Monday, October 22, 2012

Focused on Priorities

During the last four months, Council and the Town’s new CAO (Chief Administrative Officer) and other senior staff have focused on ways in which we might accelerate the Town’s priorities.

You will recall that in the spring of 2011, Council worked together with the community to develop a new strategic plan with a clearly articulated vision – that Pelham become the most vibrant, creative, and caring community in Niagara.

In August 2012, Council met with senior staff to evaluate progress, celebrate successes and prioritize the plan. Together we developed a detailed report with staff milestones that offers a measurement tool for Council and the community.

But, Council and I also came to recognize that to achieve the vision, we needed to adjust our governance processes.

You see, under our former structure, the Council debated specific issues and a mundane or low-priority item would garner as much attention as high-priority items. The former structure – the same one followed by Council’s throughout the Region – also bogged down issues in separate Council committees and neglected to provide a way in which senior management could provide regular progress reports.

So, over the summer, Council worked together with the CAO and Clerk to revamp our “Procedural Bylaw” – the way in which Council business is structured and run.

The process starts with Committee of the Whole (COW), during which all of Council receives information, asks questions, and provides direction regarding the Town’s operations. Staff brief Council on a wide spectrum of issues while highlighting important statistics, emerging issues, trends, and resident concerns. Because Council reviews the activities of all departments each month, important matters can be decided and accelerated.

During the Policies & Priorities (P&P) Committee, Council reviews the policies and ongoing priorities of the Town. P&P allows Council to exchange information and ideas, respond to external influences, receive requests for policy review or creation, and review bylaws. For example, during our October 15 P&P meeting, Council reviewed the way in which staff enforce bylaws, outlined the importance of education, courtesy and respect, and directed staff to draft improved enforcement policies.

Formal Council meetings remain largely unchanged – except for a new start time of 6:30 PM. During Council we receive delegations, correspondence and presentations, we ratify the recommendations of the COW and P&P, and we approve any changes to bylaws.

Finally, in our ongoing effort to be as open, transparent, and accessible as possible, you may review complete Council and Committee agendas – including all reports and recommendations – through the Town’s website (starting November 5).