Continued delays on reports due to requests by city staff for more time caused city councillors' frustration to boil over.
As council combed through a line-by-line list of open issues and reports being worked on by city staff that was brought forward Monday, nearly all members vocalized their annoyance with the time it has taken to get some reports back to the table. Ward 8 Coun. Ted Zurakowski kicked off the round of the rants when he saw the projected end date on a report on the zoning out of methadone clinics from residential areas. The item was first discussed on Oct. 10, 2017, but the report wasn’t expected to be completed until Sept. 1, 2018.
“I am not very excited about the time length,” he said. “These issues are priorities.”
Zurakowski said councillors have to jump through a number of hoops and work hard to persuade their colleagues to vote in favour of each item on the list to get their requests investigated.
“My sense is that these priorities are not dealt with in a meaningful way. This is one example of where I think we need to take quicker action,” he said. “Are they busy? Yes. Understaffed? Yes. There is lots of work to be done, but somehow somebody needs to say, 'look, these are the priorities of council.'”
One report still open dated back to 2014 and concerned a motion brought forward by former councillor Lee Atkinson, while the other 62 reports scrutinized by council ranged from weeks to years old.
Next to criticize the lengthy delays was Ward 6 Coun. Blake Edwards, who said each councillor is an elected official that ran to accomplish tasks for the people, but that work was continuously being delayed.
"I am getting frustrated with these dates,” he said. “These reports need to come forward or why do we even bring them up.... How do we do business this way? You wouldn’t do it in the private world."
He quizzed staff on a resolution passed by a previous set of councillors that said each item was to be explored and brought back within 60 days at most. He said this timeline was rarely met and questioned why this no longer was practiced protocol.
Ward 1 Coun. Charlene Miller was equally frustrated by a delay requested for her motion concerning a possible toll on the Diefenbaker Bridge. Miller asked for a report on the subject on June 6, 2017, and was initially told it would come forward June 30, 2018, but administration asked for another year to finish a review of the idea.
“This is what we have been asked to do, so I brought something forward that is going to generate revenue towards a new bridge that some of us don’t really want to talk about, but we voted to talk about this,” Miller said.
Mayor Greg Dionne agreed many of the reports should have already come before council. He said recent staff turnovers, the handful of vacant positions and marijuana legislation were not helping the cause, but maintained there was still plenty of work going on. The mayor said he believed the issue boiled down to communication.
“I think it has to be refocused in administration how important these reports are to us and that we get them in a timely fashion,” he said after the meeting. “We understand things are not all perfect, but they have got to do better.”
At the end of the round of criticism from council, City Manager Jim Toye admitted a failure. He said he was “humiliated and embarrassed” by the comments he heard and agreed many of the reports had hung around for far too long.
“I have failed city council,” he said. “We will endeavour to do the best we can. We can do better and we will do better.”
He promised to recommit administration to the 60-day rule for future reports, and if a report is not able to be completed within that time frame, to quickly bring forward an update.
On Twitter: @JournoMarr
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