The Delegation below was presented to Council Budget and Corporate Services Committee on 8 March 2011, in response to City Council’s staff report “CORPSERV 2-11″.
What is Corpserv 2-11?
It is the formal response put together by City Staff to the Shape Burlington Report, published last year, which advocated for changes in the ways in which the city council and the citizens of Burlington interact.
What is a Delegation?
Any citizen or organisation in Burlington can present a delegation to the council, or one of the committees of council. In this way it is possible to tell council how you feel about a particular issue.
What are we saying in this Delegation?
This Delegation was written in order to state Shaping Burlington’s reaction and opinions regarding Corpserv 2-11.
RE: Staff report regarding recommendations of the Shape Burlington report
Shaping Burlington appreciates the positive response to the Shape Burlington recommendations contained in staff report CORPSERV 2-11. We believe the report is a significant first step in developing a climate of civic engagement at City Hall.
We look forward to participating in continuing collaboration with city staff on the issues raised by Shape Burlington and its successor group, Shaping Burlington, as recommended in the staff report. We believe much can be accomplished in the atmosphere of cooperation and goodwill that has been demonstrated to date.
While the staff report responds favourably to the tone and direction of the Shape Burlington recommendations, approved in principle by Council last year, there are some differences. In general, the Shape Burlington recommendations call for a more pro-active, less cautious, approach to the issues involved.
Shape Burlington recommended a plain language policy document that specifically directs how civic engagement can be fostered. It incorporates benchmarks and accountabilities, describes the value, purpose and opportunities for citizens to influence city policies, explains how citizens can navigate City Hall and its services, and stipulates best practices. Most important, the charter would incorporate an early notification system to provide reasonable amounts of time to understand, discuss and develop positions.
The staff report anticipates merely a brief document that describes purposes and accountabilities, but specifically rejects incorporating benchmarks, how to navigate City Hall and its services, and best practices. The report does not include an early notification system in its working paper “as it is not a value and not applicable to all the city’s decision making.”
Shape Burlington recommended establishing an Office of Engagement whose Director reported to the City Manager. The intention was to create a position of authority, not merely a staff resource.
The staff report recommends a two-year contract position to assist, not direct, the development and implementation of the Engagement Charter and changes to municipal policies and processes.
Shape Burlington recommended that the Communications Department be fundamentally transformed into a timely and reliable source of City Hall information free of political bias. The transformation would include a revamped and more frequent City Talk, while council members would be encouraged to develop their own communication vehicles.
The staff report does not refer to a Communications Department transformation, and foresees a continuation of City Talk with some modifications, with space still allocated to members of council.
Shape Burlington recommended that Council periodically hold its meetings in different geographical areas across the City to bring its deliberations closer to the community.
The staff report rejects this recommendation because of logistical and communication challenges. We believe this is a premature rejection of a strategic objective at this time.
Shape Burlington recommended municipal involvement in the Grade 10 Civics program through a module that could be created with input from the City. The proposal received enthusiastic response from school board representatives.
The staff report does not refer to the Grade 10 Civics program in its recommendations to Council, and in a later discussion limits the city’s participation to providing a speakers list. Shape Burlington envisaged more pro-active participation.
As stated, Shaping Burlington looks forward to continued discussion of these and other differences during the ongoing collaborative process. However, at this time, we would suggest the following changes to today’s recommendations to Council:
Recommendation 2. Change the words “advance, promote and coordinate” to “direct” in reference to the responsibilities of the Engagement Officer. Add stipulation that the position will report to the City Manager.
Recommendation 3. Add the words “and the broader Burlington community” so that it reads “Authorize the City Clerk to consult with Shaping Burlington, the Burlington Inclusivity Advisory Committee and the broader Burlington community….” This matches similar direction in Recommendation 1 and recognizes that transformation in engagement itself needs be done through a process of engagement.
Recommendation 4. Authorize the Engagement Officer, not the City Clerk, to work with members of council and staff, recognizing that it is a position of authority.
Recommendation 5. Include specific mention of developing a municipal module for the Grade 10 Civic program in collaboration with school board authorities.
Chair, Shaping Burlington