The newly elected Revelstoke city council was sworn in on Nov. 6, 2018. (Jocelyn Doll - Revelstoke Review)

Politically Incorrect: Mayor and council report card-Will they pass?

Tim Palmer

Special to the Review

Council’s strategic plan, released seven months after being elected, is typical of most communities — it is politically correct.

The mayor and council promise to make Revelstoke more desirable and livable by updating plans and looking after infrastructure all by sustainable and green means.

This plan, in essence, is their self-created report card.

City council’s report card is unique. Unlike students that are returning to school this week, council had the luxury of determining the performance criteria.

And since council created the criteria, they should achieve A+ grades.

However, the mayor and council are not on a good path to getting good grades.

Like many other communities, the goals are too ambitious, resources are insufficient and new issues distract the politicians.

The first year of the council four-year term is quickly approaching.

Can the mayor and council complete the plan’s 2019 to 2020 objectives? Unless they make some changes, they won’t.

To avoid a path towards failure, the mayor and council need to adjust their overly optimistic goals, ensure city staff adhere to a strict implementation plan and, most importantly, stay focused.

First, the mayor and council need to align their expectations with what is achievable.

The mayor and council say they are going to update the Official Community Plan (OCP), fix the housing crisis, complete a Liquid Waste Management Plan (LWMP), implement new Development Cost Charges (DCCs) and mitigate climate change.

And they are going to do all this by the end of next year.

Half the time has disappeared to complete the 2019-20 strategic commitments. In my opinion, little has been done to get these complex projects actively moving.

Take the Liquid Waste Management Plan as an example. Cooler temperatures have mitigated the southside sewage stench this summer, but new developments continue to add load to the antiquated treatment system.

The tiny planning grant barely put a dent on the council’s ambitious plan “to create a long-term plan including asset management and financing for liquid waste and to address the current liquid waste issues,” all by the end of 2020.

READ MORE: City of Revelstoke on the hook for another $10 million after failed grant application

That idea just had a major setback with the failure of a federal grant application.

To make the sewer goal achievable, the mayor and council also need to move on another strategic initiative — the Development Cost Charge (DCCs) bylaw.

In the meantime, the taxpayer continues to subsidize developers.

Second, the mayor and council need to ensure staff are fully committed and focused on the strategic plan outcomes.

There is some progress in this area. The new CAO has implemented a requirement that staff reports align with the strategic plan.

Furthermore, the CAO is giving council weekly operational updates improving communications.

I look forward to the day when mayor and council share those weekly emails with the public.

Although improved communications are not part of mayor and council’s strategic initiatives, it will help both the council and the community focus on the strategic initiatives.

Just saying that they are committed is inadequate. Mayor and council must keep staff accountable on an implementation plan to ensure success.

That accountability includes identifying individuals who are responsible for achieving specific tasks by measuring their adherence and progress to strict timelines.

Ultimately, council will determine whether staff communications are fluff and spin or substance and performance.

Finally, the mayor and council need to keep focused on strategic initiatives. Keeping focused is hard for elected officials.

Staff reports present new information at every meeting.

They receive opinions and complaints daily from the public. The news and social media are full of critiques of what to do and how to do it better.

If the mayor and council do not stay focused on the determined priorities, these random distractions will pull them off course.

Without focus the report card will show low grades.

If they don’t pass, the public may not let them repeat the grade next election.

The City of Revelstoke’s strategic plan is on the city’s website: revelstoke.ca/DocumentCenter/View/5108/Revelstoke-Strategic-Plan_Edit

Equipped with over 25 years in all aspects of municipal service, Tim Palmer is committed local government consultant helping towns and cities perform better.

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