Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Council BS Session

I just got this cartoon in an e-mail from a friend and thought it was very appropriate considering that a Council meeting was cancelled for a Council BS Session.

I admit I couldn't take it. I lasted only about an hour and a half at the Council Strategic Planning Session and then had enough. I can't take this BS stuff anymore. BrainStorming, what else did you think I meant. I expect you'll read about some of the factual events that took place in the Star or on radio and TV.

I just went there to get a "feel" for how this meeting was going to be handled rather than its content. Apparently, a number of Councillors were extremely upset at how the meeting was structured I was told. There was a bit of that at the beginning but not enough to dare challenge the Mayor. Anyway, he probably would have given that teacher-to-kindergarten student stare of his to quell any revolution and dismiss any negative comments.

I am glad to know that my inside moles were right again. There was no agenda, just everybody was supposed to speak and say what was on their mind. I was somewhat surprised at that given that they are a year and a half into a four-year term. This seemed to me to be what a Council should do right after being elected not now. Setting goals and objectives was a task that should have been accomplished a year ago.

All the Councillors were there except for Councillor Lewenza. He was away. Now that was strategic thinking on his part.
I would have thought that there would have been some information given to Councillors about decisions made in previous strategy sessions and what the status of the various items were. As Citistat was supposed to do.

There were some sheets on the walls of the meeting room with some of this information written on it but it was mentioned at the beginning in passing and then ignored. I would have thought that the Councillors should have made the Administrators steward to the various plans and programs that had been proposed in the past and then make changes if required based on the situation that the City is in today.

To be direct about it, my view is that the session should have taken place at six o'clock at Council and on Cable TV so that everyone in the City could see what the Councillors were thinking. There was no reason to have it at 4 p.m. off-site and out of sight. Please, the excuse given was that it was too tough to line up City staff otherwise. The only people there other than politicians and Administration were representatives from the media and two WeACT members and myself.

Here is an interesting part that I found extremely disturbing. Councillor Gignac immediately raised a Point of Order because she expected a discussion about the downtown to take place especially since the matter is on the Council Agenda for the 14th. She had expected some documentation and papers to be presented but there was nothing.

What boggles my mind is that the Councillor seemed to believe that it was quite proper to have a discussion about an important issue in the absence of citizens. Decisions can be made she seems to think at a strategic session rather than in Council Chambers so that the public can't know what goes on. But then again, this Council seems to run a lot of in camera sessions don't they.

One needn't worry however since the Mayor said that they could have more strategic sessions if they needed them. Perhaps one can be held before the next Council meeting or perhaps the next Council meeting on the subject can be deferred so that the Councillors can discuss this amongst themselves first to get a unified position. No point letting citizens know that people have different opinions.

I learned a few things at the session:
  • the Treasurer pointed out that the City is financially constrained and that there would be difficulties taking on new projects unless cuts are to be made in existing programs. What he meant to say but was too polite to do so is that the arena is sucking up all of our money
  • the CAO pointed out that we should not expect our public servants to do a tremendous amount of work over the next little while since 40% of them apparently are close to retirement age and he does not expect them to stay on even if the law entitles them to do so. With all of the days off and holidays that they are entitled to, we should not expect that a lot of work to be done in a very timely fashion. Morever, expect labour unrest as contracts are coming up for re-negotiation
  • thanks to the Councillor formerly known as Councillor Budget I learned that our industrial taxes are about the third-highest in the province and that our multi-residential taxes are also up there as well
  • it seems that people think that Windsor can be a retirement community except they forget that seniors need doctors and hospitals something that this area is lacking
  • good to know that some people believe that finding jobs is actually important
  • Unfortunately, jobs creation in construction is not too important it seems since tenders have NOT gone out promptly with many millions from last year still outstanding
  • when Administrators were asked to comment on what they thought was important to do, I was glad that those who spoke protected their own fiefdom
  • Greenlink was conspicuous by its absence
  • the border was hardly mentioned at all while I was there.

The most fun however was the beginning of the session. Planning, Windsor-style, at its finest.

The meeting was supposed to start at four o'clock but did not get started until 4:10 p.m. At that time, the Mayor demanded that the seating in the room be changed. Total chaos then. An indication of how he thinks strategically I guess---at the last minute and in a reactive not proactive manner. The Jobs Today Fund is a clear example of this.

Initially, the room was set up box-like, in a manner similar to the Council tables in the Chambers. The Mayor was at the front with several of his Administrators beside him in long row and with the Councillors sitting in long rows on either side of him. So there were three sides of a rectangular box filled in but not the fourth side. The Administrators were sitting as if they were in the audience at a Council meeting in several rows of chairs looking at the Mayor.

Well that was not good enough for Eddie. Staff was called in and for 20 minutes they brought in tables and chairs to rearrange the seating so that the Councillor rows could be extended and so that the fourth side of the rectangular box could be completed with Administrators sitting there .

It was now an impenetrable box with the media and citizens sitting outside of it, obviously where we belonged. It is strange that the Mayor told Council to

  • "Get outside the box."

And then he turned around and created one. Weird eh!

The other funny part, to me at least, was when the Mayor went around the table and asked each person to identify themselves and their position. Does that mean that some of the Administrators don't know each other or may not know who the Councillors are? Scary isn't it!

I really do not know what the session was designed to accomplish. For me, it was a waste of time when there are important issues that this Council must deal with now.

However, there is an undercurrent of dissatisfaction as far as I'm concerned amongst several of the Councillors. Unfortunately, they do not seem to be at the boiling point yet. Or more likely, there is no leader yet on Council who is prepared to challenge the status quo and around whom the other Councillors can rally. Until that time happens, if it ever does, this City will stagnate.