Eddy Pearcy-Thiel spearheaded the creation of the Citizens Coalition of Ontario to keep citizens informed about local government. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell)

ONTARIO – Public engagement is considered a cornerstone of democracy and one local woman wants to make sure the lines of communication between voters and their elected leaders are open.

That’s the main reason why Ontario resident Eddy Pearcy-Thiel decided last year to spearhead the creation of the Citizens Coalition of Ontario. Pearcy-Thiel said she believes knowledge is power and the more information voters can absorb the better off Ontario will be in the future. Pearcy-Thiel said while she is one of the main supporters of the coalition, she works with a team of five.

The coalition sponsored three town hall meetings last year where city council members delivered presentations and answered questions. The meetings also focused on other key community issues such as a school bond and the homeless situation, said Pearcy-Thiel.

“The city is held accountable and the community is better informed,” said Pearcy-Thiel.

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Adam Brown, Ontario city manager, said the coalition agenda is a good one.

“Anytime we can get some citizens together, it is a positive thing,” he said.

Voter participation in city issues, he said, is important but often difficult to achieve.

“It is so hard to get people engaged,” he said.

Dan Capron, Ontario City Council president, said the coalition sessions are valuable because they offer a unique outlet for the councilors to both gather and dispense information.

“They are definitely useful. There are some good questions that are asked. I just wished more people would show up for stuff,” said Capron.

Pearcy-Thiel said she understands that voter apathy is a reality but insisted the coalition effort has proven successful.

Pearcy-Thiel said usually between 25 and 50 people attend the meetings. Traffic on the city’s website, she said, increased by 20 percent from last year “probably because of us.”

The coalition also streams the meetings on Facebook, said Pearcy-Thiel. She said the Facebook stream has “been very beneficial” as it pushes the meetings out to a larger audience.

The coalition makes good use of its Facebook page.

“We are putting out more information about the sheriff’s office, the city, the chamber so I think we are growing. We are posting constantly about things the city is doing,” said Pearcy-Thiel.

Pearcy-Thiel said the coalition sponsored a meeting in January and its next session is set April 29 at Four Rivers Cultural Center. That meeting will consider downtown development and the city budget.

Pearcy-Thiel said she believes the coalition has a bright future.

“We are having a friendlier relationship, better communication, with the city. You have to stay connected with the council,” said Pearcy-Thiel.

Grassroots efforts like the coalition are key for the future, said Capron.

“If you want a better community you got to be involved,” said Capron.

Pat Caldwell – [email protected]

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