The City of Guelph has just published a User Guide to Local Government, which is attempting to make its processes and data more transparent and accountable to the public. The Guide introduces the user to the roles of the council, staff, and committees at the City, community engagement, and all kinds of in-depth information about bylaws, plans and policies.

In addition to introducing residents to Guelph’s history and demographics, the guide makes it easy to understand the structure of city council and administration (e.g. elected and appointed roles, standing committees), the corporate strategic plan, the financial and people practices strategy, and ways to get involved in the community. Basic information such as how to vote, the ward system, and how to get involved in planning processes is balanced by tips for those who want to become more engaged (e.g. become a member of a board, become involved in a community garden, volunteer). The guide is available online which makes it very user-friendly and accessible.

While the Guide attempts to take the mystique out of local government for residents, it will also be used in an orientation program for Council members after this fall’s municipal election. The City plans to use it with elementary and secondary school students during Local Government Week in October. As many of us planners know, providing people with more information is always a good thing–often a barrier to good planning is misinformation among various stakeholders. The more people understand the long-term goals of municipal governments, and the tools we use to achieve them, the easier our work will be.

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