Sunday, November 25, 2012

Getting to Work

The election was more than a month ago.  Council was sworn in almost two weeks ago.  Like the other members of council, I'm sure, I'm getting anxious to get to the real work.

That's part of the problem of changing councils - it takes time for people in new jobs to learn the basics, and in this case, it's going to take some time before we understand the extent of some of the problems that we have to deal with.  And even when we know that we want to change how things are done, first we have to get a good understanding of the whole situation before we start to implement change, to avoid unpleasant surprises.

To that end, at our first council meeting, after all the ceremonial stuff was out of the way,  the deputy mayor schedule was set, and appointments to just three committees were made.  The first two, the police commission and the library board, have to be in place for those institutions to function.  On a temporary basis, Councillors Ring and Zurakowski have been appointed to the library board, and, also on a temporary basis, the mayor and Councillor Ring will continue on the police commission.

A third committee, the management committee, has also been set up.  This committee is intended to bring policy options and recommendations to council for discussion and final decisions, with a fairly broad scope - a first filter, in a way.  I'm currently on this committee, as is the mayor and Councillor Cody. For example, one of the things that we're looking at is the current list of committees to see which are actually needed, and which can be dissolved.  The previous council had more than 60 committees, some of which met rarely if ever, and some of which duplicated work already covered by policy (the street-naming committee, for example).  I'm hoping that this review will help council to manage our work load more efficiently, although it's certainly going to take some time.  So far the management committee has met twice, trying to determine which issues are most pressing, and setting some priorities for bringing them forward to council.

I think what most members of council (and the public) want to know is: where are we at on several issues?  What's the status of the second bridge study?  What's the status of the water treatment plant repairs?  When is the bridge going to be at full capacity again?  How serious is our financial situation?

I think that, as a council, we're committed to getting answers to these and other questions to the public as quickly as possible.  This is definitely a change in how things were done in the past, but it's one that we're all working towards.  However, like a lot of change, it could take some time.  I hope that residents see that we're working together to provide answers, not cover things up, and are patient as we work these things through.

"Change is the law of life.  And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future." - John F. Kennedy

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Looking Forward

The new council will have its first meeting on Tuesday, starting at 7 p.m.  Most of this meeting will be taken up with the swearing-in ceremony, and determining the order of deputy mayors for the next year (each councillor takes a six-week turn).  And then it will be time to get to work.

Even though we aren't official yet, we've already had a few informal meetings, which is a refreshing change in the way of doing business.  On Friday we had a mock council meeting, so that those new to the world of making motions, seconding, chairing part of the meeting, and the other formalities of doing council work could get a taste of the process.  It's the first time in my experience that we've done such a thing, and I think it will help.  Much better than having to have your first meeting experience under the harsh lights of the camera.

Even so, I know that the first meeting or two can be nerve-wracking.  If I were to offer one piece of advice to the councillor newcomers, it would be to practice your oath of office, a few times, out loud, in front of other people.  There are a couple of tricky spots in there.  Ingrid still has fond memories of my first council meeting, when another councillor, faced with the word pecuniary for the first time, pronounced it puke-enary.  It's probably her favourite memory from my time on council - she laughs every time we talk about it.

It's evident from these preliminary gatherings that those new to council have lots of energy and ideas, and I hope that, as a council, we work to maintain that energy.  The advantage of the election process is that all of us elected have spent several weeks knocking on doors, hearing directly from city residents as to what their concerns are, and we need to use that input to frame our plans for moving forward.

I think that the message sent by the electors to all of council is that they want more openness, they want more accountability, and they want more cohesiveness from council. They want council to operate as a team, recognizing that our diverse viewpoints and experiences can only make for stronger solutions.  From my perspective, I get the sense that everyone around the council table wants this too.  I'm hoping that we can maintain our focus as we set our priorities and move forward.

And if we start to slip, I'm hoping that people will let us know.

"It's the pack that gets the job done, not the lone wolf." - Mike O'Neil