On March 7, 2016, City Hall opened its doors to citizens for City Hall 101 – a workshop presentation designed to give Calgarians the tools and confidence to better connect with City Council and make their voices heard in City government.
Manager, Strategic Atlantic and Real Estate Finance, Nabeel Ramji was invited to take part as a panelist due to his involvement in the development of the Seniors Age-Friendly Strategy and as a participating member on the Advisory Committee on Accessibility. As an expert, Nabeel shared first-hand experiences on presenting to City Council and Committees and spoke to the many ways people can connect with the City, Mayor, and Councilors.
“It is useful to have such workshops because it provides an opportunity for interested members of the public to learn how to get involved and engage at the municipal level,” Nabeel says.
The workshop featured videos, short presentations, and interactive activities including:
- Visiting important locations including Historic City Hall, the Municipal Complex, Council Chambers, and the Council Committees meeting room
- Sitting in on a Council meeting live in Council Chambers
- Meeting City of Calgary staff and learning about how you can connect with The City and politicians on issues that matter to you
- Learning how to make presentations to Council and Committees with tips on being prepared to “own the podium”
Click here to watch the short video from City Hall 101.
Useful tips from Nabeel
What is one way to get involved at the municipal level?
Every August of each year, the City of Calgary opens up the application process for citizens to apply to the various Boards, Commissions, and Committees. Based on the variety of boards, and committees, it provides a great avenue for citizens to be engaged on an ongoing basis for an issue that they are passionate about.
Give an example of one of the questions discussed at the workshop.
“How does one know when City Council or a Standing Policy Committee is holding a meeting, and where the proposed agenda can be found?”
The respective agendas, meeting minutes, and videos can be found on the City of Calgary’s Electronic Legislative Management Solution website. The proposed agendas are posted in advance to provide the public advanced notice of the topics that will be discussed, and the respective schedules can be found here.
What was your first experience with presenting to council like and what do you wish you would have known?
Initially, my first experience of presenting to Council was intimidating because I did not know what to expect, or what the outcome would be. However, at the end of the presentation, I felt like it was a positive experience because some of the present Councilors asked me follow-up questions, and subsequently submitted a copy of my one-page presentation.
One thing that I wish I would have known is the long wait time before having the opportunity to present to Council. While the proposed agenda is posted in advance, there are instances where the order of items can change on the day of the Council meeting. In addition, some agenda items can take longer to discuss, as this is dependent on how many people show up to present to Council on that topic.
What advice can you give to a first-timer?
- Arrive 30 minutes prior to the start of meeting to get familiar with the surroundings of City Hall;
- As there is a time limit of 5 minutes to present, I recommend writing bullet points for yourself to ensure that you communicate the key points;
- As part of the key points, communicate why the issue is important to you, and to also propose an “ask” for Council’s consideration.
Anything else you would like to add about your involvement with the City?
Many people have asked me if an individual can affect change, and have an opportunity to communicate the issues that matter to them, as there is common notion that this is difficult to do. However, with my involvement on the Advisory Committee on Accessibility for the past 1.5 years, I have had the opportunity to serve along with fellow Calgarians who are just as passionate as I am about making our community a better place to live. Therefore, I would encourage fellow Team Members to present to Council, and/or to apply to a Board, Commission, and Committee, as it provides an opportunity to make an impact in the city where we live, work and play.