Today, Masood Makarechian is a seasoned and active citizen, having served as president of the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues, a long-time member of his local community league and a member on multiple City advisory boards. But back in 2002, he was just an inline skater with a dream.
It was then, during an informal chat with a City engineer, that Masood learned about the inaugural Active Transportation Advisory Board. He went and landed himself a seat on it, and, in his words, “I was in heaven.”
Why? “The intersection of public input and administration and Council is such a major place for anyone who’s interested in civic matters,” Masood says. “The pinnacle of involvement is to be invited to the table to have a conversation on these issues, and to have been given a mandate by City Council.” The former science teacher (and current stay-at-home parent) went on to sit on the Edmonton Transit System Advisory Board, which played a key role in finally getting a bus line out to the Edmonton International Airport.
To Masood, public engagement is about reconnecting with an increasingly forgotten concept. “In some ways, as a society, we’ve lost the notion of public interest,” he says. “We view our world as a collection of private, and then special, interests. There are not really a lot of champions of the public interest. It’s kind of like being pro-taxation. But you need people who have a passion for occupying that place.” That means not pitting one part of the city against another in the pursuit of finite resources, but understanding that we are all part of the same larger civic unit. “I count myself amongst those people.”