Sunday, January 5, 2014

New Year - A Time for Change

It seems traditional that the new year is a time for changes - wishes for a better year than the last, new calendars, resolutions to break bad habits or develop new ones - all precipitated by the arbitrary ending of one year and the start of the next.

Once again, I didn't manage to stay awake to welcome the new year.  I've never been one for New Year's Eve festivities, and as I get older, it gets less and less likely that I will actually see the new year in.  But that doesn't stop it from coming, or me from enjoying our family's version of Hogmanay celebrations the next day - a holdover from the Scottish half of Andrea's upbringing - cinnamon rolls, gifts, baked ham and butter tart pie are all involved.

The start of the new year is also the traditional time for looking over the last year.  On a personal level, we enjoyed a couple of good holidays, and I replaced the roof on the house, realizing when my back rebelled in a major way that I'm not as young as I'd like to be.  But the job got done, and I'm already looking around the house, discussing what the next project should be.  That's the good thing about living in a century plus house - never a shortage of projects to keep one out of mischief.

On the council front, I think that the highlight of the past year for me was the growing realization by council as a whole that the status quo approach to our jobs just isn't good enough.  We always have to be looking for ways to do things better.  And it's not just council that has to adopt this approach - we need to have administration on side, doing thorough assessments of what needs doing, what it's going to cost, and how more can be done with less.

Change, while inevitable for making progress, also involves risk.  The great temptation is to minimize the risk by minimizing the change, but this short-changes the possibilities.  What we need to do is an honest determination of what the risks might be, using facts and actual practices, rather than myth and rumour, and take action which minimizes the risk as much as possible.  Our open discussions and detailed review of current expenditures have illustrated the excellent change in the way we develop budgets, and I'm looking forward to similar detailed discussions when the proposed budget is presented.

One of our biggest operational changes will happen when Jim Toye, the new city manager, formally starts his work with us on Monday, although he's already been in City Hall gathering information and getting his bearings.  With this change, I'm looking forward to a high level of co-operation between administration and council as we begin the task of setting priorities for the budget, easily the most important job of city council in any year.

I thought that last year was a very good first year for this council.  I hope that this year is even better.

In order to change the world, you have to get your head together first." - Jimi Hendrix

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