staff we trust
city is about to embark on another budget setting process,
but for intent and purpose it was over before it even
staff have been working on the budget for months. In fact,
while all the councilors were our campaigning to get elected,
city staff were crunching numbers and working within priorities
already established by the previous council in 2011.
current budget process is all about maintaining the status
quo, or to be more specific, sticking to the priorities
already established in the Long Range Financial Plan,
the Master Transportation Plan and the Strategic Plan.
Long Range Financial Plan establishes how everything is
going to be paid for, including how mush debt the city
is willing to take on; how high our water and sewer bills
are going to go and how much homeowners subsidize the
Master Transportation Plan lays out how many roads, bike
lanes and pathways are going to be built; when they are
going to be built; and how theyre going to be funded.
the Strategic Plan is the key corporate planning document
that defines what Council plans to accomplish over its
to the City of Ottawas own definition, the Strategic
Plan forms the foundation of the Citys work
efforts to deliver quality and relevant services to residents
by providing strategic guidance to all departmental plans,
policies and programs, and supports long-term sustainability
of which sounds wonderful if youre into navel-gazing
and establishing a corporate vision yaddy, yadda, yadda.
But in the end it is staff, and senior staff in particular,
who run their departments the way they see fit as long
as they stay within the parameters of the Strategic Plan
and as long as they dont go over budget.
only problem is that nothing gets done without the proper
funds and the city doesnt have any, or at least
is doesnt have any extra money to spend on promises
or commitments made by unknowledgeable, ambitious city council
wannabes in the middle of an election campaign.
thats what a lot of these men and women dont
there is no money for pet projects or empty
campaign promises, and the deck is stacked against them
should they even attempt to try.
I wrote earlier, the budget process is designed to maintain
the status quo. Each committee will look at their departments
respective budgets, must will simply be rubber-stamped.
There may be the odd committee member who will try to
table an amendment that will either save money, or a program
or project that will end up costing more money, but more
times than not they are shot down never to see the light
of day in front of the full council.
only way to add anything to the budget is to first get
the approval of the Mayor. Without Watsons approval
youre doomed. Youre especially doomed if you
cant find the necessary offsetting savings to pay
for your wonderful idea. But even if you do, you must
still get the approval of a majority of you colleagues,
which once again is nearly impossible without the Mayors
its a one-time expenditure, say for more crossing
guards, or for speed bumps on Viseneau Avenue, you can
always try your luck by accessing funds in two envelops
stuffed with cash that have been set aside for whats
called Strategic Initiatives. These are funds
that will be doled after the budget is passed.
is $4.9 million in the Strategic Initiative envelope for
operating expenses and $31 million in the strategic initiative
envelop for capital projects. According to the city, the
money has been set aside to help fund initiatives that
will be coming out of the 2015-2018 Strategic Planning
process which will begin right after the budget is passed
in late March or early April. The only problem is that
a lot of councilors made a lot of promises during the
election$35.9 million doesnt go as far as it used
will be interesting to see which councilors have the gravitas
to get a piece of the Strategic Initiative pie, and to
what degree the process will be influenced both
behind the scenes and in the public eye by Mayor Watson.
in the east end someone like Jody Mitic, who promised
to fix traffic concerns on Bearbrook, Forest Valley, Viseneau
and Mer Bleu Roads as well as turn the Blackburn Arean
into a community hub, will have his work cut out for him.
First, he has to compete with veterans like Stephen Blais
and Bob Monette. And second he will have stiff competition
from fellow first-timers like Tobi Nussbaum, Catherine
McKenney, Jeff Leiper and Riley Brockington whose resumes
coming into the job are far more extensive than his and
who have already demonstrated some skill for the job during
the first two city council meetings.
also interesting to note that Mitic is the only new councillor
who wasnt given a deputy chair position on any of
the standing committees. Instead, he was named the citys
first sports commissioner which is largely a ceremonial
role in which he will be the mayors proxy in dealing
with groups who want to bring a major sporting event to
no mistake about it, this is Jim Watsons city and
he plans to run it his way. I said the same thing when
he first got elected four years ago. He is the antithesis
of Larry OBrien. Like OBrien he wants to run
things his way, but unlike OBrien he has the political
acumen to make it seem like all those around him are an
integral part of the process. Their ideas and opinions
are deeply valued, but in the end Jim will do whatever
Jim wants to do. Kind of like the current state of party
politics in Canada.
although on one level its all gum drops and moonbeams,
especially if youre happy with the status quo, but
on the other if you have some new idea to offer that will
help make the city a better place, say invest more in
social services, or properly maintain this citys
sports fields, or facilitate the efforts of volunteer
organizations by investing staff time and dollars without
hand-cuffing them with cost recovery nonsense then God
help you, because the powers that be at 111 Lisgar
Street arent going to. Its not in their Strategic
you wish to comment on this or any other View Point column
please write to Fred Sherwin at firstname.lastname@example.org).
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