Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Someone had to speak up

Well, I had my five minutes at Council last night, for what it's worth. The outcome was about as I expected. The report was accepted as presented. What was truly surprising to me was to hear several Councillors express their wish to implement all the positions and in their view the way to do that was to move forward with the report.

I wonder - did they read the report? In what way is it "moving forward" with the Ombudsman position when the report recommends doing nothing other than monitoring what other Municipalities do?

On one hand we're going to monitor and study what other municipalities are doing, while at the same time we're going to duplicate what's already been done in Toronto by initiating a voluntary Lobbyist registry for one year. At the end of that time period, we're going to study it some more to determine whether or not to proceed. Funniest line of the evening - Toronto has a problem with Lobbyists, but that's not really an issue in Windsor.

The Auditor General position gets it's referral to the Audit Committee for study along with two other internal audit questions. The Mayor expressed his hope that the Committee's report would return to Council on a "timely" basis. Given City Time TM, we should expect this to come back before Council for consideration sometime in January of 2008, if we're lucky. By then, the 2008 Budget will be nearing or already approved. Ooops - to late for this year. If Council really wants to demonstrate their commitment to these positions then they will earmark an appropriate amount of funds in this year's budget for the establishment of an Auditor General's office.

One further note on the Auditor General that I had to drop out of my presentation last night. Although Police, Library and Health Boards are explicitly exempt from the Auditor General the Toronto Boards have already seen the value of the Auditor General to their organization and voluntarily invited the office to begin audits. Their intention is to lobby the Province for the removal of these restrictions when the City of Toronto Act comes up for review.

The one position that did pass last night was the Integrity Commissioner. The position with the least amount of relevance to the average taxpayer received wholehearted support from most at Council. If Councillors were frustrated with Alan Halberstadt's recitation of examples from Toronto, they should actually visit the website and read all the reports. Frustration will be the least of their worries now that they have created this position. "Inside the Expressway" political football doesn't even begin to describe what awaits.

Hat tip to Councillor Halberstadt for requesting separate votes on each one of the eight recommendations. I'm still trying to figure out what mental cartwheels were required by the various Councillors who so eloquently spoke about the need to create all of these positions, but then voted to do virtually nothing.

Congratulations to Council on successfully hiding behind an administration report yet again. We so often speak of the need for Windsor to lead the Province instead of following. Last night we looked the situation squarely in the eye and ran the other way as fast as the votes could be counted. My only hope is that there are some municipalities in this Province who truly do wish to lead and will create all of the various positions. If someone else leads, Windsor will surely follow, eventually.

Edit: Well, here's the first municipality to step up to the plate. Congratulations to Markham on leading the way.