The prospect of better communication and perhaps an online instrument for residents to follow the fate of significant infrastructure planning and projects were among Prince Rupert Mayor Lee Brain's talking points this week.
That nod towards improved information sharing coming with the Mayor noting as part of his Social Media massive of Monday that the most talked about infrastructure project over the last seven years may miss the latest completion dateline previously set for the end of this year.
The mayor shifting our focus perhaps towards April in the latest notes.
As a follow up to his Social media themes, the Mayor provided a few notes of interest on civic governance for the weekly newspaper, observing of the need to provide for more timely updates on such things as the long running Boil Water notices that have come on and off with some increased regularity since 2018.In addition to speaking of better communication, Mr. Brain also spoke of increasing the City's transparency, two words that almost fulfill the lexicon of the Holy Trinity of political buzzwords as an election year comes upon us.
Leaving us with accountability to still be heard from as the final refrain that will soon be presented often in the lead up to October 2022 and our next visit to the election booth.
|Campaign material from 2014|
for then candidate Brain
He was not alone mind you on that quest, many of the candidates in both the 2014 and 2018 elections, successful or not, spoke often of the desire for more transparency, better communication, accountability and a call for far fewer closed Council meetings.
Over the course of the last seven years, the members of his first Council membership and this current one elected in 2018 paid some fealty to those goals, though success has been hit and miss, mostly miss.
On occasion the Council membership speaks to the topic with some passion, though more often than not, what we have seen is more promotion of their vision planning over actual information sharing.
With updates for the public on progress for areas of concern such as a dam delay, a warehouse purchase, Landfill expansion, Waterfront development, the use of the Legacy Inc funds and a range of other initiatives all areas that should be noted and updated with much more in the way of public disclosure.
This weeks account in the local paper also included a plan to task the incoming City Manager Rob Buchan with the duty of providing for a page on the city website, that portal to provide for a list of current projects, to be updated on a monthly basis for the public to view.
A welcome addition to some rather limited information sharing of the last seven years and a suggestion which as readers can review from our infrastructure archives, is one that we've made on the blog a number times through the course of the mandates for City Councils from well before the current Mayor and most of his Council took office in 2014.
The announcement by the Mayor for some improvements however, leaves one to wonder why it took seven years to move forward on something that long ago should have been implemented.
Hopefully, Dr. Buchan makes it one of his first priorities as he shifts into the City Manager's post.
But City Council shouldn't stop there, the Council membership could also ask the City Manager to add on a list of the Request for Bids that they seek for major projects and who the successful applicants were.
We created an archive a few years ago to track the Call for bids from the City, and while we sometimes hear of the successful applicants, it's not on a frequent basis, with many gaps to be found from that process of information sharing.
And since they have a steady stream of new faces arriving at city hall these days, perhaps also a portal of introduction so residents can welcome new staffers to their post and learn more about how the call for applicants process works and comes to an end.
We may even dare to dream for a website page to update the public on the expenses incurred by the Mayor, Council and Senior staff, admittedly not quite as important in the last two years of COVID measures, where there was little to no travel to be found for the most part and expenses appeared minimal.
But as we seem to moving back to more regular times for civic government, a dedicated place on the city website that charts spending and expenses incurred by municipal officials on civic duties would be another solid investment in transparency for the community.
Anything would be an improvement on the current process, which lists salary and a lump sum of expenses with zero listing as to where the money was allocated.
Considering his extensive experience in his travels as a civic planner and administrator, Dr. Buchan most likely has a few ideas as to how such portals could look and work.
However, as he takes to his desk, the new City Manager may also want to take a glance to east in the next few weeks, where just in time for the lead up to the 2022 election period, the City of Terrace has also promised a more dedicated approach towards information sharing and transparency, introducing their own updated program this week.
The outline of the project offers up some good ideas such as Council member attendance,voting records and a search engine to allow for document searches to name a few enhancements Prince Rupert may wish to copy.
Though the opportunity for Prince Rupert Council to become leaders across the Northwest when it comes to communication, transparency and accountability is there for taking, if they dare to take the leap.
More notes on City Council themes can be explored from our Council Discussion archive.