph. It was refreshing not to have to worry about the politics of politics and just talk frankly with an audience keen to listen. Whether it was about making it so their daddy didn't have to leave town for work, getting more playgrounds, understanding how laws get made, and how City Hall operates, it drove home the importance of creating a future for these kids to enjoy and an environment so they can continue to live in Penticton and be prosperous.