City hosts free democracy workshops

Democracy requires an informed public.  
So whether you are a politics news junkie like I am or just want a better understanding of how our municipal government comes up with the decisions it does, being “in the know” helps. 
It’s hard to protest or argue for change if you don’t know what policies the city is imposing in the first place. Democracy in action is when people participate in the decision-making by attending community meetings, demanding accountability or running for public office. 
I am excited city hall is launching Toronto Civics 101. There are six free sessions open to any resident or business owner in our city but you need to register by June 23 at http://www.toronto.ca/civic-engagement/index.htm or call 416-392-8592.The first introductory session on Sept. 17 involves Mayor David Miller and the city manager Joseph Pennachetti giving you a rundown of the program. 
Judging by the amount of interest neighbourhood developments attract, I think many residents will be interested in attending the Oct. 1 session on demystifying local planning.
As the city’s website says, “Torontonians are most actively engaged with the city when it is about something that directly affects their neighbourhood.”

If you have ever scratched your head and wondered how the government reached a policy decision, you may want to attend the Oct. 15 meeting called “How city council makes decisions”.  
The last three discussions are: Toronto’s fiscal framework or where the money goes Oct. 29, elections in Toronto including voting patterns Nov. 12, and lessons on leadership Dec. 3. 
Toronto spokesperson Kevin Lee tells me the goal is to meet the public’s desire to learn more about how the city works and to encourage people to get involved with local issues. 
There are many ways people can do this such as joining task forces and committees, making deputations on issue close to heart or even running for municipal office. The next city election is Nov. 8, 2010.
“The city’s here to serve the public,” Lee says. “That’s what we do. The more people get involved, the more the city can do a better job.” 
As a born and bred Torontonian who writes about city issues I have a big stake in the city working well for the people who live, work and visit here. 
It’s not perfect and no government is beyond reproach. But as anyone who likes to tinker and tamper with things will tell you, you have to be able to dissect something knowledgably first before you can successfully fix it. 
So my advice is learn more about how the city ticks and use it to your advantage to push for changes that make Toronto a more smoothly run machine.
(Originally published June 11/09at http://www.mytowncrier.ca)

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