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Councillor/administration relations examined

Posted on June 8, 2016 by Taber Times

By Trevor Busch
Taber Times

A new standing item has been added to town council’s meeting agendas in an effort to mitigate individual councillors addressing concerns with administration on an ad hoc basis, rather than by council decision.

At their May 24 regular meeting, town council voted unanimously (6-0) to direct administration to add a new standing item to the regular council meeting agenda that would allow councillors to address administration about their concerns, ask questions, and direct municipal resources. Coun. Jack Brewin was absent from the meeting.

According to administration, as mayor and town council become more comfortable in their elected positions and gain a more thorough understanding of the municipality and its operations, “managers and staff are increasingly approached by members to answer questions or to undertake actions”.

“We’ve seen over the course of time councillors come in that have questions. They’re usually almost always valid questions. We’ve designed an easy way to have councillors get their answers,” said CAO Greg Birch. “By and large all of these questions are open and public, you should be all involved in them, you should all hear them. Some of them have an implication for how we allocate staff time.”

The Municipal Government Act only allows councils to act by resolution or bylaw, and “if one member wishes to see action on a certain item that requires the deployment or diversion of municipal resources, that does not mean all, or even a majority of the other six members, want town resources used in that manner”.

Specially highlighted by administration, it was pointed out that “all of council and the public want to know about issues of concern and interest in Taber, so this conversation should be shared anyway for better governance”.

“These are good questions, the media might pick up on some of them if they’re of interest, the public would know, and there would be a broad-based awareness amongst council members,” concluded Birch.

The new standing item was recommended to be added to assist in information sharing and ensure agreement on the relative importance of activities, and to facilitate a common understanding of issues of concern, so that councillors could discuss with each other and administration how best to deal with issues that arise, and would allow council to then provide suggestions or direction to administration as to how best to proceed.

“I think this is a good idea, because then we can bring forward concerns that are brought to us by the citizens,” said Coun. Laura Ross-Giroux. “We can at least get them on the radar.”

Additionally, administration outlined that having a regular council discussion about service levels will improve the ability of administration to meet the expectations of council, rather than dealing with the requests of administration on an ad hoc basis.

“I think it’s a good idea, because there should be no direction given, by any councillor, unless it is the opinion of the majority of council that’s what should be done,” said Coun. Randy Sparks. “So things like this need to brought to council, to this forum, and discussed as a council, and then direction comes from it, not just from one particular councillor. We all need to be in favour before any direction is given, so I think this a good idea.”

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