The end of one year and the start of the next is a time of reflection for most people. Part of it is the changing of the date that is a definitive indication of the passing of time; part of it may be that the quiet time between Christmas and New Year's provides more time for thinking.
Looking back, on the personal side, the past year was more challenging than most for me, with the passing of my mother, and dealing with Andrea's health issues. As is usually the case, these difficult times were made a lot easier by the support and kindness shown by friends. I really don't know how we would have gotten through these events without that support, and I'm truly grateful to have such a network that we can rely on.
Working as part of council also had its share of challenges this past year, as always. A highlight was the relatively early financial information that we were given by adminstration, although I don't think that we spent enough time discussing and using that information to provide direction to administration on budget development. In fact, I'm looking forward to the budget discussions this month to find out how they made the leap from needing a minimum increase of 5.5% just to maintain current levels of activity, to a budget that only requires a 3.9% increase - and that change came barely a month after we got the initial information.
On the positive side, I'm looking forward to the implementation of the landfill pass system, so that we can get an accurate idea of how much providing "free" access to residents actually costs. Since council originally approved taking this action in the fall of 2010, but administration did not follow this direction in 2011, this has been a change somewhat overdue.
2012 will be an election year. Election years are always interesting, although at least we won't be trying the 0% tax increase that was passed three years ago - I think that most members of council have realized that costs deferred merely become increased costs, and nobody benefits. This is the time to start asking your councillor the tough questions about how they have voted in the past, whether they would vote differently now, and how they stand on some of the ideas that are being noised about for the future, such as a new arena or an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
This is also the time that those who think that they would like to try a run for council should take a test run. Review the budget, come to the public meeting, think of where you would make cuts or propose different ways of doing things. Read over council agendas, come to some meetings to see how things work. Read up on parliamentary procedures (something that I wish some current members of council would do), so that you know what you should and shouldn't do when it's your turn to chair part of the meeting. As I'm sure every member of council would tell you, it's a lot harder than it looks from the outside.
And this time, the council that is elected will be in place for four years, rather than three. That's an extra year for council to try to work to improve all facets of the city, and achieve various goals. Let's hope that the council that is next elected sets as one of its goals becoming more fiscally open and responsible.
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead