BLOG #726: As was noted in this space yesterday, there were some problems with version three of city council’s governance model. Last night council made all the necessary fixes and even agreed to try harder to get along.
Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012
Modesty alone prevents your correspondent from claiming the credit, but all of the short-comings in city council’s New and Improved!!! Governance Model 3.0 highlighted in yesterday’s McLeod Report have now been fixed.
In a miracle of virtual unanimity – only one vote went 13-1 – city council’s Strategic Priorities and Policy Committee last night restored sense to the names, agreed on a new calendar and even fessed up to some individual and collective short comings.
Amazing! This morning I’m buying lottery tickets.
WHAT’S IN A NAME – Quite a bit, it seems. The gang agreed the word ‘development’ was a bad substitute for ‘environment’ as part of the name of the planning committee. So it will remain the Planning and Environment Committee.
“The reality is the biggest impact on the landscape tends to be with urban development,” noted Joni Baechler in her push to keep the environment front and centre.
Likewise the proposed Municipal Infrastructure Services Committee will retain its current and much clearer title, Civic Works Committee. As its current chairperson, Harold Usher, noted, several committees are responsible for civic infrastructure which could be either horizontal or vertical. His group handles the former.
The latter goes to the new combination of Community Services and Public Safety, which gets a golden oldie as its new title, Community and Protective Services Committee – or CAPS for short. Everyone loved that.
And the new name of Corporate Services Committee, for what had been Finance and Administrative Services, was just fine. However, Joe Swan wondered whether that was just a new executive committee in disguise. Not that there’s anything wrong with an executive committee, he added, just askin’. The new city manager, Art Zuidema, doesn’t think city council needs one.
As well, some committees swapped places on the calendar. Planning and Environment, as well as Corporate Services, will now meet every second (more or less) Tuesday; Civic Works and CAPS will meet the Monday before.
YOU ARE WHAT THEY CALL YOU – Also tossed out was the suggestion city council’s informal monthly gatherings should revert to the name Committee of the Whole. Instead it will remain the Strategic Priorities and Policy Committee.
“There are issues around whether the policy element – that’s the really important piece – gets lost in Committee of the Whole,” said Paul Hubert. “It’s so generic we don’t know what it does.”
“The present name gives us a sense of purpose,” Mr. Swan agreed. “We don’t do enough planning.”
WHY IT’S THE WITCHING HOUR – The council agreed to find ways to shorten council meetings, some of which have run past midnight.
When the meetings run long, said Nancy Branscombe, “we get punchy and personal with one another – and I’m no saint here – that’s when we have to cut it off.”
Sandy White claimed these long meetings were becoming a health and safety issue. “It’s not okay to carry on with this after a certain time of the day.”
Mayor Joe Fontana took responsibility to start enforcing existing rules about speaking only once on an issue and then only for five minutes – rules he himself often violates. “It’s absolutely true we do go far too long sometimes at council. I’m going to drive to make sure we’re out of here by 11 p.m.,” he promised.
Starting in December council will meet every second week, more or less, starting at 4 p.m. with an closed doors session. The open, public council meeting will still begin at 5 p.m.
EVERYBODY’S DOING IT, NOT – In Ms. Branscombe’s view (and she’s not alone), this council hasn’t accomplished much in its first two years. “I feel disappointed we haven’t accomplished more – we need to look at the mayor to solve that problem.”
But then she went on to nail at least part of the issue: Councillors who arrive at meetings unprepared. “When people start asking questions that are right in front of them in the report it is clear they haven’t read it,” she said. “It was clear during the budget discussions some councillors hadn’t read the budget.”
TOO POOPED TO POLITICK – Stephen (Full-time) Orser missed the meeting. He apparently told City Clerk Cathy Saunders that he was too tired after fighting the fire at the old McCormick’s candy factory on the weekend. But isn’t this why we have a fire department?