Sunday, March 6, 2016

It Takes More Than a New Idea to Effect Change

A few individuals have started to declare their interest in running for council in October.  One of the consistent themes that they put forward is the need for new ideas.  They don't actually talk about what their new ideas might be, but they understand that new ideas are needed.

I've had some experience in proposing new ideas at council, and I wish that it were that simple.  I'm reminded of a quote from the author Arthur C. Clarke about the three stages of new ideas.

  1. It can't be done.
  2. It probably can be done, but it's not worth doing.
  3. I knew it was a good idea all along!
What seems to happen with new ideas that are brought to council is that they usually end at step 1.  If you're lucky, you might get to step 2 before the whole idea is scuttled, because your council colleagues don't see any value in the proposed change.  And there have been times when council has made it to step 3, and endorsed a new way of doing things, but administration has then gone back to step 1.  While I understand that figuring out how to change things is more work than just keeping on doing the same thing, the responsibility of both council and administration is not to make sure that things are convenient for ourselves, but rather that we are doing things as efficiently and effectively as possible for the residents of Prince Albert, because they are the ones who are paying the bills.

Tuesday's meeting to discuss the outstanding budgets was a good example of this.  Just like the main budget that was passed in the fall, these proposed budgets were just status quo with new things added on.  There was no attempt to find ways of doing things more efficiently, or to identify areas of spending where cutbacks could be made.  Suggestions that have been made at previous discussions have not been adopted, even if vague commitments were made to look at these suggestions.  One might almost think that administration has figured that if they delay things long enough a new council will come in, who won't remember, or care, that, for example, the previous council voted to move to monthly billing for sanitation and water, and things can go on just as before.

If I were a new candidate for council, I would attend a few council meetings to see just how complicated the process can be.  I would also not just make vague promises for new ideas - I would have a few solid examples of new ideas, and how to make them saleable to both your hoped-for colleagues and administration.  And work on developing your stamina - as one who has been there, done that, I know that you need to develop patience and a thick skin to keep fighting for the same ideas until they get adopted.

A new idea is just the start of the process.  Implementation - that's the difficult part of the job.

"The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as escaping from old ones." - John Maynard Keynes

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