Monday, February 21, 2011

Thoughts on Delegating

Sometime when you’ve got nothing better to do head down to your local Silly Hall or Regional Government (if you are lucky enough to have two municipal governments) and delegate. It is your civic duty.

In that spirit I combed my hair, put on the closest thing that I’ve got to church clothes, and headed off to the Region of Halton Canada recently to address the budget.

Delegating is always a learning experience. Here is what I learned.

First, when you are finished speaking don’t sit down. Once you sit down Councillors will ask staff questions and you will have no ability to respond. Staff can say anything like: Bob Wood has a point but he would have more credibility on poverty issues if he hadn’t got his Grade Eight diploma out of a vending machine.

Second, Councillors will not ask questions that you are expecting. I came prepared to answer in the negative as to whether I or members of my immediate family and/or committee colleagues had ever been members of the Communist Party. You can imagine my surprise when asked whether I thought water rates are regressive.

Third, expect to engage in philosophical first year university discussions when you believe the agenda is fairly focussed or alternatively expect to focus on the agenda when you would like to engage in airy fairy dialogue.

And finally, remember when you get the urge and feel like delegating that these issues are always too complicated for the public. That is why God created politicians, I guess.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Community Gardens, Horses and Cost Overruns

Citizens at City Hall (CATCH) does a terrific job of reporting on goings on at Hamilton’s Silly Hall.

Today’s story documents concerns about the hiring of a Community Garden Co-ordinator.

Some Councillors are worried that this would open the door to all sorts of cost over runs. Councillor Ferguson’s insights (which follow) brought a smile to my face on this cold Saturday morning.

It is always impressive how Councillors can bring personal experience to their understanding of how to do public business.

Ferguson: "On that, you know I look at this and in theory it sounds wonderful. And just I’m a little bit with councillor Whitehead as to watch the cost. I know from personal experience. My daughter got into riding and she wanted … We had to buy her a horse, and buy her a trailer, and buy a truck to haul it, and build a barn. It was a hundred bucks every time you put her in a show and she was all excited when she won five bucks. I’m just worried this could be the same thing. I see this $65,000 for the staff person, plus the property, plus, plus, plus and to say grow $500 worth of vegetables. So I just want us to keep our eye on the ball on this thing to make sure it’s prudently spending taxpayers’ dollars, and not a whole bunch of money on a horse that doesn’t have great payback. And I understand people like to grow their own vegetables, that’s great, but when we start adding staff it starts a multiplier effect and in addition to the property, and the parks department’s got to go work it up with a rototillers and stuff. So I just want to make sure we always understand total cost, and understand the payback side as to whether or not we’re making the right investment. Then we can balance that against the whole theory of people having the opportunity to grow their own vegetables. Thank you."

And thank you Councillor Ferguson.