All right. Those of you who know me know that I have been churning this over in my small febrile brain, ever since we witnessed that remarkable commentary from our esteemed Mayor that I subsequently transcribed. (Yeah, I’m not going to get tired of bragging about that, sorry.) We all know what he said. Now here’s what he should have said.
Thank you, Mr Jorgenson. With that, I’d like to personally apologize with how the City has handled this winter season. Back when we did the budget, we were certain we had a handle on what the citizens of Saskatoon wanted – we had a mandate to keep our tax rate low, we thought. Perhaps we could have been a little clearer on how that would have affected levels of service, but we don’t know since we didn’t do that. Now, with the recent feedback we have from our constituents, its become clear that maintaining a safe and adequate level of service is what Saskatonians really value.
Going forward, we’re going to see a new era here at city hall that’s focussed not on blame but results. And evidence-based decision making. (Pause.) We’re going to be more open with the citizens and make our decision making process as transparent as possible. I’d like to have in place a system where we can see everyone’s public schedules. I’d also like to see a flowchart outlining the decision-making process at city hall so people have faith that their concerns are getting to the right people. I’m also completely in favour of implementing a third party campaign overview of election finances and a lobbying registry. Also, our community associations are important connectors to everyday life in our neighbourhoods, so I’d like to see them involved with our consultation process. We should be talking to each other before the development gets planned, before we issue the RFP. That way, we’re not trying to convince people what we’ve already come up with is what they want and need. In order for us to lead effectively, we need to listen to what folks are telling us. (Points at self) I know, we’re tired of reading spiteful letters to council. Let’s put people first. Let them speak first at meetings, include everyone in as much as possible. There are ways of doing this and maintaining an effective system – let’s look at what other cities have done. In time, I think we’ll find those letters have decreased, and will be replaced with other letters expressing thanks, and hope, and optimism. It’s going to be a lot of work, and it’ll never be finished. I’m confident though, that we have the right people, right here in the great city of Saskatoon. (looks around, nods in approval.)
Possibly the hardest part about writing that was using the f-word, “folks”.
I initially started this post off as a letter to the mayor but it quickly got very shrill and accusatory. I mean, it’s hard to not get yelly when you have city employees and elected representatives called on the carpet to answer individually for systemic failure. I suppose it’s hard not to get yelly when everyone else is yelling at you as well, which is why I can understand why the mayor went off on a tangent in the first place. (The straw-man argument about the $600K was rather weak, though.) The snow removal debacle should have been an excellent opportunity for our leaders to start a bigger debate on taxes and the differing levels of service citizens expect from their government. Instead, we got a panicky all-hands-on-deck response, a flurry of pointed fingers, and an eventual reprieve granted by the weather. (The weather seems to be regretting it at this point.)
Speaking of civic engagement, Jane’s Walk is this weekend; there are several going on Saturday and Sunday. Like many, many people, I first became interested in municipal matters after finishing Jane Jacob’s The Death and Life of Great American Cities. I’ll be volunteering at the bike boulevard talk, the complete streets one (Alan Wallace!) and on Sunday, the North Downtown talk. I’ll be the person with the folding bike. I’ll try not to yell.