Tips, Snitches or Ombuds?

Due to a previously scheduled commitment, I was not able to attend Monday’s Council meeting.  Chris from the Merc asked the next day how I would have voted on the subject of a city hall “tip line” for residents or staff to anonymously submit comments.  Here was my response ….

I see both sides, so my vote would have reflected the discussion on the floor.  For me, the issue is about how it is framed — is it a “tip line” or is it a “customer service” response line or is it an “ombudsperson”.? 

A “snitch line” so that residents can call and tell us they saw a city truck in the Tim’s drive-through is a waste of money.   A “tip line” where residents can write or call with suggestions, innovative ideas, constructive criticism, experiences, etc. has merit.   Some of the best ideas for improvements and potential efficiencies come through citizen feedback.  But do we need to spend thousands of dollars setting up, staffing and administrating a line so that we can duplicate what we already have?    I would like to think that any resident of Guelph can already do this, safely and securely, and with our enhanced IT strategy, there will be more opportunity for resident outreach and feedback.    There are already anonymous ways to contact city to provide feedback — email and blogs.

Now, an Ombudsperson is something I can support wholeheartedly.   Having an independent adjudicator role in place when a customer needs assistance navigating a policy, has a disagreement on how a policy is interpreted or implemented, or has a concern with city staff or level or service  — this position would be a valuable addition to our level of accountability.   If it gets through the Governance committee in this form, I think it has a much better chance of making it through to Council.

My two cents….


Have Your Say: Overnight On-Street Parking

From Rodney Keller, GM, Public Works: (edited for length)

City staff are initiating a review of the current overnight on-street parking restrictions for the City of Guelph. As part of this review, staff will examine options that may potentially maintain, add to, change or eliminate the existing overnight on-street parking by-law.

Currently, the by-law restricts parking on city streets from 2-6 a.m. during the winter season from November 1 to April 30. However, a number of streets, generally located in older areas of the city, are exempted from this restriction.

Following the principles of the Community Engagement Framework, staff will be embarking on a consultative approach to gaining the community stakeholder input.

A  public consultation session will be held on:

Wednesday, February 26, 2014, 6 p.m.,

Galleria, City Hall, 1 Carden Street.

At the session, the public will have an opportunity to provide input about alternatives to be considered for overnight on-street parking in Guelph. The public may also provide comments by participating in the online survey. The survey will be open from February 13 to March 12, 2014 on

Hanlon Creek Business Park Performing Well

Last week ‘s Guelph Tribune featured an article and editorial about the performance of Guelph Hanlon Creek Business Park.  Unfortunately, the article was entirely based on the personal commentary of one councillor.

Many of the statements made in the article, are inaccurate.   The Hanlon Creek Business Park is a long-range plan and, based on a land sales to date, is performing very well.   Servicing of land is ongoing, the Laird interchange officially opened just two months ago, and land sale and inquiries have been steady, despite a global economic recession.

When a business makes a choice to set up shop, a wide range of factors play into the final decision.  Access to talent, skilled trades, quality of life, energy costs, annual taxes, access to transportation networks and co-location of other related businesses are among the many considerations.  Guelph is extremely competitive and the Hanlon Creek Business Park is highly desirable on many fronts.  It is not the place for everyone — there are restrictions on certain types of manufacturing for example — and that is by design.  HCBP is intended to be different.  It has, and will continue, to attract businesses that understand the innovation economy.

Hanlon Creek Business Park Performance Report – February 2014

Patience.  Rome was not built in a day, nor will the HCBP or the Guelph Innovation District.   Visionary planning, patience and persistence are essential.