New council faces challenges

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Sir: Councillors, whether newly elected or re-elected, look up. If you thought the tough part was the election, pay attention to what’s coming at you now. It’s a freight train load of challenges like you’ve never seen.
If you are a returning incumbent and think you’ve been through this before, think again. The track is going through new territory.
Last term, you got away with playing at being deputy chief engineer or deputy director of planning. No more. Sitting in those chairs was redundant and harmful. We already have a chief engineer and director of planning. Having two people or 18 plus one in each administrative chair is overcrowding and just causes confusion. If you applied for those positions, you would be rejected. Being elected to council doesn’t give you a degree in engineering or masters in public administration.

What that election does is call on you to work with the mayor and fellow councillors to develop a 20-year vision for the municipality, a strategy to implement that vision (in four-year increments), and rolling five-year budgets to support that strategy. And then you have to articulate policies to guide the strategy and budget.

None of you (except possibly Darrin Canniff) have ever done this before for a situation as complex as this municipality.
And at least the broad outlines need to be in place by mid-January, with the inevitable off-job time over the holidays. If you miss that January deadline, one-quarter of your term will be shot, and the rest of the term will be in jeopardy. You can’t set a realistic budget without defining the needs of the municipality, and you can’t define those without defining the vision, strategy and policies. Sorry for the challenge, but that’s the job you signed up for. If it’s beyond your capabilities or desires, there are others waiting in the wings who can and will meet the challenge.

Why is this different from the past term? Because your constituents’ expectations now match the best practices in the field. Good municipal administration takes the council to a governance level as described above. It takes councillors out of the “weeds” of designing bus routes and violating provincial urban boundary orders into visioning, strategizing, policy formation and broad-picture (not line-by-line) budgeting.
If properly conducted, Council’s Nov. 4 orientation will have told you all of this. If not, careful reading of the municipal guidelines will confirm the division of roles between council and administration.

Council, suck it up and take on your legitimate role.

John Sigurjonsson

Chatham

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