March 26 GPC Summary & Observations

Instead of rehashing the mind numbing brain pain of yesterday’s meeting in all its glory, I have written about the meeting I would have held instead. If you want some additional context for yesterday’s meeting that occurred, please check out my Early Thoughts that were published on Wednesday.

Here is the actual meeting video as well if you feel the need.

 Consent Agenda

If I wanted to have a consent agenda item on the full agenda, I would have published my agenda with these items listed in accordance with a Consent Agenda policy. I would not have started my meeting by making proposals for what could be passed with no discussion, because if an item did not require discussion or review I would not have placed it on the agenda in the first place.

Reserve Fund Policy Review

I would have had this item first on the agenda for two reasons:

  1. The item involved a presentation from a consultant from Seattle with FCS Group who had a 1pm ticket for returning to Seattle;
  2. Because the JSB was also on the agenda yesterday with a request to use reserves, it would be good for Council to have full knowledge of the current status of financial reserves going into such a discussion.

For the benefit of the public I would have provided separate attachments (instead of one massive attachment) on the agenda under this topic heading:

Staff Report – Reserve Fund Policy Review

City of Victoria Reserve Fund Policy

Victoria Reserve Fund Policy Bylaw

Reserve Fund Policy Review- Recommended Target Balance Methodology

Reserve Fund Policy Review – FCS Group Report

I would have had the meeting start with a presentation from the Director of Finance who would talk briefly about the Community Charter requirements, current reserve accounts held by the City, and also remind Council that this is the report they were promised in  January of this year which indicated that no target balances are currently available because they require completion of the facilities assessment first.

Here is the video of what happened instead. The staff recommendations were passed as written.

Skateboarding and Streets & Traffic Bylaw

I would have had staff start this item with a clear synopsis of when and how this issue has previous come before Council. Then I would have had them provide a history of the issue in Victoria, and I would have also had them give a brief overview of municipal powers relating to skateboards within the context of the Motor Vehicle Act. Once that was complete, I would have had the Director of Citizen Engagement and Strategic Planning talk about relevant public consultation.

From there, Council would have been equipped to decide on the recommendations at hand.

Here is a video of what happened instead. The staff recommendations were passed as written.

Encouraging the Growth of Car Share

While this is an issue that Council is likely quick to support, because nothing to do with car share programs was explicitly included in their draft strategic plan (which is to suggest they don’t have such issues on their administrative/regulatory radar), I would have had staff start with a presentation on the City’s regulatory/administrative responsibilities and powers related to the various types of car share programs.

But instead this item got pushed off to the next GPC meeting, which I believe is on April 4, despite an argument by Councillor Isitt that there was (at the time) still a possible five hours left to their meeting.

Johnson Street Bridge – Budget and Seismic

Because this is the biggest, most political and most attention grabbing item on the agenda I would have had it come last for two reasons:

  1. By having it come last, opportunistic news media are forced to sit through the rest of the meeting agenda and in doing so, they may actually learn about how Council operates.
  2. Because it is a political issues a lot of Councillors are prone to grandstanding and if you have grandstanding at the start of the agenda, this mentality persists through the remainder of your meeting and nobody likes or needs that.

Because the purpose of this primary agenda item was to request additional funds so that the project could continue, I would have had staff start the meeting with a quick overview of:

  • who is responsible for what?
  • who has what budgets for what?
  • who has spent what parts of their budgets?
  • who needs more money?
  • why is more money needed?

And because the project director, Mr. Jonathan Huggett is an engineer and self described “terrible communicator as an Engineer” I would have tasked a relevant staff member with helping Mr. Huggett prepare both a clear report and a clear presentation.

Here is a video of what happened instead. Council decided to only approve spending an additional $1.5 million instead of the requested $4.8 million. The purpose of their doing so was to allow for immediate “checks to be cut” and to also signal their commitment to oversight on the bridge.

With respect to the JSB Seismic item that was also on the agenda, I would not have allowed the original Seismic items on the agenda back on March 12 because the way in which this item bled over on to yesterday’s agenda really reflected how unprepared Mr. Huggett was for dealing with this item.

Furthermore, at the time I hired Mr. Huggett I would have made very clear to him the expectation that he be open and available for news media so as to keep him from making public complaints like he did yesterday, when he made disparaging remarks about having to waste two weeks of his resources on a non-issue.

Inappropriate Agenda Items

I would not allowed the Use of Parks & Green Spaces for Overnight Shelter (because the report was not completed at the time the agenda was issued and the item was subsequently removed from the agenda) or Lebanese Emigrant Statue items on the agenda (because there is currently a policy in the works for how to respond to such requests and so it is inappropriate for Council to be directing staff  in absence of a relevant policy).

Additionally, I would not have had the conference request item for Mayor Helps, Councillor Loveday and Isitt to attend the AVICC AGM and conference on the agenda because this is a conference we would expect them to attend. If it were a request to attend a Maple Syrup conference, then sure, public debate is warranted and I would have required such an item to be placed on the agenda.





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