In my last column I discussed the structure and process for making Council decisions. I outlined our new committee structure and how deliberations would lead to Council decisions. This month I will review how various issues fit into that structure and how we will decide what gets done over our term.
The community always sets the broad agenda for Council. Once identified, community issues are considered and aligned with the specific strategic plan established by Council and refined within the budget process.
Council is currently setting its strategic plan and the 2015 budget. In early February, we had our first strategic planning workshop, under the guidance of John Talbot, who is well known as a skilled facilitator. He knows our community well from his work on the ‘We Envision’ Plan and as a resident of the Sunshine Coast.
The session was structured to identify strategic goals and discuss how Council can work cohesively to provide the best possible community leadership. To allow for honest ‘give and take’ among your seven elected community representatives, the workshop was closed to the public.
All of Council agreed that our most important goal must be effective governance. This is an essential element in every decision made and every piece of work we do. Providing municipal services and the protection of the public’s interests and assets are the District’s core responsibilities. By focusing on these basics, we are committed to gaining and retaining our community’s trust in the way the District operates.
Economic and community development was also identified as a primary strategic plan goal. The details of what that means and how it can be accomplished within the resources of a municipal government will require much additional work.
Another issue that ranked high was social well-being, which includes strengthening Sechelt’s sense of identity and social connectedness. Initiatives to strengthen the resilience of our community, such as more vibrant downtown core or the creation of places for community gathering and celebration were identified. Council’s goal would be to support a stronger, more confident Sechelt that is well known, respected and recognized for who we are.
John Talbot will also coordinate the next steps in the strategic planning process, including a closed workshop in early March involving Council and the District’s management team. This session will discuss how the District’s efforts can be coordinated to help accomplish Council’s strategic directions. Once a strategic plan document is developed, it will come forward for public review and consideration at a Regular Council meeting.
The second filter for determining what gets done is the budget process. The budget reveals what Council really considers a priority issue or key value for our community. It is no accident that policing, sewers and roads are the largest expenditures for local governments. Conversely, if there is little or no budget for an issue or a project, no one can claim that issue has a high priority. Actions (and funding) speak louder than words.
The 2015 budget was developed under the guidance of the previous Council. Our Council readily accepted the general framework of the existing budget, with no tax increases and overall projections for spending. However, as the community called for change in the recent election, the planned expenditures required scrutiny. There have been lengthy discussions as our Council determines the spending that will best meet the needs of our community within the framework of our emerging strategic plan.
I will write about the process of budget review in my next column in March.