How can we get better at what we do

Municipal politicians often campaign on a platform of making local government more responsive and yet when elected introduce or entrench practices that only serve to paralyze City Hall by further centralizing control over decision-making.

The principles of accountability and transparency are often loudly touted as the reason to centralize the control of decision-making.  This is misguided.

Control has nothing to do with accountability and transparency.  You could control every decision made in an organization and not be accountable for a single one nor make them transparent to the people you serve.  Conversely, you could delegate every decision and establish effective mechanisms that hold every decision-maker fully accountable and their decisions completely transparent.

Neither extreme strikes a healthy balance.

Recent changes to the Municipal Act permit Council to delegate more authority for decision-making.  These progressive changes recognize a growing desire to move away from hierarchical models of governance that can be painfully slow and bureaucratic to more nimble and responsive models that can better meet community and business needs. To counter balance this opportunity to streamline government, the Act also requires a stronger framework for accountability and transparency to protect the interests of citizens.

In all cases, Council needs to set the appropriate level of delegation that will allow Management to effectively and efficiently do their job and indeed provide them with the incentive to do so. At the same time, Council must install the right accountability and transparency mechanisms to ensure that their delegation of authority to Management is never abused.

That is why the current discussion we are having around how new positions are established at City Hall is so important. 

How might we strike the right balance that will deliver exceptional value for every tax dollar spent?

Our first step must be agreeing on the principles that will strike that balance.  Only then will we be ready to develop the policies that will implement those principles.

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About Karen Farbridge

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

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One Comment on “How can we get better at what we do”

  1. Susan Wheeler Says:

    I agree with your comments that council needs to set the appropriate level of delegation to allow management to cost-effectively do their job, while at the same time ensure accountability is in place.

    This to me respects the fact that we as citizens select/elect good and responsible people to do good work. Therefore, a level of trust must be granted as a foundational principle to allow them to move forward with our best interest at hand.
    Not all decisions will please all citizens, but if trust is in place then meaningful dialogue of different views will be heard.

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