Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Need for Consistency

I'm continually surprised by the lack of consistency in the way that the city applies its various rules and regulations.  It's as though we think that people won't notice the differences in the way things are done, and ask questions.  As an example, apartment buildings are required to have their own commercial dumpsters.  However, the three apartment buildings across the alley from my house were allowed to use the large city dumpsters in the alleyway since the city first moved to that type of garbage pick-up - we're talking several years of having this benefit.  When council moved to have this block go to individual bins rather than the communal bins, one of the delays was apparently because administration was concerned about the change for the apartment buildings, overlooking the lack of consistency with the rules that had been allowed to go on for years.

Another example, from the recent snowfall.  Before the plows go out to a neighbourhood, the city posts no parking signs, so that the plows can clear the street without leaving those awkward piles of snow in the middle of the street caused by having to go around the cars left by the thoughtless or those unable to read.  We've had several years of pushing for ticketing and towing, with limited success.  This year we announced that we were serious, ticketing would happen.  It's a step, although I think that towing makes a better point, and I know that in past years some vehicles have been towed.  But I was surprised to find out that when the plows were going through my neighbourhood, cars left on some streets were ticketed, but cars left on other streets were not ticketed.  I don't know why, and neither did the people who called me to find out why they had received a ticket when others who had committed the same offence were left untouched.

So what message are we sending with this inconsistency?  Well, one is that we're not really serious when we put out no parking signs - you might want to gamble and leave your car out, since enforcement is pretty hit and miss, and towing appears to not happen, judging by the piles of snow left by having the plows go around parked cars.  We also send the message that we're great at talking the big talk, but not so good at actual follow-up.  I find it funny that some councillors will talk tough at council, but when it comes to taking action, they back off, and privately mutter that "after all, it's an election year."

What's the solution?  Two things need to happen.  First, before we make bylaws, let's be sure that we have the intestinal fortitude to enforce them.  Second, administration needs to realize that enforcement isn't something that is done when you're in the mood, or when you have a grudge against the potential recipient, or when you figure that the recipient won't kick up a fuss - it's something that you apply consistently.   When this happens, less enforcement will be needed, because people will realize, for example, that when they don't pay their parking tickets, they will lose their vehicle.  I'm thinking that last week's action on a few of the worst offenders will scare more than a few offenders into paying what they owe.

And then we can  move on to expecting consistency in the way the city follows its own rules.  Businesses in the downtown are required to clear their walks within twenty-four hours of a snowfall - most get on it much quicker.  But when Andrea and I walked downtown on Saturday afternoon, nothing had been done on the walks in front of  and beside city hall, so we walked on the other side of the street.  Even though the Forest Centre was closed, the walks had been cleared.  Now, before you start complaining that clearing sidewalks on a weekend would cost extra overtime, let's think of the options.  If we're serious about making the downtown accessible and attractive, maybe it's time to move to contracting out this work, as the Forest Centre does.

Learning how to be consistent between what we say and what we do, no matter who we're dealing with or where in the city we are, has the potential to improve all kinds of things in our city.

"Success is neither magical nor mysterious.  Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying basic fundamentals." - Jim Rohn

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