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Canada: Governance Review Awaits New Council
Source: ottawacitizen.com
Source Date: Thursday, November 25, 2010
Focus: ICT for MDGs
Country: Canada
Created: Nov 25, 2010

New committees, permanent deputy mayors, and posting councillors' expenses online are to be considered as part of the first business for the new council, mayor-elect Jim Watson said Wednesday.

A governance review report to be discussed next month by the new council also recommends a transit commission that includes citizen members and reviewing ways to engage the public in the municipal government.

Taken together, the recommendations would allow the city to be run in a more "transparent" and "efficient" manner, Watson said.

A governance review occurs every time a newly elected city council takes over.

The report contains recommendations developed by city clerk and solicitor Rick O'Connor and deputy city clerk Leslie Donnelly, who worked closely with Watson and conducted interviews with incoming and outgoing councillors.

Under one of the proposed changes, Watson would recommend to council the appointment of two of their peers to act in his place when he's ill or away from the city.

Since amalgamation, councillors have rotated through the deputy-mayor position, but appointing deputies would provide "consistency and transparency" during the council term, the report says.

Watson said he had experience in the former City of Ottawa with both an appointed deputy mayor and a rotation, and a permanent deputy provides "much better linkage with the mayor's office on scheduling."

(In 2006, council voted down a proposal for three deputy mayors -- one each from the urban, suburban and rural areas -- to be appointed each year.)

The report also recommends combining the audit, budget and finance committee with the corporate services and economic development committee to create a "new" finance and economic development committee.

There used to be only one committee dealing with all those matters, until outgoing mayor Larry O'Brien sought to split them so that one group of councillors could focus more intently on the city budget. The corporate-services committee deals with internal city administration, buying and selling city land, labour relations and human resources. Watson would merge them.

An arms-length transit commission composed of eight members of council and three citizens is recommended to be responsible for transit operations, rather than the existing transit committee composed of only councillors. A transit commission was one of Watson's campaign planks.

The planning and environment committee, known for its heavy agendas, would be split into two committees: one focused on city planning and the other on the environment, which typically includes garbage collection and water services. (Watson said will also propose that housing fall to the planning committee).

And the licence committee would be merged with the property standards committee. The joint quasi-judicial committee would hear cases on both licensing and property standards appeals, and would be comprised of five citizen members. Six councillors currently sit on the licence committee. As a panel of three, it hears cases on suspensions and revocations of licences granted by the city (such as to taxi drivers), while three citizens on the property standards committee hear appeals on building-code matters.

It's also recommended that an "accountability framework" be developed, and a review conducted into a code of conduct and lobbyist registry. And councillors' office budgets should be posted each month on the city's website, the report recommends.

A review of citizens' advisory committees is also recommended as part of a larger exploration of engaging the public. The report notes there has been increasing frustration from both members of council and the committees about their effectiveness, and that social media is among the ways that citizen engagement is changing.

After the Dec. 1 swearing-in ceremony, the new council is scheduled to meet Dec. 8. Watson said a nominating committee that's to recommend who should sit on each committee -- after councillors indicate their preferences -- is to meet Dec. 14, and its decisions are to go to council at its second meeting, on Dec. 15.

Watson said he would bring his recommendation for deputy mayors to the nominating committee if that recommendation is approved.



Read more: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/business/Governance+review+awaits+council/3881150/story.html#ixzz16LOuzCYU
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