Sunday, October 27, 2013

One Year In

This past week marked one year since this council was elected - a good time to look back and see what has changed.  Major change in any organization, of course, is best achieved through small steps, incremental changes that over time add up.  And I think that we're approaching change in this way - making small changes that, over time, will result in a more cohesive, sensible approach to how the city is managed, which is council's main responsibility.

A large part of the mayor's campaign focused on the need for council to operate more as a team, and less as a one-man show.  That was one of the first changes made, and I think the results are seen as quite positive   The team approach can be seen in several ways.  For example, committee appointments were made by council as a whole voting on each appointment, rather than decisions being made unilaterally, and appointments being seen as plums handed out from the mayor's office.  Not everyone got to be on all the committees that they wanted, but no-one can complain that the process was unfair.

Communication within council has improved.  We're now all informed when there's an event going on that council has been invited to, which is nice.  Previously, I would often be asked why I wasn't at this or that event, and that would be the first that I would have heard of it.  Obviously, not everybody can be at every event, but having more than one member of council show up is one way of showing broad council support.

All members of council take turns doing the radio and TV updates every week, which is a big change.  It gives each of us a chance to talk about what is going on, and the opportunity to talk about the perspective from each ward, which provides a more complete picture to the public.

Council meetings, both public and in camera, are much more positive.  Discussion is open and respectful, and new ideas are tossed around, added to, and amended.  Votes are not predictable, which is as it should be.  For new councillors, who might have thought that the pattern that had been established over the previous six years was the council norm, it must be a relief to realize that offering up a different opinion or idea is welcomed rather than openly discouraged.

I think that a very positive sign is the open understanding that the budget for next year is going to be an even more detailed exercise than last year, and that the status quo is no longer an acceptable option.  That's the only way manage how to do all the work required, particularly infrastructure repair and maintenance, without unduly burdening the tax payer.  And the good news is that everybody on council now recognizes this need, and is looking forward to it.

The messages that I've been getting from the public over the past year have been mostly positive as well.  People are happy to see all the work being done on streets and sidewalks, and have noticed the reduction in bickering,and the increase in positive discussion, around the council table.

I've always enjoyed my work as a councillor, and felt appreciated for my efforts by the residents of Ward 3.  But this past year working with my colleagues on council has been much more fun - I only hope that we continue to look to improve our processes over the remaining three-quarters of our mandate.

"The way a team plays as a whole determines its success.  You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don't play together, the club won't be worth a dime." - Babe Ruth

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