Wednesday, November 11, 2009

And We Begin Again

Monday evening was the first meeting of this new council. As is usual for the first meeting, the bulk of it is taken up with the swearing in ceremony, and the actual meeting agenda is quite light. And between the ceremony and the actual meeting, we break for fifteen minutes or so for the family and friends in attendance to take pictures and offer congratulations. Then most of the crowd leaves, and we take care of mostly administrative details, like who's going to be deputy mayor when.

Every councillor gets about six weeks of deputy mayor duty, which mostly means chairing the Committee of the Whole section of the council meeting. In the past, we've usually gone in alphabetical order, but sometimes trades happen, because someone is going to be away on extended holiday during their proposed term. Usually the schedule is discussed ahead of the meeting; this didn't happen this time, which led to amendments on the spot, as Councillor Dionne and I traded spots to deal with his planned holidays (we had discussed this before the meeting), then Councillor Martin Ring asked to trade with Councillor Zurakowski for the same reason. If nothing else, this highlighted the importance of council matters being discussed by council as a whole, rather than decisions being made without participants' input.

So far I feel good about this new council. The new council members all seem prepared to work hard for the betterment of the city as a whole, and to understand that, until the whole city is considered a good place to live, we haven't finished the job.

We had an orientation meeting the Monday before the first meeting. At this meeting we were also informed that there would be more meetings during the week, and a bus tour of city facilities on Saturday morning. The lack of notice and my previous commitments to other organizations and family meant that I wasn't able to take advantage of those opportunities. While I'm quite familiar with city staff and most facilities, I would have appreciated being able to spend some time with my new colleagues. However, we do have the next three years of working together, and hopefully there will be more advance notice of meetings - most councillors have busy lives that have just gotten busier, and that needs to be recognized.

I will miss having Councillor Williams to bounce ideas off, and to have open and honest discussions with about city problems. For the past couple of years he's had to commute from out-of-town work opportunities to get to council meetings, and I don't think that other members of council fully appreciated the extra effort and costs that this entailed, nor was there ever any effort made to accommodate his rather special circumstances. Shawn represented the people of his ward well, he wasn't afraid to speak up for what he believed was right, and he refused to be bullied - not always an easy thing to do.

But I'm hopeful that the members of this new council will also remember their constituents and speak up for what they believe is right - if enough of us do that, we should be able to make positive changes to the city over the next three years.

"No man is wise enough by himself." - Plautus

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