This Week At City Hall: P3s Are Coming, Narrowing Gaps

Before I get into what’s actually happening at city hall this week, can I gripe for a minute? I mean, I know this column often turns into a litany of gripes (or an inventory of bellyaches, a catalog of kvetches), but this will strictly be a personal complaint about something that will probably never, ever affect you.

Recently, the city updated its website design. The change was slight but it has been really aggravating. For me.

So, on the page that’s devoted to meeting agendas and decisions, for some reason they did away with the little calendar doohickey. Last year, if I knew that something had been discussed at RPC in, say, June of 2010, I could go to the city meeting page and scroll back through the calendar to June 2010 and look at all the RPC meetings that happened that month and find what I wanted pretty quickly.

Now that page is just a list of the 10 most recent meetings. And if you’re trying to find something that happened on a specific date, you have to go back blindly through old pages — 10 meetings to a page — until you find what you want. And seeing as I sometimes do want to browse through agendas from several years ago, this is very clumsy and inefficient. And time consuming and stupid.

But fortunately, thanks to my mad webbernet skillz, I’ve figured out a way to cope with this that works fairly well. But I’m not going to tell you what I’m doing for fear that someone will read about it and change the city’s website again so that my nifty little cheat won’t work anymore.

Related to this, that change to the website design seems to have introduced another little problem. And it’s one that if I ever have a minute where I’ve nothing better to do I might contact Service Regina and let them know about, because it strikes me as something about the website that’s “broken” as opposed to “designed stupidly.”

What’s happening is, on the front page (www.regina.ca), where it lists off all the meetings that are coming up in a week, it seems to drop meetings. Take this week for instance. Based on the city’s main page, there is just a trio of Board of Revision meetings coming up. But in fact, there is a city council meeting tonight. But you wouldn’t know it if you just checked www.regina.ca. Pretty annoying, eh?

Anyway, I’ll go over tonight’s council agenda after the break….

Monday, March 26
CITY COUNCIL MEETING (5:30pm): Big contentious item tonight is a change to the purchasing policy so that Public Private Partnerships can be used for city projects, in addition to more traditional procurement models. Tom Graham, president of CUPE Saskatchewan, and representatives of the Friends of the Regina Public Library will be on hand to speak against the use of P3s.

I think you can pretty much guess how this will turn out. Even if council listens to what the delegations have to say on the subject, they’ll pass the policy change anyway so as to “keep their options open.” Plus, they kind of have to adopt this, seeing as they’ve already concurred with a staff recommendation to use the P3 model with the Mosaic Stadium replacement project.

Also on the agenda tonight is a report that looks back at 2005’s Core Services Review and proposes something called the Strategic Focus 2012: Narrowing the Gap.

In case you’re just joining us, the Core Services Review is this thing that city hall went through back in 2004 where they looked at how the city was run and tried to find ways to do business more efficiently. So whenever you hear, say, a candidate for municipal office, (say, for mayor) who says stuff about how city hall is so wasteful and it has to review its business practices and cut away at the fat, anyone who is actually on council can point to the Core Services Review and say, “Yeah, we already did that like eight years ago.”

And actually, many of the people I’ve spoken to who work for the city will confess that things are already cut pretty close to the bone and maybe a little fat wouldn’t be a bad thing. You know, so as to insulate the city from anything unexpected.

But, be that as it may, council asked staff to revisit the Core Services review and report back about it. Which they’re doing tonight. And I have to say I’m not entirely sure what policy direction is coming out of this and am hoping everything will become clear at the meeting.

I’ll report back when it’s done.

Also on tonight’s agenda: a proposal for a group of townhouses at 4175 Green Apple Drive, a recommendation to appoint Councillor O’Donnell to be our rep at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, changes to the Records Retention Bylaw (like 200+ pages worth which I confess I haven’t read, sorry), and a recommendation to approve special event funding ($10,000 for the Regina Tornado Legacy Group; $35,000 for New Dance Horizons’ Tornado Project; $27,000 to cover transit charter costs for the Mosaic festival; and, $5,000 for the Mayor’s Arts and Business Awards).

And that’s it for this week in a nutshell. (Nice timing too. I hear someone waking from a nap upstairs.) For complete agendas and reports, go to the city’s horribly crippled (in my opinion) meeting page.

Author: Paul Dechene

Paul Dechene is 5’10” tall and he was born in a place. He’s not there now. He’s sitting in front of his computer writing his bio for this blog. He has a song stuck in his head. It’s “Girl From Ipanema”, thanks for asking.

You can follow Paul on Twitter at @pauldechene and get live updates during city council meetings and other city events at @PDcityhall.

10 thoughts on “This Week At City Hall: P3s Are Coming, Narrowing Gaps”

  1. The P3 model is in play with the Central Library situation too. Speaking of which, there’s a RPL Board Meeting Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. at Central and Friends of the RPL are making a presentation to the Board about possibly at some point sharing some of their plans about upgrades to Central. The Friends press release noted that March 31 is the deadline for the RPL Board to submit a business plan to P3 Canada to possibly qualify for some federal government money for the project.

  2. its website design
    there is just a trio (or, there are just three)
    If you can stand one more trot down memory lane: when I was on the RPL Board, P3s were certainly mentioned as one means of financing renovations/rebuilds, but we were urged to use great caution because of past experiences of other institutions in other jurisdictions. A significant number had discovered to their dismay that lack of attention to the details and fine print meant that they essentially lost control of what they thought were their buildings.

  3. Can you please ask the City what they are planning on doing to ensure that a provincial P3 policy is put into place BEFORE projects are committed to? Brad Wall has said Saskatchewan doesn’t have a policy in place and he has no idea when and how one will be decided upon.

    How long is it going to take to create one, and is the policy going to be “make sure it is built as cheaply as possible”? Or will it have rules that the buildings have to be constructed as green as possible (ala BC)?

    Gah. This is such a bad idea. P3s are just a way to erect buildings as cheaply as possible, without a concern for longevity or quality.

  4. Anon: If you want to see what the city’s P3 policy will look like, it’s in the city council report for today. They’re not just considering the recommendation to allow P3s. They’re also passing the bylaw at the same time.

    In other words…. no, they are not going to wait until the province has something in place.

    The city will have something in place by the end of today.

  5. I know who Agent W is and it totally isn’t Stephen.

    (And effect/affect error corrected. thx)

  6. Much of the language in the report is recycled from a document http://www.pppcouncil.ca/pdf/calgary_p3policy_122008.pdf presented 2008 in Calgary. Deloitte were the consultants there also.

    It’s interesting to see the differences from then to what Regina got now. For example, the Regina version does leave out the P3 models which include specific “transfer of ownership” of a existing facility (I think that’s the phrase Fougere used in his helpful questions to the administration people), but it seems to me any models including “design-build-finance” would imply the developer owning the new facility, and any including “operate” would imply ceding control there too.

    Also notice the Regina version loses one of Calgary’s principles that “The public interest is paramount”. Oh well, it’s approved now, and we have Council and the City business managers to protect us, right?

    (See http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2012/03/26/marketplace-dirty-hospital-folo.html from just yesterday about one health region’s experience with P3ing hospital sanitation. Public facilities tend to have different challenges than office buildings.)

  7. So let me get this right, A P3 is basically a wussy voluntary version of a gov’t doing its job and taxing appropriately, taking care of the people’s valuable services, and the difference being that the city accumulates debt while big corporations get to put their name on our stuff for cheap, and we become a weaker, less involved community with our good city’s provisions for it’s people perpetually on thin ice to be cracked at the whim of private interests???

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