In the Matter of the Core Review
Mayor Ruttan, Councillors, Staff, Citizens:
In the matter of the Core Services Review concerning which Council’s direction is sought this evening, I ask that you recommend option D, i.e. the Penticton model. You may recall that Penticton chose this option as it was felt that it was needed to assess an increasingly difficult financial situation. Similarly, in Nanaimo, the burden of projects and works, particularly the tens of millions of dollars recommended for additional water capacity and the huge identified needs for asset additions and maintenance in general, when added on top of the significant tax increases of the past few years puts both Nanaimo’s and its taxpayers’ fiscal future in potential jeopardy.
The Penticton option offers several advantages which I feel can best serve the objectives of all involved at this time. Among these are:
1. It provides a discrete and specific set of objectives relating to efficiency and effectiveness which can be identified and could, I believe, be met in a time frame permitting results prior to the Nov. 2011 election. This would permit voters to express their wishes regarding the resulting recommendations. The delays inherent in the alternative options will leave Nanaimo voters out of the loop entirely.
2. It would provide a realistic financial basis for any subsequent visioning which a new Council may wish to carry out in their new term.
3. It requires the least amount of Staff time of the options on offer and at the same time permits the City Manager to carry forward, within broad limits, the existing organizational planning initiatives which he has in progress.
4. It offers City management the opportunity to review programs through independent eyes and to perhaps find support for changes which have been felt to needed but are internally difficult due to history and/or internal inertia.
5. I believe it to be the least expensive of the options and its commitment is finite. Other options appear to be very open in nature. Nor is it clear that some of the problems which those options seem to be designed to address are currently beyond either this or a new Council elected this November or our current Staff. If it turns out that further work in these areas is required, it can be obtained at that time.
I ask that in your decision making this evening you carefully consider the objectives which can realistically be met in a single study, the effective time frame in which it can be performed and that you not shut the voters and taxpayers of Nanaimo effectively out of the process.
Thank you for your consideration.
It was discouraging to see Council refuse to undertake a core review on the apparent theory that the foxes might be upset if their guardianship of the hen-house were questioned. Even if the angels were in charge, the devil should be asked for outside comment from time to time. Given the time schedule it appears that citizens and taxpayers can look forward to yet another Council which will start from scratch and take a year or two to even learn the basic parameters of their job. In my mind this is dereliction of duty. Bernie Madoff and others like him get away with their schemes because no outsiders check on things inside. And it must be remembered that the Madoffs of this world are thankfully few and far between and most outside reviews give either a passing or an excellent grade. But tests are there to make sure that what we believe is in fact what is. I am sorry that five of our Councillors; Unger, Holdom, Ruttan, Johnstone and Pattje do not believe in external reviews. I would not invest in any company with such a policy. Trust…., but verify.
I also am disappointed about council’s vote on this issue last night and feel this would have been a good way of giving the new council an idea from where to start and where they are hoping to go.
As you and I discussed a day or so ago, I did favour the so-called ” Nanaimo model ” of a core review, simply because I felt that too much duplication would occur with the Vancouver/Regina and Penticton models.
For you to now write that I have no faith in external reviews is disingenuos!
The Nanaimo model was a hand-in-hand walk through the organization joining any consultant at the hip with an organization that has never had an external review. It is not disingenuous to note that you voted against a plain and unadulterated external review. I am well aware of how consultants work as I have been one. It is very easy to be mislead, swayed or just plain worn down when you do not have an independent role. While it may be valuable to undertake an external review of either the “organization” as distinguished from a service agency with defined duties to the public, or of the relations between Staff and Council, these are separate matters and should not be mixed into a core review of services and the efficiency or effectiveness with which they are provided.
I do not view an independent review as any great threat to the Staff and believe that Mr. Kenning might welcome a fresh view. There are things that an independent consultant can say that someone who has been embedded in an organization for decades cannot say. I have considerable faith in Mr. Kenning and his staff in general.
On a related but not insignificant note, it is my opinion that this Council has now effectively denied the possibility for a new Council to come in this December with any better idea of the situation at City Hall than had the present Council when they arrived over two years ago. Nor will there be a possibility of any more substantive discussion by candidates in this November’s election than was the case in the last. This is a regrettable situation.
Had you written that I voted against a ” plain and unadulterated external review “, I would not be objecting since that is how I voted.
You did, however, not do that but instead wrote that I do not believe in external reviews and that is plain untrue!
I believed on Monday evening, as I do now, that we could have set parameters with the ” Nanaimo model ” that would have achieved much of what you desire, without the possibility of expensive duplication or of some of the other unneccessary pittfalls intrinsically connected with the Penticton model.
While I had a pretty good idea on Monday how the vote would go, I did speak to the Nanaimo model and obviously failed miserably in convincing any of the colleagues that one bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, for that failure I take full responsibility, though I trust you did note that Penticton would have failed even with my vote…….
Just don’t tell folks that I do not believe in external reviews!
That said, I’ll leave you with a friendly ” over and out” !
Perhaps I should have said that: “five of our Councillors; Unger, Holdom, Ruttan, Johnstone and Pattje did not believe in an external review on this important occasion.”, or “if this important issue is an example…” etc.
I do not believe that most readers would make the mistake to which you object, i.e. where the subject of discourse was turned from the specific under discussion to the universal, but I agree with you that it could happen. For this failure I apologize. But I feel that there are five Councillors who owe an apology to the public which I do not expect to be forthcoming. We are doomed to more and more of the same.
I did note that even had you voted for the external core review that the motion would have failed and I do not hold you in any exceptional fault in this matter. You voted your conscience and I respect that, even if I may think that it is wrong headed under the circumstances.
I must admit that I am very disappointed with Fred’s performance on Council. The so-called internal review simply produces the usual laudatory “everything is wonderful”. In the Nanaimo situation a guy like Kenning who has been part of the scene for many years is never going to push for a thorough review which might question the need for some of the senior management and professional positions at City Hall. Given the number of one hundred thousand a year plus positions in Nanaimo, however, the questions should be asked. The need for a tough minded external review has never been greater. Budget increases, year after year, that significantly exceed the rate of inflation are simply unsustainable for this relatively poor community. Unfortunately Fred now seems to be voting largely with the Cheerleader Group on council.
On Monday, Jan. 17, at 4:30pm, in the City Hall Boardroom, the Finance,Policy Committee of the whole (the entire Council)will hear budget presentations from the following:
(a) Mr. T. P. Seward, Director of Development, to provide a presentation regarding the Development Department budget.
(b) Mr. A. J. Tucker, Director of Planning, to provide a presentation regarding the Planning Department budget.
(c) Ms. T. L. Hartley, Director of Human Resources and Organizational Planning, to provide a presentation regarding the Human Resources and Organizational Planning Department budget.
(d) Mr. I. Howat, Director of Strategic Relationships, to provide a presentation regarding the Strategic Relationships Department budget.
While we may not have a core review, citizens can form their own opinions on the budgets in these Departments, and form their own opinions regarding core and non-core services. You will also get an idea of what Council views these roles and budgets to be.
At this meeting, any citizen may also make their opinions on the 2011-2015 budget be known.
There will also be reports or recommendations on park dedications, a second artificial turf field, combat sports events at the conference centre, and the quarterly Contract report.
You are invited to become the outside consultant on budgets in Nanaimo. Take part.
I wonder why the five Councilors have no concern that 3.3 employees (Full Time Equivalents)working for the City making and installing signs earn a total of $312,062 in wages & benefits,which amounts to $94,564 per employee.This is damn good income for a position that requires the skills of knowing the alphabet and how to use a shovel.
Yes. It is surpassing strange that both staff and the majority of our Councillors, given their assurances in these matters, refuse to stand up to accept the blue ribbon, gold plated, award that they seem to feel they deserve when all they would have to do is take part. There is always a cloud over an organization that is afraid of a review.
I wonder how many on Council,other than Fred,read this blog? Don’t know,but hopefully they all follow the ‘Budget Forum’.In any event,do any of them think that some specific City expenditures,such as those for ‘Fleet Maintenance’for reasons listed below,do not from time to time require a detailed review to determine if the taxpayers are getting reasonable value for their money?
Let me explain why I believe this department would have been appropriate area for a core review.
There are 12 people employed here (see Budget Forum for job titles).For 2011 the budget is $2,487,592 for all City vehicles except RCMP.I estimate the salaries and benefits for these 12 to be $1,000,000 for the year.
I have asked on several occasions for the precise number of City vehicles being maintained.The City has to date refused to provide the information,even though it would be readily available in the system.Lacking the information,I estimate the number to be 100,realizing it could be more or less.
On the basis of $1M for 100 vehicles,this amounts to $10,000 per vehicle per year for wages and benefits.Other costs for insurance,fuel,lubricants are all extra.The $10,000 PER VEHICLE is just for employee remuneration.It must also be emphasized that the work performed by the 12 does not include glass,transmissions,radiators,wheel alignments,mufflers or body work.Furthermore,many of the Citys vehicles are under warranty during the year and required work would be performed by the manufacturers.
The question to be answered then,is what actual work of value is performed in this section which requires staffing at the existing level,at the existing cost.
Fred,if you are interested and able to find out,it may be useful in your budget deliberations.
Working in the non profit sector any organization that gets gaming or other government funding can be audited externally. Services that have received acreditation are also reviewed externally. Makes sense to me that even a city should be reviewed externally. Too often we hold councillors to conflict or perceived conflict of interest guidlines and I have to ask are not city managers held to the same accountability when auditing their own departments? If my job depended on how well I did it, which it does, I would have a vested interest in giving myself a good review.
The core services review is not a performance evaluation. It is a examination of the services provided by the city. The point is to determine if the services are “core” that is, central to the operation of the city.
In the example of a municipality, a core review would look at each service provided to determine if it was necessary (core). Protective services, sewer and water and land use services are essential to a municipality.
Parks, Recreation and Culture are probably not essential. Some protective services might not be either, for instance are the community policing stations core? Is Fire education in the schools and essential service.
The list of questions goes on. Council should not hire an outside evaluator to decide these questions. The politicians are elected to answer these questions.
Gordon Campbell and the Liberals executed a core review as their first order of business in 2002. We lost a lot of services, mostly social and human services because Campbell did not believe they were core to the work of government. Women’s services, justice services, mental health and child and youth services were lost. It has been a nightmare trying to rebuild once they realized what a mess they had made.
From reading this blog, I get the impression that people think that council turned down an outside evaluation of staff performance. Not so. They turned down and opportunity to have some outsiders drop in and tell us what should be important to the citizens of Nanaimo. No thanks…..db
Diane Brennan writes “Some protective services might not be either, for instance are the community policing stations core?”
Interesting example. Why shouldn’t community policing stations be the subject of the rigorous review? Do they divert resources that could be better used elsewhere? Are they truly part of a community? Is there such a thing as community? I don’t know the answer to these questions but they should be asked. Questions might also be asked about the Downtown bicycle squad. Maybe it is highly effective; maybe it has little positive impact. Why shouldn’t it be subject to review. Crime rates are on a downward trend while policing costs are increasing. Perhaps more policing has reduced crime but then perhaps there are unnecessary costs. Diane seems to suggest that council can not be trusted with “recommendations” – that council is collectively so devoid of critical thinking capacity that they will instantly buy whatever is recommended to them. Could be correct!
“They turned down and opportunity to have some outsiders drop in and tell us what should be important to the citizens of Nanaimo.”
So let me get this straight, we pay $100,000 to have someone come in and tell us how to plan for the future of the city from an economic point of view, but don’t like the idea of another viewpoint when it come to setting priorities?
Why would DB presume that the people elected to oversee the direction of the city ie: councilors, would simply adopt whatever an outside consultant would suggest? If history proves anything, the review would probably just join the other studies gathering dust on a shelf someplace. Anyone watching the LED debate could not honestly think, this council is ever going to put together anything more complex than allowing back yard chickens.
It is this type of no logic arguments that simply make no sense. It seems that those opposed to any kind of oversight by someone they do not control would suggest they fear something coming to light.
I for one. would have loved some outside oversight when council and this staff were handling the downtown VICC affair.
Presently we need someone to establish what core services were are going to put at the top of the list as a city, if we are to avoid a failing infrastructure in the not too distant future. By staffs’ own calculations were are missing the mark by nearly $13 million per year to keep our water, sewer and roads at the top of the list.
If someone does not show some clear leadership in this matter in twenty years or so, who knows what condition our water and sewers and road will be in … of course we might have lots more white elephants in the herd by then.
Bring on a core review and have council show some spine and set real priorities …. ones which can be afforded by the community twenty or thirty years down the road.
You should read your first and last paragraphs again. You are quite right in the first that a core review is not a performance review. You are quite wrong in the last in suggesting that it is a vision quest. It is, as you indicate, a review to identify what is necessary to the survival of the city and separate it from the rest and identify the resources associated with each. What is to be done with the information is up to Council.
I am baffled by your concern. Like a physician’s advice, a patient or a city may choose to follow or to ignore it. In fact, in Nanaimo, I would suggest that Councils may have more often chosen to ignore the advice received from outside consultants. In your time in Council did you come to mistrust the judgment of that august body so much? Do you propose that we are all so adept in reading our own signs that we therefore do not need periodic check-ups? Our health care is based on early detection, not on collapse.
“The bureaucracy is a circle from which one cannot escape. Its hierarchy is a hierarchy of knowledge. The top entrusts the understanding of detail to the lower levels, whilst the lower levels credit the top with understanding of the general, and so all are mutually deceived.”