A City Hall That Works
1. Transform City Hall into an adaptive and proactive organization.
City Hall can be an inviting and dynamic place. City Hall can support and nourish new ideas and citizen-led initiatives and can help drive local prosperity and enhance the well-being of Victoria’s residents. City staff can work as interdepartmental teams and lead successful projects. Innovation, creativity and joy in work can be cultivated throughout the organization. City Hall can offer more cost effective, sustainable programs and services. To achieve all these things, City Hall needs to be managed as a system: a network of interdependent components that work together towards a common goal.
COMMITMENT: Re-organize City Hall so that it works better
- First two months: Build relationships with senior staff and new council, and seek input in organizational transformation. Work with senior managers and empower them through education and knowledge-sharing about how to manage an organization as a system.
- Year one: Transform City Hall from an organization that is managed as a series of departmental silos to an organization that is managed as a system. In order to carry out the goals established by Mayor and Council during January 2015 strategic planning, ensure that interdepartmental project teams and assign project leads are established. Build project-management capacity of city staff on an ongoing basis.
- Ongoing: Ensure the creation of interdepartmental project teams and appointment of project leads for all new initiatives. Set clear budgets, timelines and deliverables for all projects. Celebrate success of staff.
- Ongoing: Foster a spirit of experimentation and culture of innovation at all levels of the organization. The City’s front line workers have a wealth of knowledge to improve processes and service delivery.
- Ongoing: Create a culture of continuous learning. Tolerate failure as the other side of innovation and as an opportunity for continuous learning and improvement.
2. Be excellent at public participation
Victoria’s residents and business owners are active, engaged and educated. You have important knowledge, ideas and opinions to share in the shaping of the City and its future. And you want to be able to give and receive information in a variety of ways, most of which are interactive and participatory. City Hall needs to enhance and build on its public participation practices in order to continually draw on the wisdom and expertise of the public.
COMMITMENT: Share information with you and listen to you
- First Six Months: Implement use of “Have Your Say Victoria,” (the City’s interactive web platform) to seek input on policy direction and council decisions on an ongoing basis, not only for large projects.
- Year one: Create a Public Participation Plan by updating the City’s Civic Engagement Strategy with the aim of empowering residents and business owners as co-creators of City policy where appropriate. Ensure project teams responsible for carrying out public engagement have the budget required to do meaningful engagement.
- Year two: Develop and implement a participatory budgeting pilot project for a small portion of the City budget.
- Ongoing: Embed an ethic of openness and public participation in all civic processes.
- Ongoing: Ensure Council only holds closed meetings when it’s necessary to protect the interests of the City’s residents and businesses who pay the bills for all decisions Council makes. Make closed-session decisions public as soon as possible by continuing a recently implemented process of reviewing closed-session decisions quarterly.
3. Make better decisions on spending and projects
Every project the City undertakes is paid for by the hard-earned tax dollars of its residents and commercial property tax payers. Johnson Street bridge, parks, roads, sewers, Fire Hall #1, Crystal Pool, community centres and more. Over the past three years, I’ve seen important infrastructure decisions made in a vacuum; we’re spending $92.8 million of your money on one new bridge when our #1 Fire Hall isn’t seismically sound and our swimming pool and recreation centre could use an upgrade to say the least. City Hall can and should do better with your money.
COMMITMENT: Live within our means
- Ongoing: Develop business cases including lifecycle and operating costs, for all large-scale capital projects and any proposed new city services. Examine any new capital project or proposed service within the context of other priorities.
- Years one and two: Manage Johnson Street Bridge project tightly and attempt to bring the bridge in as close to on time and on budget as possible.
- Years one to four: Develop and monitor an asset management plan and a reserve fund policy and targets to ensure that we’re building the necessary reserves to care for the City’s assets for the long term.
- Years one to four: Take a leadership role on sewage treatment and ensure that Victoria gets a sewage treatment plant that is economically and environmentally viable and is based on best practices, solid research, and close collaboration with other municipalities.
- Years one to four: Develop and implement the rebuilding of Fire Hall #1 to post-seismic standard incorporating Passive House and living building principles where possible and exploring the possibility of co-location for other city services.
- Year four: Develop a business case for a Crystal Pool and Wellness Centre that incorporates a publicly owned and operated swimming pool and recreation centre as well as commercial / retail space and housing.
4. Work well with others
Victoria has a reputation of not working very well with others. The City’s relationship with the provincial government has been poor since the 1990s. The Esquimalt-Victoria Policing Agreement took much longer than it should have to settle. City Hall does not play a leadership role in bringing people together from across sectors and levels of government to form strategic partnerships and get things done. Victoria has some repair work to do.
COMMITMENT: Build strategic partnerships
- Year one: Work to rebuild the City’s relationships with municipalities around the region and with the Provincial government.
- Year one: Take a leadership role to bring together local organizationsincluding non-profits and neighbourhood organizations, Tourism Victoria, the Downtown Victoria Business Association, the Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority and others to work collaboratively and pursue opportunities of benefit to Victoria and the region.
- Ongoing: Work more closely with neighbouring municipalities to pursue opportunities that will mutually benefit our residents. Amalgamation may happen one day, and I support further study on this topic (see my blog post here). In the meantime collaboration is key.
- Ongoing: Foster a culture of strategic thinking in City Hall management and empower senior staff to pursue strategic partnerships that create opportunities for the City.