If I were to describe the atmosphere around council meetings these days, I would use words like respectful, conciliatory, open, listening. I get the sense that those of us around the table are aware that we each have good ideas to contribute, and that when we openly discuss issues, we can use these ideas to develop far better solutions than any one of us could come up with alone.
A good example of this is the recent decision that we made surrounding expenditures for floral decorations. Once the subject was raised, it turned out that we were all in agreement that the status quo wasn't achieving results in line with the size of the expenditure, and the voicing of opinions saying so wasn't squelched, but was instead encouraged. We then tossed around ideas for how we could continue beautification efforts, while not spending so much money.
While we'll still have a budget line for flowers, it will be for purchasing materials, and the labour will be internal. We'll also be looking at such things as volunteer work and sponsorship. And we'll be looking at what works, and what doesn't, when we develop next year's budget. It's amazing what can happen when we step out of the comfort zone of just doing what we've been doing, and instead look at what we want to achieve, and the different ways of achieving that goal.
Some might suggest that this willingness to compromise somehow indicates weakness of purpose. I think that it demonstrates our recognition of the strength of diversity, which is the reason behind having a council of nine individuals. We're different, and we need to use these differences when we're discussing issues and coming up with solutions.
We need to take this approach with every item in the budget. Just because we've always spent money on certain things, or always done things in a certain way, doesn't mean that it's been the best or the only way of achieving results. This approach takes more effort, and it takes more time, but the positive results show in more than just financial ways.
A council where all members feel that their contributions are welcome, that asking questions about possible options is not discouraged, that new ideas will be seriously considered - that's a council that's going to be able to make effective change, and that means that everyone, council, administration and residents, is going to benefit. I'm not promising that we'll be able to solve all our problems, but I do think that things are getting better.
"Compromise is the best and cheapest lawyer." - Robert Louis Stevenson