Damned if you do, damned if you don’t?

A colleague from Council last week commented to me “you are damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t”. It was in reference to recent criticism surrounding Council’s work to monitor the financial performance of the corporation.

Perhaps, but I really don’t think this is the case.

The comment reminded me about the criticism of the communications campaign for the infrastructure projects this summer. While it seems some might have enjoyed the chaos that would have ensued without a comprehensive communication campaign, bottom line, we owed it to our residents, businesses, bus riders, taxis, bus drivers, emergency services and more – to let them know what to expect on our roads.

Were there people who still got caught by a detour? Did I head off merrily to an appointment only to get caught by a detour? Unfortunately, the answer to both of those questions is yes. However, by all reasonable measures the communications campaign was a success.

Damned if we do, damned if we don’t? Damned if we didn’t do our job.

In the same light, not measuring our financial performance is not an option. For three years now, we have had an external assessment of our financial position. This is essential to ensure the effectiveness of our long-term financial management strategy. We use a dashboard of key performance indicators, a common tool used by the private sector.

Overall the trends of the last three years are positive. There is more work to do – that is why ongoing performance measurement is so important.

For instance, along with all other Ontario municipalities, we now report on our tangible capital assets – all our roads, sewers, buildings etc. We have three new indicators this year to track our progress in closing the infrastructure gap – an issue that challenges municipalities across Canada. We are closing the gap for our water and wastewater infrastructure but not for other infrastructure like roads and buildings

Call me crazy but sometimes I feel that there are people who actually do not want to hear we are doing well as a city. Perhaps they have the “cup is half empty” gene or there are other motives to criticize the work we do to monitor our financial performance or our community’s achievements.

Damned if we do, damned if we don’t? Damned if we didn’t do our job.

I have learned over the years, that one tactic that is used, if you don’t like a particular recommendation or decision, is to challenge the process.

OK. Fair enough. Council has an obligation to critically review the process behind our decision making.

However, if there are no constructive ideas offered to improve the process – like pausing to consult with an important stakeholder or collecting more information before making the decision – then perhaps the objective is nothing more than to undermine the decision by undermining the process.

For example, in response to recent concerns about the comparators that were used to review the needs of our Finance Department, we could have simply asked for more data at the committee. Fortunately, the Chair of our Finance, Administration, Corporate and Emergency Services Committee is doing just that on behalf of the committee members and Council. We will see if this new data either changes the conclusion – or anyone’s mind.

Unfortunately in some cases, if the facts speak for themselves and the process holds muster, then the only tactic left is to malign the integrity of the people involved. Those who read this blog know how much I dislike this tactic.

About Karen Farbridge

An unwavering change maker seeking a just, democratic and sustainable world.

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2 Comments on “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t?”

  1. Jim Grant Says:

    Karen – Excellent comments and so true in “Dammed if we do…” It’s a tough job, I know, and there will always be the detractors. I am one. However, if I didn’t, then you wouldn’t be pushing the box…Right….
    Politics is a rough job. You can’t please everyone. Know that what you commit to, you remain committed to and all in all, you are doing a good job. City personnel could pick up a bit in their people skills mind you.

  2. Jim Grant Says:

    Karen – Just a few words I would like to pass on in all sincerity…

    Discussions in some blogs have been getting rather emotional at times, which is unfortunate. The root cause, I believe, is transparency and communication. You have rightly identified the same and trust actions are about, to improve.
    City Hall makes many decisions every day which the general public don’t think of or care about. It is when we get into so called hot subjects that people go beyond objecting with the point of view to, as you mention above, “maligning”.
    So here’s my point – If we are committed to transparency (truly) and honest/ complete communications, we might have less detractors, more supporters and a more harmonious society at large.
    Thank you for allowing this vehicle to communicate with you.
    PS – No, you haven’t got rid of me and I will probably still stir the pot, when it needs to be.

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