Before we go any further into the year, I wanted to say how grateful I am to the folks that have been writing up a media storm about municipal issues. City hall is one place that is for all citizens, and everyone has a right to know what the city is doing, and how it impacts you. Writers like Jen St. Denis, Christopher Cheung, Melody Ma, Justin McElroy, Frances Bula, Kerry Gold, Dan Fumano,Daphne Bramham, The Cambie Report and many informed others have been discussing  municipal issues so that they are accessible to everyone. And with that knowledge comes how to have your voice and ideas heard at city hall.

In the City of Vancouver there is a new council following ten years of a council dominated by people under the “Vision” slate. A decade is a long time, and of course there were thoughts that the city would substantially change when that majority was robustly ousted in the last election. The Vision party was also part of the Americanization of City Hall   process, where long serving current City Manager Judy Rogers was  abruptly fired, and a new city manager, who would follow the new Vision political party direction, Dr. Penny Ballem brought in. This is how it works in many United States cities, where the city manager position is politicized.

In the past,  “Vancouver experienced great success with their city manager model, where the position provided a constant hand on the wheel at city hall, despite political changes. This has meant that policy previously approved by other councils could be directed and implemented.”

As Dan Fumano writes in the Vancouver Sun the new City of Vancouver council is working in a different way. Together.

With no clear majority the Councillors have been collegial with each other and Mayor Stewart has made inroads to ensure that all Councillors are included in responsibilities. All councillors were involved with the decisions for appointments to standing committees~the rotating schedule for acting Mayor was also inclusive.

As Dan Fumano observes “It’s a change from the previous civic government, when former mayor Gregor Robertson’s Vision Vancouver enjoyed a majority on council. The last council sometimes saw unanimous tri-partisan agreement, but they often voted along party lines, with the Vision caucus voting as a bloc to approve a motion from one of their party-mates, or to shoot down a motion from a councillor from the NPA, which had become a de facto opposition party.”

The truth of civic governance is that it is not an “us versus them” party mantra that is acceptable at Council. Each Councillor’s point of view and reference is important and should be valued in reviewing civic policy. Council should be inclusive and thoughtful, and think of their work as part of the continuum of good governance.

I am left thinking how powerful it would have been for Mayor Robertson to have included incoming Mayor Stewart on the podium on November 2  after the October 20th election.  One of Mr. Robertson’s  last mayoral acts was announcing the city’s involvement in securing 650 non market housing units downtown. Including Mr. Stewart  on that podium would have talked about municipal priorities, and the continuity of civic responsibility and policy beyond one administration. But  that wasn’t something that Mayor Robertson did.

The legacy of civic leadership should be to strengthen policy,  and graciously involve the incoming leadership on previous Council’s successes.

Collaboration is the base of municipal governance. This Mayor and Council are on the right track.




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