Mayor Kennedy Stewart announced Monday that he will offer residents a chance next month to talk to him one-on-one in his office for 15 minutes at a time to discuss what’s on their minds.
The session is scheduled for Feb. 5 and Stewart said he anticipated the event to run for at least four hours, depending on how many people want to speak to him. He said he wants to offer the sessions at least once per month.
“We’re just trying it out for the first time,” Stewart told reporters at city hall. “People can contact my office [via email or phone] and book a 15-minute period, and they can basically talk about whatever they want. I imagine we’ll probably do first-come, first-serve for the first time through.”
The mayor said the first session will be a learning experience for him and his staff, noting he’s aware that translation services could be needed and supports for people with disabilities, including those who are hearing impaired.
Stewart joked that he kind of has a mayor’s office day every day because he takes transit and people often talk to him on the bus and SkyTrain. But, he said, the goal is to see what he can do to address people’s issues that don’t make it to the council chamber.
Stewart said he got the idea from former mayor and premier, Mike Harcourt, who used to hold the semi-regular sessions at city hall. That was in the 1980s.
“Mike was explaining to me that, you know sometimes you don’t to get to hear about stop signs that aren’t in the right place, or speed bumps that are needed,” he said. “This really gives regular folks a chance to come in and for me to take direct action on the issues that have concerned them.”
Stewart’s predecessor, Gregor Robertson, who was in office for a decade, never had a scheduled day where residents could sign up and talk to him. Robertson hosted town halls for audiences on specific topics such as the refugee crisis and held “Twitter town halls” and engaged with residents via Facebook.
Stewart was elected Oct. 20 to a four-year term.
Asked whether he thought some people would sign up to yell at him for 15 minutes, the mayor replied:
“Yelling is never the best way to do anything, and I haven’t experienced it yet. And, again, I’m on transit all the time. I’m not welcoming that, or inviting it—don’t be the first—but it hasn’t happened yet.”
In keeping with his campaign pledge to be transparent with his finances and accessible as mayor, Stewart has posted his office budget on the city’s website. He also recently released his appointment calendar so those interested can see who he has met with since being elected.