One of the aspects of being on City Council that can prove difficult for some, is the need to keep our decisions and actions professional, rather than personal.
As an individual, I'm free to choose what stores to patronize, for whatever reasons I feel are important, whether it be price, service, or what I think of the owner. When making decisions on council, however, I and the rest of council need to make purchase decisions for the city based on objective facts only, not on personal feelings or biases. One way of making sure that decisions are made that way is to tender major purchases and contracts. This should make the process public, and ensure that reasons for the decisions are open and defensible.
Other guidelines that help to keep actions and decisions professional are in our legislation, bylaws and policies. This means that, for instance, if someone applies for a licence, and meets all the qualifications set out in our licensing bylaws and policies, then approval is given. Our decision cannot be affected by our personal relationship with that individual, be it positive or negative. And we can't let our personal feelings about the type of business cloud the decision either - as an individual, I may not agree with certain activities or the businesses that allow them, but if the activity is allowed under law, and the area proposed for business establishment is zoned accordingly, then I can't vote against it based on my own feelings or intangible factors.
Of course, for this to work, we on council have to monitor ourselves. When we fail to follow established policy or legislation, whether it's because we feel that we don't have time, or that we needn't follow decisions made by a previous council, we throw all our processes into question. When we raise irrelevant factors in decision-making, we do the same, because that then suggests that all our decisions are affected by irrelevancies. And when we continuously rush through processes, because we have established our own schedules and ideas on how things should be done, rather than following those rules set in legislation, bylaw or policy, and rather than allowing open discussion and providing the public with realistic opportunity for input, then we give the impression that we're an exclusive club that doesn't have to follow the rules.
We need to remember that, in a democracy, we're not just answerable to ourselves; we're answerable to the people that we represent. And we need to be able to tell those people honestly, that every decision that we've made has been based on the best interests of the city, not ourselves.
Speaking of being answerable, I've heard very clearly from people that using taxpayers' dollars to pay for meals at council and committee meetings is not acceptable. I'm sorry that I didn't see it from that aspect earlier, but I am no longer sharing in the meals provided at council or committee meetings. I always try to say what I think, and act accordingly, and this seems to me to be the right thing to do.
"Impatience never commanded success." - Edwin Hubbel Chapin