I’m still bummed by the Finance Committee’s request to go on a hiatus, in the middle of budget season, and asking Town Staff to look into policies and procedures for how a finance committee should operate. It also brings to the forefront issues the Town has with committees. Let me share my experience and thoughts with committees.
At this point, according to the town’s website we have a total of 18 committees as listed below. Here’s a link to the page that provides more information on the individual committees and links to their minutes. (My understanding of their current status is provided in italics.)
- Bobby Orr Hall of Fame Advisory Committee [Active, no minutes published]
- Boulevard Maintenance Committee [Unknown, no minutes published]
- Citizens’ Finance Advisory Committee [Active, minutes published]
- Civic Pride Committee [Unknown, no minutes published]
- Committee of Adjustment [Active, minutes published]
- Community Emergency Planning Committee [Unknown, no minutes published]
- Community Rail Safety Committee [Currently inactive, minutes published]
- Charles W. Stockey Centre for the Performing Arts Advisory Committee [Active, no minutes published]
- Facade Improvement Committee [Not formed]
- Fence Viewers Committee [As required only, no minutes published]
- Municipal Heritage Committee [Not formed]
- Town / Algonquin Regiment Veterans Assoc. Heritage Committee [Active, minutes published]
- Property Standards Committee [As required only, no minutes published]
- Provincial Offences Advisory Committee [Active, no minutes published]
- Public Transportation Committee [Active, regular deputations, no minutes published]
- Specialized Transportation Committee [Unknown, no minutes published]
- Waterfront Advisory Committee [Active, minutes published]
- Youth Action Committee [Unknown, no minutes published]
I sit on two of these committees, the Community Rail Safety Committee and the Stockey Advisory Committee, let me share my experiences. In the case of the Rail Safety Committee we met over the period of about a year. The citizens on the committee met separately and worked through issues for discussion with the full committee which include two members of Council and four members of Staff. The citizen’s group provided the full committee with its recommendations more than a year ago. What has become of the recommendations? Well actually nothing as far as I can tell. Hmm, interesting outcome.
The Stockey Advisory Committee is also interesting. It was made very clear to me when I requested information about the Stockey Centre that the committee was not a board. We would look at what was presented to us and offer comments and suggestions. Well we have looked and we have commented, but only on issues that have been presented to us. Okay, I get it. I am reminded of the comment, “Beware of those requesting feedback they are seeking validation’.
So the committees I have been sitting on have had little more than zero impact. But if you are required to have a committee by statute you had better have a committee if you want to at least meet expectations.
The Waterfront Committee has been busy and is moving things forward bit by bit. Their minutes are a wealth of information and suggest a committee that is quite active, meetings are frequent and minuted. They even have a budget to work with. Perhaps that’s why I’m confused by the recent proposals to Council concerning a new logo and slogan. Both items were presented with little or no detail to explain their intent and benefits. There was no deputation, and little written support in the R&R, to provide Council and the public with the necessary background on the proposed changes. There are very capable people serving on the Waterfront Committee. You can’t just toss out this type of proposal before Council and hope they ‘get it’ on first look. Somewhere there is a disconnect.
And there is the Finance Committee. I have been going through the minutes of this committee and perhaps have some idea of what’s going on. I’ll provide my thoughts in a separate post. There seem to be issues that are not well disguised by the committee’s request for a hiatus and help in understanding their responsibilities.
And why have some committees just ‘disappeared’. What happened to the Façade Improvement Committee and the Heritage Committee? Well if you don’t get the support of Council and Staff perhaps you start to think you are part of a charade. Why go through the motions if Council and Staff don’t want to ‘play’.
Staff recently suggested Council turn down a suggestion to form a Parks Committee. I applaud the staff member for that recommendation. There is no reason to form committees if Staff and Council have no interest in their recommendations. Lead, follow, or get out of the way. No need to bluff.
Council and Staff can bemoan the fact that there is little public attendance and input at public meetings. But if the Town isn’t why bother to speak? It seems to be more effective to buttonhole a member of Council at work or home rather than stand up and express an opinion at a public meeting.
Dead or Castrated? Perhaps more like neglected, ignored and a little ‘managed’. But what’s the solution?
Let’s work through some ideas in a separate post. Something needs to be done.
Sometimes the Right Door Isn’t the Front Door (Parry Sound in B&W)