Toronto Public Library Board member Gillian Mason describes her time as a citizen board member for the Board as a learning experience.
“I learned a great deal about the city and about Canada’s political structure as well,” she said. “It sparked my interest in politics even more, now I’m fascinated.”
Mason, who served on the citizen council for the board for over eight years, said even the interview process itself was an experience. She said getting to meet the mayor, as well as city councillors made the entire experience worthwhile.
‘Want community members to have a say’
The City of Toronto has invited residents to lend their voices and make a difference by serving on city boards. To make the process easier, for the first time volunteers interested in serving on a board can now apply online.
According to Anne McLaughlin, strategic communications representative for Toronto, the new development comes with Mayor David Miller’s new mandate to increase involvement in decision-making for the city.
“We just want community members to have a say in what happens.” McLaughlin said.
Boards needing community involvement include: the Toronto Public Library Board, the Board of Health, Exhibition Place, Heritage Toronto, the Toronto Licensing Tribunal, the Toronto Parking Authority, for example.
Appealing to the masses
During her time on the library board, Mason said she witnessed many younger people taking an interest and getting involved in city matters. She hopes to see even more of them become involved now that a new council has been elected.
“I think it’s great to see young adults getting involved,” she said.
‘Get to know how the city is run’
“They really get to know how the city is run; you just can’t get this perspective anywhere else.”
Applicants, age 18 and over, can apply for membership on citizen panels. McLaughlin also encourages younger people to apply as the city is looking for a diverse range of membership.
Some city residents might feel uncertain about the impact their opinions have on future city decisions. Mason suggests looking into past advancements that have resulted from input from citizen panels.
Over the years Mason said she witnessed many suggestions made by citizen panel members put into action on a variety of topics, including her own.
“One of my proudest moments as a citizen panel member was when we influenced the name of a black heritage collection of books after author Rita Cox,” she said.
“She was a profound author that influenced the black community greatly with her work, which was why we thought it was so important the collection be named after her.”
Anyone interested in applying to be on a citizen panel can go to http://www.toronto.ca/citizen-appointments.
Filed from The Centre for Creative Communications