Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Kim Smythe Addresses Nanaimo City Council

Note: If you missed the Nov. 2/15 Council meeting, the following is the text of the presentation made to council by Chamber CEO Kim Smythe. The entire city council meeting was recorded and can be seen here.

Thank you for welcoming the Chamber of Commerce this evening. We thought it was important to provide this update on our first Report to Council on February 16 shortly after your election to office. In that presentation we pointed out how much your individual platforms in the election were aligned with the Chamber of Commerce platform. We found the following commonalities:

A wish to use teamwork to provide better leadership
A commitment to Maximizing Core Service Efficiencies
The desire to seek transparency & community input in governance
Ensuring you are informed, engaged and acting responsibly and
Continually striving for community prosperity
Council was in general agreement that their values aligned with our platform points so we felt we were all ready to work in unison. We went on to identify six key priorities for your first year in office. Here’s a report card on those, ranking each priority as:

Not yet started
Project Initiated
Project Progressing
Project Stalled
Here are the priorities we identified at that time:

Updating the 2012-2015 Corporate Strategic Plan – not yet started
Green Tape Committee – stalled while we wait for Core Review
Reviewing development and building permit procedures – initiated
at staff level, but not reached Council table yet.
Overhauling sign bylaws – not yet started
Core Review – initiated the RFP in the past month
Freezing Commercial Tax Rate hikes – completed by freezing tax increases across the boards – other than the asset management allowance of 1%. Congratulations on that.
But take that list as a body of work and we don’t have a lot to celebrate. This is not the level of progress that Nanaimo needs and it should have been achievable as Council. We say, as the voice of business, that this community – all taxpayers — unfortunately aren’t getting their money’s worth today.

There are some who would say that an inability to define a shared vision, both short and long term, by this Council is causing a slow down and is, in fact, preventing any real progress. An impediment to defining a shared vision is Council’s apparent inability to communicate effectively and respectfully. That’s been very visible in these very chambers, never mind in the world of social media. Toxic relations exist at this table if one reads what is published on facebook or attends these meetings. Council needs to focus on removing this toxicity from the working relationships in order to begin effectively communicating. There has to be some shared responsibility to aim for that.

It’s been heard around the council table that you don’t have to like or respect somebody to work with them. How does thinking and speaking openly like that promote productivity and demonstrate a willingness to achieve GREAT things in ANY workplace? One would think that sharing common goals and working towards a vision would be much more productive if people working together would focus on what they shared, rather than what their differences were and how many reasons they have to dislike each other.

There needs to be respect, and the outward appearance of respect, for the office you hold, respect for the processes you manage, and respect for staff and the community when they stand up here to communicate with you. But most of all you need to show respect for each other. That certainly has not been standard operating procedure so far. That is noted not just by members of this audience but everyone who tries to do business here and everyone who watches these interactions on Shaw or on streaming video. Of course, the media also do a good job of reporting on the travails of Council.

Objectionable behavior and lack of decorum in this room by people in the gallery over the past year has resulted in delays that cost taxpayers money, creates frustration and certainly adds to the stress of your job. People shouting out, cheering and jeering, waving signs in front of the cameras and audience members leads to an atmosphere of chaos and disrespect. In fact, these experiences and leadership’s inability to maintain order is at least partly responsible for Council failing to meet quorum four times in 2015. I can’t remember that happening before.

This community needs a Council that is committed to an economic development vision and can point toward a path that will result in a city with full and healthy employment. We need agreement with, and a commitment to, Tourism Nanaimo’s vision and strategic plan. There needs to be a long term commitment to the Vancouver Island Conference Centre, development of a complementary hotel, and a business plan to make those inter-connected projects succeed.

Or we need to know if somebody is sitting on Plan B? A realistic option to do something else that will reward our community the way we saw that project working for our us when we decided to go with it. And if you don’t like what you see as the plans for these projects now, we need to work together to come to an agreement on what will work because it is a product of our shared vision.

We need Council to build stronger relationships with external community groups. City Hall doesn’t function well in a vacuum. Commissions and committees aren’t enough to help elected officials and management make informed decisions. Partnerships need to be built or strengthened between Council and groups like the Chamber, the Port Authority, Airport Commission, DNBIA, YPN and others.

In the 2012 – 2015 Nanaimo Corporate Strategic Plan, a commitment was made to deliver ‘excellent municipal government’. That can’t be done without your vision defining what excellent municipal government is. We need an updated Strategic Plan to guide that. This can and should be done in parallel with the Core Review.

Finally, the Chamber strongly encourages Council to use the current opportunity of choosing a new city manager as a chance to come together with this common vision. Use this time right now to figure out how find consensus amongst the nine of you on what is best for Nanaimo’s future. Our new City Manager will need that to help set their goals and targets. Without Council leading the process, how will our new City Manager know what direction to point the ship?

Our new City Manager will be in charge of rebuilding a senior management team at city hall. These new leaders will make a major contribution to a new culture at city hall steering Nanaimo’s municipal management course into the future. This must be directed by the community’s shared vision and led by you. This can be delivered through an updated strategic plan with a list of exciting goals and excellent opportunities for the community to work on together.

That is why the act of working together to uncover this vision is one of the most incredible opportunities you will have in your four-year term. Doing this successfully would demonstrate true leadership and, this alone, could well be your greatest legacy as our City Council.

Thank you.


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