Story and photo by Craig Lord –
Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper has been making good on a campaign promise to be more accessible to residents. Enter, the pop-up office. It could be a coffee shop, community centre, or park bench – and it gives residents some one-on-one time without having to fight traffic and parking at City Hall.
On June 11, the Kitchissippi Times had the opportunity to audit the inner workings of Leiper’s pop-up office at the Churchill Senior’s Centre.
“I much prefer it to an email,” says Leiper. “People want to talk face-to-face with their Councillor. They’ve got something on their mind, and they wouldn’t voice it otherwise.”
Leiper says he usually speaks to about five or six residents over the three hours allotted to each pop-up. If a resident arrives when he’s already in a discussion, either a line-up will form or the new arrival will jump into the conversation, sometimes forming a spontaneous roundtable of residents.
“They’ve been perfect,” he says, noting that other Councillors have been interested in implementing their own versions of in-ward offices.
On June 11, only one resident took advantage of the scheduled pop-up. It was Anne White, looking to chat about trees.
Despite the low turnout of that pop-up, Leiper says it’s never a waste of time. He anticipates that attendance may drop during the summertime, but says that establishing the consistent basis of pop-ups is imperative.
It wasn’t disappointing to White, either, who took the opportunity to chat with Leiper for over an hour and a half. For White, who lives without a computer or email address, the ability to have a face-to-face chat is invaluable. She mentioned at one point that she doesn’t think she ever spoke to former Coun. Katherine Hobbs during her time in office.
“It’s like being invisible in so many ways. And I know I’m not the only one,” says White. Leiper echoed that importance, noting that socio-economic issues can prevent residents from communicating with the city.
“Thumbs up for the pop-up!” cheered White as she left.
The best ways to find out the next pop-up is through the Kitchissippi ward email newsletter (sign up right here), Leiper’s social media channels, or by calling his office at 613-580-2485.