Monthly Archives: March 2017

The Devil in the Minutiae of Minute Details

It was with mixed emotions that I watched councilor Butler make good use of the video recordings of council meetings I make available to the public.

Last council meeting she came with a list of corrections to the Minutes of previous meetings. Clearly she had watched and listened to them because she referred to specific times in the video content. Watch and listen below

Kudos to councilor Butler for using the tools at her disposal to ensure recorded minutes reflect what really happened. I’ll confess I’m feeling a bit happy to see my efforts being put to good use.

What makes me unhappy is what she found and what it says about City staff’s reliability: faulty record keeping of public meetings of record.

We have to be able to trust those we employ to do their jobs. If they do not things could happen we’d rather not have happen. And the results could range from minor to expensive.

At the start of this council’s term it was fairly evident that councilor Butler’s opinion of the idea of trusting professionals to do their jobs and take care of the city’s interests was not as high as other councilors. And even though she’s been less than successful in getting the rest of council to dig down into the details it hasn’t deterred her from doing that herself. She’s apparently put in the work to plow through documents and try to understand and familiarize herself with the information packages that come along with requests for decision. And it appears that her rocky ride has caused her to get schooled up on procedure and rules of order to the point that she often comes up with quick responses to questions like what can or can’t be done or what order things are to follow. Even though we don’t see eye to eye on things I do commend her for knuckling down and growing into the position she holds.

To say I’m a bit chagrined that my work can be used to lend support to the idea that trusting staff is not good enough . . . well that’s bit of an understatement. And the fact that in order to comment on it I’m also having to commend a councilor I don’t get along with – that leaves a bad taste in my mouth (no, it isn’t crow).

But it is what it is.

Mistakes can happen for a number of reasons. Staff aren’t perfect – they are human and their abilities can be affected by many things.

I would hope that the reason gets determined and, if needed, something done. I don’t need to see heads rolling down the steps at city hall but I would like to think they will try and ensure mistakes and omissions like this don’t happen again and again. Because we should be able to trust that staff do their jobs correctly shouldn’t we?

Christina Lake Launches Canada 150 Event

Christina Lake held their official Launch of their Canada 150 Event: Homecoming / Retrouvailles Summer Festival (which happens in the summer). The Launch drew a crowd of dozens and was held in the Welcome Centre. Present were MP Richard Cannings, Director McGregor and Mayor Konrad members of the media, tourism staff and the public.

 

Deja Poo

Council is having flashbacks! – Wait – Maybe that’s me having flashbacks!

Just last council I experienced:

  • official announcement of Diane Heinrich to be temporary CAO because Doug Allin has left
  • Councilors alluding to a toxic environment behind the scenes in their official Reports and statements in session
  • Staff making mistakes – things begin left out – with official city documentation.
  • Cannabis dispensaries and police make presentations before council

But two years ago, back in the first months of their first term, we had

  • an acting CAO (same person as now) because the previous CAO (same one) had been let go
  • councilors complaining about a toxic environment behind the scenes
  • staff morale paralyzing forward progress and leading to mistakes (which we found out about a year later courtesy of CBC’s Chris Walker)
  • a Cannabis dispensary (same one as now) and the police making a presentation before council

Back then there were two members of council on one side of a divide with the rest of council on the other. One of the two crossed over to the other side, one of the five resigned. The new member finds herself in the party of two on one side of some sort of divide.

Did I mention that people are still bringing up water meters in question period, there’s still no safe, legal place to buy your pot and one of the five may end up giving up her seat?

So I have to ask: Is this Grand Forks City Council or Groundhog Day City Council?

The only real changes are where you would expect some continuity: the new staff faces that are replacing the old staff faces, the ones that have left.

A government has a corporate machine behind it that takes care of the day to day business of the physical entity that is the City. The staff are an asset to the community and over time the community invests in these assets through training and skills upgrading. We hope that good staff stay on and give continuity to the smooth operating of the city. Staff hold positions because of their ability to perform, their merit.

The elected government provides guidance, oversight and stewardship as representatives of the citizens and tax payers in the city. Every election cycle it’s possible for the whole government to change completely because different people won the election. Now there’s no guarantees these elected people  know anything about government of how cities operate. The only thing we know for sure is that they won a popularity contest.

Once they’re elected they have the same chance as anyone to make it or break it in the performance of their roles. And though they don’t have any real power over the operating of the city machine, they do have the power to poison the atmosphere and depress morale.

Since this council began we’ve lost most of our top tier staff.

We know that there are things going on behind the scenes, behind closed doors. It would be obvious to even a complete stranger sitting in on some of the meetings. But council is loath to publicly make accusations or recount anecdotes to explain what is happening. (with rules and prohibitions on their behaviour and speech it’s no wonder) So we get these vaguely worded reports and statements that allude and intimate without delivering the goods.

How long can this go on?When is the next election?

And between the local government and the federal government we won’t be able to resort to pot to numb our fears until then. Because even though the city has the legal power to regulate dispensaries via licensing it’s waiting for a report from Staff on what the options and pitfalls are. And from previous experience I can tell you that when the City is understaffed, under stress and going through transitional changes it doesn’t operate at peak efficiency.