December 1 is World AIDS Day. As many of you know, my daughter Lyndsay Piper is currently working in Kenya, a country with one of the highest HIV/AIDs rates in the world. The children she has met, some of them innocent AIDS orphans, would melt your heart. Feeling helpless? Me too. Thankfully, the caring spirit of Guelph is alive and well — we are home to the Bracelet of Hope, founded by Guelph physician Anne-Marie Zajdlik. The money raised is used to fund life-saving medical work in Lesotho. Learn more about the work of the Bracelet of Hope campaign at http://www.braceletofhope.ca/
Recently, Council approved a change to the registration deadline for oral and written delegations to Council from Monday at 12 noon to Friday at 9:00 am.
There has been some feedback from the community that this change might stifle public participation in matters of municipal government. Let me explain why this is simply not the case….
Historically, the Monday noon deadline to register to speak as a delegation has been for one very good reason — because reports for Council and committee meetings were released the week before on the Thursday afternoon. This often meant that, by the time a member of the public became aware of an issue, it was already the weekend and they had very little time to read the report and then to prepare to speak at Council. The Monday noon timeline recognized this tight turnaround. In fact, the lack of time between reports being released and a Council meeting has been highly criticized in the past as a barrier to public awareness and good governance.
I agree. Three days is not enough time for any member of the public to get up to speed and prepare to address Council. It is also not enough time for Councillors to read reports, ask questions of staff and receive meaningful feedback from their constituents.
We’ve changed all that. Reports and agendas are now available a minimum of 11 days prior to a meeting. The public can access reports a week earlier than ever before, leaving eight days to register as a delegation (four days longer than our previous practice). This new practice has another benefit; it means councillors now have time to receive public input, read letters and emails and receive phone calls from constituents who want to comment on a report. This enables us adequate time to more thoroughly consider input, clarify information, ask for additional details from staff — in other words, we come to meetings better informed prior to making decisions. A report is less likely to be deferred or referred back to staff for additional information, which speeds the pace of city hall business.
But that’s not all we have done to open up the public input process. Our new Community Engagement Framework (CEF) is a major step forward towards enabling greater community participation in decision making.
The CEF report states that the Framework “has been developed in response to both external and internal demands from community members and City of Guelph employees, for greater clarity, transparency and support for engaging community members in decisions made at the municipal level. The Community Engagement Framework …. helps all stakeholders to understand the full scope and implications of
municipal decisions. It builds trust with community members, partner organizations and
In other words, if we are successful with our CEF, any issue of relevance to the community will already have been fully vetted through the robust public process before it ever gets to Council. A meaningful dialogue with all stakeholders will be embedded into the final report. An oral delegation to Council would be the last step, and the public will know well in advance when it was coming to the horseshoe for a decision.
Given these two giant leaps forward in public engagement, a Monday noon deadline to register an oral delegation is unecessary and contrary to responsible decision making. I would even go so far as saying it is disrespectful to Council to allow last minute delegations or written submissions on the day of a meeting, because the input is heard minutes before we begin our deliberations and debate on a recommendation. This does not allow members of Council to carefully consider the arguments, for or against, in the larger context of the report at hand.
Note: Please keep in mind that the Friday 9 am deadline applies to register as an oral delegation or to submit a written submission through the Clerks office. The public can email or phone individual councillors after Friday 9 am and up to the start of the meeting. As well, the chair of any meeting (committee or Council) can add a delegation with consent of the majority, in cases where a member of the public was not able to register by the deadline.
Two big steps forward — let’s hope this new process helps to provide the community with the information needed to get more involved in local issues. Early and often. 🙂 LP
Please join Councillors Leanne Piper and Lise Burcher for a Ward 5 Event:
Ward 5 Community Well-being Forum
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
7 – 9 pm
at Centennial CVI Cafeteria, 289 College Ave West.
Share your thoughts and ideas — what makes a great community, what are we doing right, where can we improve?
For more information on the Guelph Community Well-being Initiative, CLICK HERE.
On April 30th, Council passed an ambitious and inspiring vision for the future of our downtown — the Downtown Secondary Plan. It calls for preservation of the heritage core, enhanced public realm and parkland, commercial and residential intensification, and demands a high degree of urban design for new buildings. It calls for us to “build beautifully”.
The vision is a great one. Now we have to prove we can deliver….
Next week — Monday, May 7th — will be the first test. An application for an 18-storey residential condominium development for 148-150 Macdonell is coming to Council for a decision. Here is what it looks like (images from City of Guelph development file):
What do you think? Is this an example of building beautifully?
Each successive generation leaves its mark on the city through its architecture. The Georgians, Victorians and Edwardians left a recognizable presence in our downtown. A great city is built in layers — it includes well-maintained heritage buildings left in place, and leaves room for the current generation to add its own layer on undeveloped sites. This is what we are trying to do with the Downtown Secondary Plan.
So the question is — is this the signature architecture we want to leave behind? What does this building say about our community? Does it live up to the Downtown Plan? Is it massively inspiring? Will you drive by and point it out as a fine example of the greatness of our city? Is this the best we can do?
Would love to hear your thoughts…
I had a call from a constituent today about one of the Environics survey questions re: highrise buildings in Guelph. For those who don’t know, the city is conducting a survey on the many issues that Guelph is currently facing to feed into the upcoming Strategic Plan, ranging from taxes to recreation and everyting in between.
The specific question of concern is worded as follows:
“As the city continues to grow we need to make choices about the budget we allow. Some people think taller buildings of 7 to 18 storeys that allow more green space are better. Others think we should only have low-rise buildings – 1 to 6 storeys – even though it would cover more ground area. Which of these views is closest to your own?”
The caller felt that the question was too black and white — that the answer had to be “either/or” — and did not leave enough room for a fullsome response.
In some locations, highrises might work. In other locations, a highrise is undesirable. Same with lowrise. In some locations, a lowrise would fit nicely and have plenty of greenspace. In others, a lowrise surrounded by asphalt is undesirable. Planning a city is not an either/or exercise. Seven stories is very different than 18 stories, with different impacts at different locations.
I have been fairly consistent in my preference for lowrise forms of development, but why does it have to be at the expense of greenspace?
Guelph must grow, and our downtown core will accommodate a significant percentage of that growth, with approximately 9,000 new residents by 2030. Highrises are not the only form of development to accommodate this new growth. In fact, it is my understanding through the modeling that has been done to date, that Guelph can accommodate this new growth with buildings under eight stories, through adaptive re-use of underutilized existing buildings, brownfield redevelopment and new construction.
I look forward to the results.
MSN.com has ranked Guelph as Canada’s # 1 Next Most Livable City. We are no stranger to being in the top 1o or 15, but this ranking is especially sweet because our Community Energy Initiative, our world-class university and our stong neighbourhoods are mentioned as some of the reasons Guelph ranks so high.
Check out the article here…
Thanks to RR, who sent a link to the CTV news clip re: 716 Gordon Street development application presentation to City Council on January 17, 2011.