By the time most people read this, we will have chosen our Mayor and Council. It will be up to them to find a consensus on the perennial challenge of providing efficient services at a reasonable cost. Improved roads, sidewalks, trails and transit are high on people’s lists. Provincial legislation requiring ‘replacement cost’ funding of water infrastructure is also bringing a big hike in water rates. Beyond that, decisions on residential and commercial growth will affect the rural/urban nature of our Town, role of agriculture, potential local employment opportunities, and overall quality of life. And then there are long-term issues of climate change, adaptation, the carbon economy, and economic disparity. It’s disappointing that few citizens want to consider the big issues and few politicians want to address them.
While local electioneering was in full swing, an article, written by Don Tapscott, praising the municipal strategy in Guelph caught my eye. (As Toronto dithers, Guelph sets sights on 21st century, Toronto Star, October 17, 2014) He described seven key actions that have made Guelph stand out as a municipal leader. It’s worth reading the entire article:
Promoting entrepreneurship to achieve prosperity
“close to 80 per cent of new jobs come from companies five years old or less …”
“The city is releasing data sets as public assets …”
Turning public safety inside out
“Guelph has launched Guelph Enterprise — a model for innovation in human services. The model asserts that cities do not have a policing problem but a marginalized people problem.”
“the city council has made affordable, alternative transportation a priority for Guelph’s growth.”
Creating a sustainable city
“Amazingly, Guelph is building North America’s first city-wide district energy network.”
Transforming social services
“22 community leaders from different sectors, agencies and stakeholders … agreed to work together using shared performance indicators to tackle tough issues…”
Reinventing local democracy
“Events like Hackathons, Health Jams and Change Camps demonstrate a community approach to redefining the relationship between citizens and their local government.”
These are all excellent initiatives that should inspire numerous imitators. The lesson for us is that these transformative ideas are being implemented by combining engaged citizens with imaginative leaders. Dumbed-down slogans may be effective in motivating a harried electorate but won’t likely serve us well as a municipal strategy.