Transcribed from the April 8th meeting of Council. Full video can be found here; this bit starts at just after the 2-hour mark. I have some thoughts that I’ll post later this week. On leadership, and morale, and responsibility. Accountability. Boring shit like that.
Mayor Atchison: That being said, I don’t see other lights on. I guess I have a few comments of my own. I guess we’ll start with potholes first, and then we’ll work back. On, ah, the potholes, when you talk about fixing them – are you talking about ah, a zone or a ward area – There’s no point fixing one in, I’ll say, Ward A and then going to Ward Z across the river, you’re gonna try and fix — (pauses) —
Jeff Jorgenson: Yes, yes, Your Worship, it’s, um, when the supervisors have all of the information from the ratings, with their knowledge of the city and organizing work, they’ll look at the priorities, the priority, uh, repairs to make, and, ah, come up with a very smart plan for the day. They’ll get their crews off for the day, come back together, and make a plan for the next day, that’s the cycle that they’ll go on. Every day they’ll come up for the best plan for the following day, considering those maintenance [?] books.
Atchison: OK. I think, following up on that too, instead of just putting out daily press releases, the PSAs, those things – I think people at City Hall say ‘Well, we sent them out so we’ve done our job’. I don’t care anyone says [sic]. At election time, you don’t just send a brochure out. Last time I saw, most politicians knock on doors. Because they want to see people face-to-face. I think the same thing is true with the media. You need to hold press conferences. Live press conferences. You need to tell them either first thing in the morning or at 1.30 in the afternoon, what you’re doing today, what you’re doing tomorrow, or what you’re doing that day and all the way through. You need to hold live press conferences. (Tapping desk.) Sending out a piece of paper doesn’t cut it. People want to see – and they want to hear – in person, from the people who are delivering their services. They wanna be able to tell whether or not they’re being told something factual or not. They want someone else there to question, to be able to see exactly what’s happening. And that, I believe is the best way. By doing that, in person. And the media will tell you when they’re not interested in hearing about potholes anymore because they won’t show up. (nods, satisified.) Then you’ll know that we’ve got over the hill [sic]. And we’re on the right side of the track. I think that’s the easiest way to do that.
Now, to do with, ah, the snow this past year. I keep on hearing about, ‘if we had spent $600,000 more’. The bottom line, I still haven’t heard the answer yet. (Grows heated.) If we spent $600,000, the interpretation is that the streets would be all the same everywhere, that we wouldn’t have rutting anymore, that we’d be down to the asphalt. The bottom line is, I wanna know – is that true or not? Today, right now, if you’d spent $600,000 this year, additional dollars, would everyone in the city of Saskatoon be driving on asphalt? Yes or no.
Atchison: (curt nod) (pauses) Thank you. (pauses.) That’s what I wanna know. Because, quite frankly, we’ve put in $800,000 additional funding this year, when we had the surplus we put in an additional $700,000, and we also said, that we were going to look at this coming year again, that we’d look at additional funding for the following year. (Gets angry.) I think some people have a short memory in council. Do you remember when we were going through the budget process, we kept on talking about what the number was going to be, what the increase was going to be at Council. I heard one councillor talking about eight, nine, or even ten percent increase in property taxes, and all of a sudden there was this (audible gasp) “Oooh! They can’t be serious!” I heard on the other side some people were saying “I don’t want any more than two or three percent.” So we had to make compromises. We had to deal with what was there. At the end of the day, I think almost everyone on council voted for 4.99%. I didn’t hear before the final vote came anyone standing up and saying, “I am not supporting 4.99% because I want $600,000 more in the budget.” Please, correct me if I’m wrong. (Enunciates slowly.) Because, I don’t believe I heard that from anyone.
What I heard from everyone in this room was, there was some very difficult decisions to be made. And they’re decisions that not everybody wanted to make. By the same token, we had to come to a conclusion. And what was that conclusion going to be. Well, we said, we can’t afford to have everything this year, but we’ll certainly look at additional funding next year for snow removal. Some of us wanted to have even more funding for road repairs this year – we said, we’ll look at more for next year. Other people wanted to look at having more in the way of looking after lands in the city of Saskatoon. Looking after homes. Looking after the, ah, lead pipes in the city. Looking at after [sic] all the infrastructure. (Petulant) And everyone sat around the table, and everyone said, “We have to come to some type of compromise.” And if I remember correctly, at the end I said “It’s the Canadian way. Not everybody got what they wanted, but we can live with what we have.” (pauses) We did put more money into snow removal. We did put more money into road repairs. And they said we’re going to continue to look at it this coming year.
But after the vote’s been taken, and if everyone says well “I knew it was going to be this way”, well, anybody who says “I knew it was going to be this way”, I wanna hear – before we do the budget next year – I wanna hear how many snowfalls are going to be in the city of Saskatoon for the next year, I wanna hear how much snow there is going to be, and I wanna know what type of weather conditions we’re going to have. (Stabs desk with index finger.) Because I think it’s painfully unfair to look back, and say to the rear-view mirror, with hindsight, 20/20, “I told you so”. (looks around, accusatory.) It’s not fair for anyone on Council to say that. Because we tried hard to come up with a budget that we all believed we could live with. And when we left that night I think most people thought we did a pretty good job in this room. And so when we’re talking about these things, I look at our employees. They feel the pain too right now. Ask them, ask the employees that are putting in 80 hours a week right now. Ask them if they were home with their families during the Easter period of time. Ask them where they were. Ask them why they’re only working 80 hours. Because Health – Occupation Health and Safety [sic] says you can’t work more than 80 hours. Because it isn’t safe to do so. Yet they’re out there doing their level best. I think of the snow this year. Councillor Lorje says it’s almost six months, so if you look at the calendar, we’ve had snow in the last seven of twelve months. The meteorologist today said, they didn’t believe we were going to hit +10 until at least April the twenty-first. (looks around) We could still have snow on May 1st in the city of Saskatoon. We don’t know what lies ahead. If the weatherman can’t be right in five days, how are you supposed to be right within a year.
(Speaking slowly, pausing at the end of each sentence to look around with concerned expression for emphasis.) So, at this time, I wanna thank the Administration ever so much, for coming forward tonight, and informing Council, but more importantly, to inform the citizens of Saskatoon. I think the citizens of Saskatoon are entitled to hear exactly what’s going on in this community, and they’ve heard it. And when we’re continuing to go forward now with potholes, I hope we’re going to follow the same procedure of daily press conferences, letting them know exactly what we’re going to do, where we’re going to be, and so that way, we have the information out there for everyone. Not everyone has a computer; not everyone has a television. So hopefully we can get to the ends [?] sooner rather than later. Councillor Hill, you had your light on. [hits switch, but Hill’s mike fails to go on.]
Councillor Hill: Ah, thank you Your Worship. Mr Gutek, I’d just like to clarify. At any point did you hear me say that I thought one residential street clearing would bring us down to bare asphalt conditions, when I asked you the question this evening?
Mike Gutek: Um, no.
Hill: Thank you. And, to clarify, I asked you, if it would have made a difference, in the rutting. Now you indicated that it would have removed parking and had larger windrows, but our discussions at budget time were based on strategically placing snow which would not have removed all of our parking – we would have placed snow into strategic clumps, places you talked specifically about a house that may have 2 or 3 parking stalls in front may end up with one, cause we were going to follow through with bobcats. So I just wanna be clear. Movement of snow at one course of the winter may have changed the conditions. We don’t know that, because we didn’t do it. So we can’t say that it would or it wouldn’t. It may have changed the conditions, because if you take some of that packed snow off, the total amount of that packed snow, there’s less to create ruts at the end of the day. So I just wanna clarify that nobody said we’d be at asphalt conditions.
With respect to ‘communications’ and ‘moving forward’, I think that we’ll need to have a discussion, ahm, either in chambers now or in executive, the plan brought forward for communications. I don’t think the media is going to come out with a press release every day. However, some municipalities are doing thing quite strategically and creatively, their Public Works branch are doing daily updates via live feed, as well as taped video, which the media is using that as they see appropriate, and they also play it on their local cable channel, on a regular looped basis. They do that for their Public Works, as well as for their transit updates. It’s very effective. I think we need to look at an entire communications strategy, not a one-off just looking into ruts or potholes as we move forward.