Six Hundred and Fifty-One

Furniture. Word Six Hundred and Fifty-One.

What are you talking about?!

So, now that some of us have managed to come to grips with post Guthrie-asked-to-have-a-committee-look-at-Council-meeting-in-August-as-well Guelph, as we now find ourselves adjusting to new realities following our brush with the near-certain unravelling of City Hall with the possibility Councillor Guthrie’s motion had any chance of going anywhere, there is something that Councillor Bell said as part of his comments during that discussion that resonated with me — it’s something that has been bothering me about this Council for some time now and it ties back to the Integrity Commissioner.

It relates to the notion that Councillors actually need to be able to make the decisions the people who elected them expect them to make.

Councillors. Not staff. And to do that, well, you need to show up.

And what about the info they need to do that? It seems you need permission from the majority before you can ask for it.

Given the discussion of meeting in August to conduct the City’s business, based on the comments I was hearing from the majority that wouldn’t even let it go to committee, it seems councillors should be, if anything, more considerate about the way Council meetings impact on staff. Council’s meetings are keeping staff from doing important work. And they should think about not doing that, not just for one month, but possibly more. If City Councillors in Guelph needed another reason to apologize for being… councillors… they have it with being reminded of the work that is involved for staff in preparing for their meetings.

Yep. That’s right. Creepy.

And regrettably, the Mayor stated she would entertain a future discussion for breaking in January as well.

Maybe make it three months of the year. There is a lot to do. Do I hear four? Four?

It’s taking us into dangerous waters, politically, but more, in terms of that whole democratic-representation thing. To basically say staff have something better to do than to prepare for a meeting of Council, you are saying staff have something better to do than prepare for a meeting of everyone who is represented by that Council. That would be, “the People”.

And that’s wrong, at least in my books. 

Parallel to this discussion, it seems from discussions lately that at least one councillor is happy to defer certain decisions, potentially involving a lot of public money to staff. Staff can… take care… of… it… Zzzzzzz… Wha? Huh? Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

So let’s just defer it all to staff. How could you possibly go wrong? Staff can’t become politicized. So let’s not complicate matters. Why do we even need councillors anyhow, in this day and age? Think of all the work staff could get done then! Let’s all just elect our reps for a city-wide hiring committee, hire a CAO, ah, I mean CEO for the organization for the next say, five years and pack it in, pay the fees we are levied by “The City” and if you don’t like it, well, go somewhere else. It’s a free-market, right?

But short of all of that, let’s be sure to keep those councillors in line. Especially if they attempt to get public documents from staff, ask potentially unfriendly questions, or have an opinion about what is being done or not done by, err, staff. Bring in the role of Integrity Commissioner.

In this Council the lowly ward councillor, the person you elected to represent you — or at least was elected to represent you to be your voice, seems to be on the way of becoming something akin to furniture at Guelph City Hall: you have it because you’re supposed to have it, especially if company comes — they would probably find it odd if you don’t have any — and who knows, sometimes it can be helpful, but mostly…

It’s just in the way.

Furniture.

But that’s not all that bad if you enjoy being furniture. It means you can avoid responsibility for making a decision that may irritate the wrong people. Which as furniture knows, can be anyone. Deferring responsibility helps to keep everyone happy — or, at least not unhappy, with you. Which helps at election-time.

Think about it. This is happening in your city, to your city.

Word Six Hundred and Fifty-One. Please watch for it.

About Craig Chamberlain

Ward 3 Guelph resident, dad and step-dad.
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