One job of Council?

Here are some thoughts from David Daniels on the goals of  our new Council which we reproduce for those who may not have seen this article in The Grapevine of Nov 20-Dec. 3. We had time today to type out the whole damn thing [listening David?] Format differs, natch. In a nutshell he is asking the new council to consider how it will get input from residents to help guide its decisions and also to make clear what factors it uses in choosing priorities. “We live in a small town where opinions of town residents should not be that difficult to glean.” Indeed.

WOLFVILLE’S NEW GOALS AND OBJECTIVES

The Town Council will soon be setting its “Goals and Objectives” for its new four year term.  What should make the list this year? (To access the 2004-2008 list go to Town’s home webpage, click “Town Hall”, then click “Town Council” and the document is after the list of Councilors. )

If you examine the 2004 list, you’ll find items from the very general and non-controversial to the particular.  At the general end are such goals as “strive to make our community a safe place” and “to secure peace, order, good government, health and general welfare. . .”   Who could argue with these objectives.  At the particular end of the spectrum are such things as updating the Municipal Planning Strategy (MPS), expand on IT functions and address the need for recreational services.

Deciding on the goals and objective for next four years raises questions about the kind of representation the citizens of Wolfville are entitled to from their elected officials.  Should the Council take actions and make decisions based upon what they believe is in the best interests of the Town and the right things to do?  Or should they act in ways consistent with the wishes of their constituents; that is, to literally “re-present” the interests of the citizens?  Perhaps the answer is somewhere in between.

In the last term the Council expended its own time, money and staff resources to adopt a “no-smoking in cars with children” bylaw.  This bylaw was not listed as a particular goal or objective of the Council.  It does, of course, fall within the goals to make the “community a safe environment” and “to secure . . .health and general welfare. . .”  To my knowledge there was no popular groundswell to initiate the adoption of this bylaw.  There were no facts presented to Council that smoking in cars with children was a major problem in Wolfville.  In fact, the impetus may have come from a request by Smoke Free Kings.  Do the circumstances of its adoption necessarily make the efforts of the Council improper or misguided?  No.  It just puts into focus the issue of representation.

The problem of representation leads to another: what are the interests of the Town residents?  And who decides? These questions, of course, lingered behind the controversial proposal in the newly adopted MPS to eliminate the R1 zoning district and the petition submitted in opposition to the proposal.

We live in a small town where the opinions of town residents should not be that difficult to glean.

There was just an election and candidates ran on set platforms.   Those platforms may be a starting point (and end point?) when the new Council decides upon new goals and objectives.

The Council may wish to consider receiving (direct) input from residents on what they believe should be the Town’s goals and objectives for the next four years.  Alternatively, the Council could make a preliminary list and then seek input.

Whatever choices the Council makes, it should publicize and explain its decisions.  Also, assuming it may not be possible to pursue at once all the particular objectives selected, the Council should prioritize its goals, and provide reasons why certain projects will be done first and others delayed.

If the “Goals and Objectives” are meant to serve as an essential blueprint for governing for the next four years, there is no reason why, given the size of the Town and technology, residents cannot play an important role in their formulation.  What that role will be is perhaps the first decision the new Council will have to make.

David A. Daniels
November 11, 2008

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