This article is inspired by two tweets I received from Mayor Helps, one last night and one this afternoon. The first tweet appeared to be a response from her reading my tweets from yesterday’s GPC (I sit and live tweet all City meetings for those of you not on twitter) and then earlier this afternoon she retweeted one of my other tweets that I also made yesterday. It was this 2nd one that surprised me and inspired me to respond on my blog.
So what were the tweets?
Here is the tweet from last night:
Here is the tweet (actually a retweet) from this afternoon:
So what are the tweets about?
They are in response to my continued coverage of decision that was actually first made at an April 14th GPC meeting when they were making final changes to their 2015 financial plan. It was a properly-voted (as per Council procedures see sect 21 on page 14) decision to “reallocate $60,000 from the downtown beautification account for specific use along Douglas St for purposes of the Charrette Report that was initiated by the DVBA”. And because Council decisions are documented through meeting minutes I went searching for the actual formal documentation of such a decision.
But there wasn’t any.
In fact it appears as though no minutes were taken of the the series of four meetings that occurred on the following days:
- April 9th (my meeting summary)
- April 13th (my meeting summary)
- April 14th (my meeting summary)
- April 15th (my meeting summary)
I’m hoping that minutes were taken & maybe just not uploaded? This probably wasn’t the case mind you, because if there were already documented minutes then the motion from Mayor Helps from yesterday would have been redundant from a procedural perspective. So what does this mean for City process? Of note is that all the other decisions made during those four meetings for how to spend new money are captured in this one staff report from April 30th.
It means that a decision to reallocate money for a specific project was made one day (April 14th) there was then a presentation from the folks who did the project to which this money would be allocated on another day (April 23rd or see page 3 in the minutes) and then this decision (already made) was brought forward again (May 7th) to be formalized because as noted above, there don’t appear to be any minutes from the first day the decision was made. And as noted in the tweet I got from the Mayor, this decision to reallocate funding for specific use was made in absence of the actual plan itself for what works could/may occur (see the 1st tweet pic above).
It is here that our mayor asks us to trust – tells us to have faith.
My relationship with faith
My late grandpa was an Anglican Minister, and when I was a young child I was instructed by him to pray each night. Specifically, I was instructed to pray that the tumour like object in my throat would shrink and that the odd growth on my aorta (heart) would also shrink. Prayer didn’t work though and so I ended up having two surgeries to remove my thyroid and two surgeries to repair my aortic value (sub aortic stenosis). These days things are well managed through the use of atheistic medication.
All and all anyone who knows me knows I’m slow to trust. Instead of the hope and a prayer leap of faith mentality of our mayor, I use critical thinking, research and evidence to direct my decision making and inform my opinions. For those of you who read my site regularly, you know that I’ve got a Masters in Public Administration and that I’ve worked in local government. Which is to say, my observations of what goes on in the Victoria Council Chambers are directed by my academic and legal knowledge of good administrative process.
Making a decision to reallocate money in absence of any project information (as they did on April 14th) is not good process. Inviting a presentation from one particular architectural company (Cascadia as recruited by the DVBA I assume) and the later awarding a significant amount of money for work to be completed by the DVBA and likely this same architect is not a fair process. In fact, there are actually specific provision in local government law that state that municipalities are not to benefit businesses and this is why, whenever money of a certain amount ($30,000) is going to be spent by the City, a competitive bidding/tendering process is required in accordance with their Civic Expenditure Bylaw.
As far as I know, no such thing occurred in this case, largely because the whole Douglas Street redesign process has been lead by the DVBA not the City. But one other thing we need to remember is that the DVBA is funded primarily by City Taxes (see bottom of page 3 & top of page 4). Did anyone around Council remember this? I was going to write about it all last night in my GPC Summary but I decided to hold off because I didn’t want Mayor Helps or her supporters to think that I was being unnecessarily critical. Lame excuse I know, but I’m trying to pick my battles.
Even still, I got a second response from Mayor Helps today.
So what am I supposed to take from it?
Her retweeting definitely doesn’t reassure me. The fact that no minutes were taken from public meetings worries me. The fact that a plan for making a series of permanent changes to a public street, as managed by a series of private individuals, has been funded by Council and will likely continue to be funded by public monies with no Council oversight worries me. Lastly the fact that our Mayor is proud of her statement: “I know its an experiment but let’s take a leap of faith” is exactly why I didn’t vote for her last November.
Governments shouldn’t be run on faith.