Run the City as a Business, not a Sandbox
“Business” as Usual At City Hall?
I decided about 3 years ago I was going to run for the position of Ward 5 City Councillor. In the time between then and now, I watched how the current council “operated”. In my opinion, it isn’t something to be proud of, unless you compare it to the last federal session of parliament where a grand total of 11 bills got passed. Even the Senate did more, at 17 being passed.
I view city council as the Executive Board of/for the City. Each Councillor sits on various subordinate boards and represents their Division [Ward]. They also are the last and ultimate decision makers. This means they must understand areas such as finance, contracting, negotiating, strategic and tactical planning, risk management and so on. This doesn’t mean they have to be burdened with a number of letters after their name but it does require that they can ask the right question, once, to the right person or persons and upon getting the answer, take the appropriate action.
I have friends who run a very successful small business but on those occasions where I have brought up items such as a Cost Plus Incentive contract or writing a “Without Prejudice” letter, their eyes glaze over. Success to them is covering costs, payroll, and putting a few dollars away for the future and as they are happy being a mom and pop type of business, that’s all that matters.
The City of Ottawa budget is significant both in dollars and scope. A goodly portion of the budget goes to ‘projects’ and to say the city has demonstrated less than admirable performance in this area would be a fair, if even overly favourable statement. One simply must point out projects such as Lansdowne, the new bus garage, Orleans roundabout and Kanata sewage which have had spurious and detrimental wording, scope creep and scope change, budget overrun and reactive corrective actions. The upcoming council will face LRT/DOTT planning issues, infrastructure upgrades for sewer, the ongoing waste issues to name a few of the ‘knowns’ plus having to react to the ‘unknown unknowns’ which potentially could occur. I don’t want to state that council should be stacked with a bunch of PMP’s [Project Management Professionals] but the councillors should have some qualified and knowledgeable people at their side who have a mandate to make councils job easier. In essence, they would be the IV&V [Independent Verification and Validation], with emphasis in the I component for council on projects.
Further, it strikes me that the city for whatever reason seems to avoid Fixed Price contracts. Certainly the cost creep on projects and wild misses on actual versus estimated costs would go away if the contract was awarded as Fixed Price. My gut tells me that it would take a few projects to get the kinks worked out, and I suspect one of the kinks is insufficient definition of the project by the city. I propose getting the problem fixed when the issue is a 50% over run on a $2 million dollar project before we get 50% on a $2 billion one. If staff proved to be the issue, that issue would be resolved as would any other identified root cause.
Further, I propose that the city implement a system similar to the Nunn-McCurdy act in the states with prompt reporting being the key. Finding out about a problem that existed 8 months ago is not sufficient. A good analogy is the unfortunate situation with the BP well in the gulf where the leaking oil is analogous to misspent city funds. I would want it stopped yesterday, wouldn’t you?
In summary, I am proposing that city council create what is fundamentally a PMO which reports to the Mayor and a subcommittee of councillors. If I can’t get council to agree to do it, I will arrange to allocate a portion of MY $200k+ annual Council office budget to engage a suitable resource to act on my behalf in this roll. Further, I will report the results on my Ward website which also comes out of that budget. The next time you see one of the incumbent’s glossy coloured ads in the media pointing you to their ward website take a look. Then ask yourself, is that an efficient expenditure of money? Also recognize, it’s your money being utilized. The time has passed for having the City of Ottawa awarding a contract be a license to print money.
Please visit my website at www.aronec.ca to see what I believe is the best defined, thought out and viable candidate platform in Ward 5 if not the city. The decision you make when you vote is important so please take a few minutes and make an informed and not “Miss Congeniality” based decision.