Interview #83: Grande Prairie, AB Councilor Dylan Bressey (with podcast)

This podcast interview is available on iTunesStitcherPlayer FM, and right here:

Dylan Bressey is in his first term on the Grande Prairie city council and he came to my attention for obvious reasons. We talked about all the work he puts into his council meeting recaps, plus he gives prospective council commenters some advice on how to keep things relevant.

Q: I noticed that during your swearing in, unlike other councilors you did not say, “so help me, god” nor did you put your hand on a religious text. So, sir, are you excited that you are going to hell?

A: [Laughs] You know, it’s actually quite the opposite. I’m a member of the clergy and something that I’m very conscious of is I’m very uncomfortable with religious politics. I really intentionally asked not to take my oath on a Bible, taking seriously Jesus’s words not to do that.

Q: Interesting. That hasn’t brought you any bad luck or hellfire since then, has it?

A: Well, it hasn’t yet, but we’ll see what my eternal destiny might hold because of it.

Q: On February 10, someone tweeted at you

To which you responded, “I disagree about the hashtag, but council feels a lot like school, so I could get behind #bresseyforvaledictorian.” In what way does your council feel a lot like school?

A: Every week it feels like I’m getting hundreds of pages of documents that our administration is asking us to read. I’m digging through online databases. And I’m even writing a lot of papers. I do a lot of blogging. So I really am treating this like school.

Q: On your website, you really set the bar high for what city council members can do to explain everything about their jobs to their constituents. This thing is an encyclopedia for what, why, and how the city council does its business. How long does it take you to write up a summary of a given council meeting?

Grande Prairie, AB Councilor Dylan Bressey

A: As I’m processing it, I’d say it takes me probably an hour and a half to just do the writing. And then I get somebody to proofread it, I tweak it, I post it on the website.

Q: Some council members tweet out their feelings about council meetings. Others put it on video. I’m sure there’s at least one guy in Vermont who uses puppets or something. What is the advantage in writing out, beat by beat, the proceedings of a council meeting from your point of view?

A: I really don’t like this thing we have going on today where we seem to talk about less and less information more and more passionately whenever we talk about government. It really helps me learn the materials. There’s been quite a few times where I’m writing a blog post and I get halfway through and I realize as I struggle to explain it that I don’t really understand what I just wrote. So I have to study again, call, ask a few questions.

Q: Part of your website is the FAQ. You offer to give people tips on preparing a presentation for council. Let’s say I’m a homeowner in Grande Prairie and my problem is–this being Canada–my neighbors are playing Celine Dion loudly at 4 a.m. and throwing empty maple syrup bottles on my lawn. I want the city to fine them. How do I convince the council to take this problem seriously?

A: Well, I think you’ve already got a good start there. You’ve got a clear problem and you’ve even got a solution you’re suggesting to us. Something we struggle with is sometimes people aren’t able to clearly frame their concern and how they’d like the city to act on it. And that’s hard for us to take a cue from. So coming in with specifics is good.

Follow Councilor Dylan Bressey on Twitter: @DylanBressey 


#21: Raymore, MO 5/23/16

“Size doesn’t matter” was the motto of this week’s Raymore city council meeting. Looking around the chamber, you’d think an F5 had blown away half the council: four people were AWOL, including the mayor.

President Pro Tem Derek Moorhead, himself anything but small, soldiered ahead for the 20,000 souls in Ray-town (not its real nickname). “I have a wonderful proclamation for a wonderful cause: the Missouri Retired Teachers Association,” he boomed, towering over the white-haired woman who came to accept the award.

Can I keep it, she asked after he was done reading.

“That’s yours, absolutely!” President Moorhead exclaimed.

Wanted, Dead or Alive: Half of the Raymore City Council

Not only was the council a few hands short, the city manager was without his deputy. “She is, as you all know, in Las Vegas with the economic development team and the mayor,” he sighed. “She sent me a picture this afternoon.”

How do you like them apples! She and the mayor are taking selfies with Celine Dion, while everyone else is stuck here talking about…mudjacking?

“We’ve spent just a little over $40,000 for the mudjacker this year,” a staff member told the council. “So right now we have achieved break even.” Three council members applauded vigorously–less for the jacking of mud and more for the saving of dough.

More good news: “Next Monday, May 30, there is no council meeting because it is Memorial Day,” the city manager huzzahed. “I believe it will be the first Monday in five months that you all will have off.” (Well, technically the first Monday those five council members who AREN’T playing craps in Sin City have off.)

Then, a huge piece of news. Groundbreaking. Earth shattering.

“An ordinance,” the clerk read, “authorizing the mayor to enter into an agreement with Kansas City Audiovisual for the purchase and installation of a council chambers video system.”

HALLELUJAH, I screamed through my monitor. In case you haven’t noticed, the cameras the city council is apparently borrowing from the middle school AV department aren’t “showing me” much in the Show-Me State. Everyone voted aye.

Are they voting yes or stretching? It’s too blurry to tell!

Before long, this cozy council meeting was all wrapped up. President Moorhead had a few heartfelt words in parting. “Having a father as a teacher, I have to say that I don’t even know why we call them ‘retired’ teachers…they’re just teachers with no class in session,” he rhapsodized like a modern-day Langston Hughes.

“I remember [former] Mayor [Pete] Kerckhoff always used to mention the weather and the farmers market. I believe the farmers market officially opens on June 7–”

“June 14!” someone called out.

“June 14,” the president pro tem recovered. “I can’t predict the weather, though. Good luck on that. Hope it doesn’t rain.”

With a shrug, the council eagerly adjourned to enjoy a nice quiet holiday–except for the mayor, who will be doing body shots in the presidential suite of the Bellagio.

Final thoughts: For being the only council so far to upgrade their video quality, I give this meeting the Full Siskel and Ebert: 2 out of 2 thumbs-up!