“Booyah,” is the quote of the night for Monday’s council meeting. It was Councillor Browne’s one-word endorsement of a motion to put Councillor O’Donnell forward as a candidate to sit on the board of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
And while I’d phrase it differently, I agree with the sentiment. O’Donnell is good people. One thing the p-dog gives the mayor credit for is helping to make infrastructure renewal a national issue. But we haven’t given O’Donnell the credit he deserves for his work on that score. He’s council’s rep on the committee that has organized the two National Infrastructure Summits (this year’s is coming up in the summer) and was instrumental in making last year’s summit a big success.
Also, I’ve generally liked what he’s had to say at council. In fact, he spoke really powerfully last year in favor of a First Nations’ housing project proposed for Coronation Park that had residents there all up-at-arms and xenophobic. That really impressed me. So I expect he’ll be a strong voice for Regina on the FCM board.
So… er… booyah.
Oh, I should also mention that O’Donnell runs a good council meeting, which we got to see in action last night because he was standing in for a once again absent Mayor Fiacco. That means the mayor is currently batting 500 on council meeting attendance this year. And he seems to be conveniently missing all the really contentious meetings. The one in January he skipped was the marathon discussion of 1755 Hamilton, the condo conversion policy and the housing crisis in general. And last night, the bylaw outlining how the city will handle Public Private Partnerships was on top of the agenda.
And that bylaw was passed, of course.
Council stated that their endorsement of this bylaw shouldn’t be seen as a sign that all procurements in future will P3s, only that they want to have as many funding tools in their toolbox as possible.
As Councillor Clipsham put it, in the event that council is ever confronted with the possibility of undertaking a P3, it’s better to have a framework to deal with them in place than to not.
I spoke with Tom Graham, president of CUPE Saskatchewan, after the bylaw was passed and he was, not surprisingly, disappointed by the decision. Although, he did say that he was pleased to hear that council would be willing to revisit the idea of using P3s if it looks like they aren’t working. He also mentioned that he was happy that any P3s undertaken by the city will be done so with lots of public input, and that CUPE will definitely be on hand to speak against them when the time comes.
(Such as when city staff come forward to recommend that the best way to replace Mosaic stadium is with a P3 project. Which admittedly they haven’t done yet — they’re only examining the option — but, come on, you know they’re totally dying to give this a go.)
Personally, a concern about P3s that occurred to me during the meeting revolves around their transparency. One of the exemptions provided by the Freedom Of Information Act is when requested information involves a third party — ie, some entity that’s outside the public institution and thus not subject to FOI requests. Well, a P3, by its very nature, is inextricably knotted up with a third party. So my question to Councillor O’Donnell after the meeting was if this would make any P3 project the city undertook exempt from scrutiny?
He said as far as he knew that issue hadn’t been considered. But he was going to talk to staff and follow up with me.
Here’s hoping he does. Otherwise I might have to take back that “booyah.”
Council also passed a report that revisited the Core Services Review. I have to say that even after sitting through council’s discussion of this and after talking to O’Donnell after the meeting about it, I’m still not 100 per cent clear on what it will change at city hall. The report says all the right things about the funding challenges that are facing municipalities. And it suggests that creative revenue solutions are needed for the future. But as for what is actually going to be done — you know, in, like, real life — I’m still not clear.
But, hey, council described this as a philosophical change in how they do business, so maybe it’s a necessary step. But I was hoping for something a little more concrete. And I also expected something that looked back on the Core Services Review and explained how staff had achieved that $8.5 million in efficiencies over the last eight years.
I guess that info is to be found in some other document.
Anyway, everything else passed and we were out by 7:30. Not too bad.