CN Municipal Government II -councillors vs staff

  Differences Between Councillors and Staff

Councillors Staff
Bring energy to the system. Many radical, new ideas, but frequently not very well thought through. Concerned with stability. Able to discern the difficulties to be encountered in making major changes.
Highly competative. Important to be seen to win around the council table. Cooperation more important than competition. To maintain long-term stability, better not to be seen as “winning.”
Needs to take credit for all accomplishments to increase profile Wants to share credit with others to build future alliances.
Need high profile in order to secure re-election. Won’t want staff taking lime-light. Prefer low profile. High profile just makes them a target. Alliance building with other staff.
Media publicity is essential to ensure that the public knows of accomplishments and improve chances of re-election. Media publicity is dysfunctional. Both councillors and fellow staff can become jealous.
Need to make strong and clear statements to be certain that message gets across. Prefer more tentative statements which allow for later modification. Different tone.
Highly and publicly critical of other levels of government when their actions hurt local government. Values long-term relationship with staff of other levels of government. Tries to work quietly to accomplish change to flow smoothly.
Policies must be vague enough to attract a coalition and satisfy a number of different groups. Need very clear policies to facilitate proper implementation.
Very sensitive to concerns of constituents. Wants those concerns handled quickly. Concerned that numerous individual complaints will strain resources and set bad precedents.

Political neutrality includes between political parties, political groups when council is split, and between policy proposals. Such neutrality encourages politicians to trust administrators as professionals who give the best political advice and preserves administrative independence. In Saskatchewan and Manitoba, when the administrator “crosses the line,” then booted out when new council elected in because they do not trust the administrator. This political neutrality is an ideal concept to assess practice. However, is this standard practical?

These issues cover all strata of governance, be it municipal, provincial or federal. Managing policies to serve a large populace is daunting to begin with. Over time various policy implementations have overlapped in certain areas and created gross neglect in others. The difficulty of city departments not coordinating with one another, or even being able to move staff around, is a microcosm of the difficulty of governance overall in the land. Archaic bylaws remain on the books with no means to clean up the build-up of the political developmental debris of building a country. Downloading from the federal or provincial governments to the municipal levels, for whatever reason, creates a bureaucratic and political illusion of progress as we regress into greater and greater disorganization, overlap and ultimate neglect as we struggle, full of integrity, to serve.

One principle Sheila Copps promoted in her book Worth Fighting For (McClelland & Stewart Ltd., 2004, 38) was that controversial matters, once decided upon, should be dealth with speedily because the opposed will continue to organize while those who agree move on to other things. Sheila believes this is core to why the Meech Lake Accord failed. Bureaucratic and political effectiveness and efficiency are crucial for fruitful outcomes instead of frustration and political dispair and public apathy.

Another principle is the basic rule of collective bargaining: don’t speak until the agreement signed. It is a liability to like hearing yourself talk.

I shall continue with federal insights Sheila gave on administration as it also is relevant to municipal administration (Copps, 127).

The nature of decision making is departmental. Departments have already established spending priorities by the time a cabinet committee is reached. It is difficult to get real structural change. Structural change must come at the beginning of the process. The cabinet process needs to be collaborative from the start.

Re-engineer government with a consensus management model with quality circles of collaboration. The current hierarchy in government is not optimal with stove pipes of government with separate verticle departments having no contact with one another making it virtually impossible to build ground-up consensus. “…as a result we have a dispirited public service that questions the value of their own input” (Copps, 128).  Much of their time is tied up in process, not in output.

Departments and regions have their own method of collecting data and have different computer systems so documents cannot be sent via the internet. Much personal time is used in tracking paper, not in producing creative policy. None of this is efficient, effective or economical.

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