Monday, March 4, 2013

Choices...

As I sit and reflect upon the last few weeks, having just gone through budget deliberations for 2013, I am struck by the sheer quantity of decisions and prioritisation that goes into the formation of a municipal budget. While that may sound funny coming from someone who works in the financial realm, it is nevertheless a daunting task. Each group, project or person has legitimate reasons as to why their priority should be funded and why this project or that one is better than another.The simple facts are, most decisions we have to make are quite important, some are critical and some require further development before they can be funded. The bottom line is that the essence of a politician's job is to make those decisions. Few are easy and most have consequences that live far beyond the moment in which they are taken. The real trick is to have a solid read on the collective will of the public whom you serve. This too, is no small feat. With so many competing demands and worthwhile initiatives, knowing which area to focus on, can be more art than science at times. Having said all of that, the public rightly expects that we as politicians get it right - most of the time. I don't think anyone expects perfection,but we are expected to make the best decisions possible, with the information available. So it is with all politicians; municipal, provincial and federal. This leads me to two recent scenarios that I believe warrant some explanation.

The first circumstance is the issue of Trail's pigeon problem. You may have recently seen or heard reports that the City would be dealing with it's pigeon problem by capturing and relocating the birds to the lower mainland for other purposes. To most, this sounds like a very sensible response to a very challenging problem. Dealing with the mess that Trail's escalating pigeon population leaves behind is a significant issue for businesses, residents and pedestrians in the downtown core. Not to mention the problems on the Victoria Street Bridge. After reading the staff report recommending this course of action and double checking with our staff for clarity, it was confirmed to me that this was in fact the proposed plan and the preferred option. To me, this seemed like an easy choice and win for all concerned, our residents,downtown businesses and even the pigeons would be pardoned. So naturally, I voted yes and proceeded to inform the media of our decision and it's merits. Of course I was stunned to find out the following day that the company we were going to give the contract to,(Care Pest) had indicated to a number of media outlets that no such plan existed. In search of answers, I drove straight to City Hall after listening to the 8:00 AM news. Well, several days have now passed and the simple answer to my question is, we were given incorrect information in the proposal because of a mis-communication. As a result, our decision was based on a false premise and accordingly, it should not stand. This is why the matter will be reconsidered at our next meeting on March 11th. Simple? Not really, we still have the issue of the pigeons to deal with, minus one option. We will see what transpires, but from my current vantage point, Trail's pigeon population shouldn't be making any long range plans.

There is also the matter of the small piece of park land being sold in Glenmerry,my own neighborhood. This issue has been a real learning experience for me and somewhat of a blessing in disguise. As a freshman Councillor, I have sought to ensure more than anything that my decisions and deliberations are made in the interests of our community as a whole (not any single person or entity) and that I represent the wishes of the people. To do this, I seek constant feedback through impromptu meetings,phone calls, walking the streets of the downtown and frequenting local shops. This is the part of the job I love the most and I might add,the feedback isn't always positive. However, to put it in baseball terms, this particular circumstance is one where I believe I have "whiffed", with respect to knowing the pulse of the public. While I do not disagree with the fundamental concept of developing a small piece of parkland that is not frequently utilized as park (1% of available green space) and understand that the process we used has been  executed 100% by the book,  I now see that we could have chosen to raise the bar in terms of community consultation. Instead of just placing the legally required ads in the local paper, perhaps a neighborhood forum or mail out would have allowed us the opportunity to gain the pulse of the neighborhood, prior to voting on the sale. Now the process will play out with respect to a recently launched counter petition (this is how democracy works) and the residents have until April 2nd to have their collective voices heard.

In the instance noted above, the final outcome is of course not known at this time and more discussion will certainly take place prior to April 2nd. In the interim, I want to let our community know that while you may not always agree with the decisions made, I am always willing to learn from these experiences and your feedback is very much appreciated.

Please email me at kjolly@trail.ca  if you wish to express your thoughts on either of the two scenarios noted above, or any other municipal matters you wish to discuss.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Sincerely,

Kevin Jolly
Councillor

City of Trail

*It is important to note that I speak only for myself in this blog and that I am not attempting to represent the opinions and views of my Council peers.

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