Search This Blog

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Municipal Election Thoughts. Part 1

With the province wide municipal elections coming up in just over 2 weeks perhaps it's time to have a quick look at the general state of our municipal sector. Of course this time around I'm also a candidate for my town of Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove, and you can check out my campaign website at www.RyanLane.org.  If you want a detailed look at the sector, have a look back at a 4 part series I wrote in 2011 starting with Part 1. Over the next couple of weeks I'll provide my current thoughts on the sector and highlight the areas we really need to work on. In this first instalment I'll cover municipal financing and citizen engagement.

Cash Flow
Those involved in the sector are well aware of the financial realities of running a town on very limited resources and increasing responsibilities. It's a sign of the health of the sector that most towns would have to close their doors if they stopped receiving the Municipal Operating Grants from the Province. Then there's the infrastructure that they have even less control over. Each year municipalities put forward applications for desperately needed infrastructure development and maintenance in hopes that they might get chosen from the random and largely politicised infrastructure lottery.

So we have a level of government with seriously insufficient funding and secretive, sketchy and politicised access to infrastructure funding. How do we fix it? Well, the Province has promised a proper fiscal framework review for many years, and there is one ongoing right now but the outcome is likely to simply be a rejig of the MOG formula. Municipalities need proper enabling legislation, more diverse revenue generation tools and a multi-year public and prioritised infrastructure plan from the Province so that they can plan appropriately without having to cross their fingers and hope that their project will get approved.

Citizen Engagement
This topic is a tough one because some towns do their utmost to engage residents, while others treat residents as an unfortunate side effect of having a council. Most towns are in the middle somewhere. This problem stems from the fact that neither the Province nor many councils or councillors understand what municipalities are for, nor what they are capable of. Because of this many towns don't try to engage residents because they wouldn't know what to do with them even if they were engaged in the process.

The most recent unfortunate example of this I've seen is with my own town of Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove where I expressed concern to the council that our residents might not get the opportunity to meet all the candidates. I suggested a simple meet and greet for all candidates to make sure no resident could say they weren't given the opportunity to know who they were voting for. Unfortunately the response from the Town was that the majority of the current council had no interest in holding such an event. This is a problem.

While Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador and the Professional Municipal Administrators association are always holding training sessions that often emphasise the importance of resident engagement many councils still don't quite get it. It is the backbone of our democratic system, and engaging citizens once every 4 years is just not good enough.




No comments:

Post a comment