Mayor Heather Jackson alluded to changes in her 2014 mayoral campaign and a report last fall on restructuring of at least one department at city hall recommended a re-think in how council conducts business.
A new game plan saw the light of day Thursday at a special meeting called to solicit dialogue on a proposed overhaul of council’s committee structure.
Currently, a system of seven standing committees is employed to deal with finance and administration; human resources; environmental services; protective services; community services; planning and development; and social services.
Business relating to each of these committees is managed within committee of the whole during regular meetings of council.
Under the new system presented by Jackson and CAO Wendell Graves, the seven committees will be scrapped in favour of four reference committees that would undertake discussions dealing with strategic community development and planning; community engagement and services; infrastructure management and civic operations; and local government and administration.
Two committees would each meet prior to the first and third council meetings of the month — proposed starting time of 4:30 p.m. — and present their reports to council at a future meeting.
The second council meeting of the month would be devoted to deputations and reports from outside boards and committees.
These reference committee meetings would be open to the public but not televised. An obvious shortcoming noted by Coun. Jeff Kohler.
While the new system was unanimously endorsed by council, it was not without fairly lengthy debate on its merits.
“I am having a hard time wrapping my head around how this is going to make things more efficient,” noted Kohler, who stressed the meetings really should be televised.
Coun. Gary Clarke also questioned the perceived efficiencies of the revamped committee structure.
However, it was two thumbs up from Coun. Mark Tinlin, familiar with the structure from previous municipal experience in eastern Ontario.
As for public access, Tinlin stressed he was not concerned about the lack of television coverage at the new meetings.
Tinkering for the sake of tinkering or a new model of efficiency in the council chamber?
The system — to be rolled out at the April 6 meeting — will undergo a review after six months.
HERE WE GO AGAIN
In a determined bid to get on with the business of moving the city forward, Jackson two weeks ago ruled out of order a motion by Kohler calling for city staff to obtain quotes from local contractors to renovate the second floor of the Colin McGregor Justice Building.
That should have closed the books on any attempt to revisit renovations of the existing police station, but keep in mind Kohler campaigned on a promise such an undertaking is possible for under $2 million.
There’s an element of saving face involved here.
So, what appears on Tuesday’s council agenda?
A motion tabled by Coun. that a Class B estimate for renovating the Colin McGregor Justice Building be obtained that keeps within the guidelines of Report ES47-14 (that deals with the extent of renovations that can be undertaken without applying for a building permit) and does not include any expansion or addition to the existing building.
Do you actually think Burgess — who has yet to find his voice at any council meeting this year — is promoting this undertaking of his own volition?
If so, he has an extremely short memory.
Last month, Burgess did not hesitate in approving inclusion of a $13 million expenditure for construction of a new police facility in Part 1 of the 2015 capital budget.
Earlier this month, Burgess had no qualms lending his support to a recommendation to proceed with a bylaw that would authorize borrowing up to $14.6 million for construction of a one-storey police headquarters on city-owned land adjacent to the Timken Centre.
So, what would possess Burgess to back peddle furiously and recommend we now spend more taxpayer dollars on an estimate for renovations that at least two consultants have stressed would require some form of expansion to accommodate new building code and accessibility requirements?
Perhaps he is nothing more than the front man for a councillor attempting an end run aimed at breathing life into a motion previously shot down in flames.
Forcing Jackson to employ one of two options: similarly rule this motion out of order or prevail on the good sense of the rest of council to deep six it and put an end to this frivolous waste of time.
What is truly puzzling in all of this renovate/build new controversy is the similarity to a dialogue in 2003 over the future of the former Northside Arena.
A 2003 report from Robert Foster of the Stonewall Group — a document which, as best as we can determine, never was presented to the council of the day — indicated the arena could be rehabilitated for $2.8 million, giving the city a fully modernized second ice pad that would be functional until 2028.
Instead, Kohler was a key player in the move to proceed with what became the $13 million Timken Centre. Why renovate when you can build new?
So why the change of heart today, where a supposed $2 million renovation to the existing police station is now de rigueur and a $13 million expenditure is fiscally irresponsible?
And what really did happen to the 2003 Stonewall Report?
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“And unfortunately, when you get volunteers, after a lot of years, when they’re doing their best, it gets tiring. So I think that we need to get it back. We need to get it started again.”
George Maxey, a member of a group attempting to revive the annual Holiday Fantasy of Lights in Pinafore Park after a one-year hiatus.
City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.