Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Without A Compass How To Navigate?

Without a Good Chart and Compass 
Navigation Leads To Inevitable Shipwreck
Core Review Essential To Good Government

After two years in office, city council has decided it 'might' be a good idea to actually get some reliable tools to aid in navigating the city through the future. I say might, because what really only happened was that once again council referred the matter to staff to define and estimate the cost of a core review. Once again, demonstrating their inability to make a decision on their own.

Councillor Kipp made a motion that basically would hire an outside consultant to evaluate how the corporation of the city of Nanaimo is being run, and how it could possibly be run more efficiently. The motion by itself did not have the support of Holdom, Ruttan, Pattje and Johnstone, which would mean that by itself it would not have passed. Only when the motion was changed calling for staff to 'begin' the process by defining what the review should consist of and estimate it's cost, and report back to council did it receive approval.
This action or lack of action is the hallmark of this and I am sure previous councils. That is why the sign bylaw for example is still being kicked around and why the issue of helping the homeless is still in the planning stages after years of political football.

During the debate Councilor Sherry asked city manager Al Kenning if during all his years on city staff, had there ever been a core review. Kenning replied that to his knowledge the answer was no. Councilor Sherry pointed out that in his short tenure (humour) as a city councilor he too was not aware of such a review.

You might think that a corporation managing roughly $150,000,000.00 might have considered actually defining their priorities as to how they are going to spend taxpayers money. That is a pretty basic fundamental when it comes to good management.

A Good Question

A question which I have posed before and I pose here again directed to taxpayers and city councilors "what exactly are the services which city hall should be providing?". In other words how far beyond water, sewer, garbage removal and road repair and maintenance do we as citizens want our tax dollars being spent on.

Once you have decided what core services you want council to provide, you can then establish a budget to meet those goals. Part of the budget process absolutely needs to include a realistic assessment of what the taxpayer can actually afford to pay. That should be the bottom line in establishing a budget. Let me repeat, the bottom line for establishing a budget is what the taxpayer can actually afford to pay, and not how much does it take to creatively spend money providing services which the population as a whole does not wish to spend money on.

What Happens

What happens in this and any large community, is you get special interest groups with their own special agendas, who get organized behind politicians who will do their bidding when it comes to allocation of city monies. Remember it takes no where near a majority of eligible voters support to get someone elected to this council. If you can get 14% of the voters to support you, chances are you get elected.

Once elected the special interest group has the ear of at least one vote on council, and that is how city budgets get blown way out of proportion to what the average taxpayer wants to support with their hard earned money.

That is why your taxes have gone up by over 25% in the last five years and will go up by at least that again in the next five years.

A core review which should result in a clearly defined set of goals and objectives and means of managing is only the first step to good management of taxpayers funds in this city. As usual, I suspect this council will dilly dally and dither away as they usually do and nothing which actually be resolved.

Question To Council

Over the past two years, all of you have been working very hard on a wide host of subjects. You have spent hours and hours studying this and studying that and making decisions on the management of a multi-million dollar corporation.

Q: "in the past two years what have been your defining decisions and direction you are taking the city?".


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