Welcome to London Civic Watch

"Ever wonder if City Council is as contentious and chaotic as it is sometimes portrayed? Here you can get a progressive perspective on some of the issues from someone who spent four years in the trenches. Totally unbiased, though! Feel free to comment but keep it respectful, just like they do at council."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The new committees

Under the new governance model without a Board of Control there are three standing committees with five members each, plus the mayor who is ex officio and has full voting rights.

I attended the first meeting of the Built and Natural Environment Committee (BNEC, also affectionately known as the “B’n E” committee) for a few hours last night. The agenda was quite heavy, more than 400 pages of reading delivered late because of weather closings of city hall. A few more pages showed up as added items at the start of the meeting.

The new timing of committees should be helpful for the public and, as Pat Maloney pointed out in a recent blog, for the various media trying to cover all committees with one journalist. Previously, all standing committees met on every other Monday evening starting at 4 or 5 p.m. Council met on the alternate Mondays.

Under the new system, BNEC meets on alternate Mondays starting at 4 p.m., Community and Neighbourhoods Committee (CNC) meets on alternate Tuesdays, also starting at 5 p.m. and Finance and Administration Committee (FAC) meets at 10 a.m. on Wednesdays. Council continues to meet on alternate Mondays, starting at 5 p.m.

While the new timing is beneficial for media and the public, it is not without challenges. More senior staff may need to attend both Mondays and Tuesdays and cafeteria staff will be needed for preparing and serving dinner.

There will also need to be some fine-tuning in the selection of items for the different agenda. While most of the items from the former planning committee (zoning, development applications, demolitions, etc.) were appropriately directed to the BNEC along with some items such as infrastructure construction (roads, sewers, storm water management) from the former Environment and Transportation Committee (ETC), last night’s line-up suggested that staff has deemed that the new BNEC would deal with everything formerly handled by planning and ETC. As a result, BNEC ended up with an agenda that lasted seven hours!

This was never the intent of the Governance Taskforce whose recommendations were approved by the former council. It anticipated that BNEC would deal with the structural and planning issues, or what goes where. CNC was to deal with the maintenance and servicing of the built and natural environment (tree preservation, waste disposal, parking, policing etc.).

A quick glance at tonight’s CNC agenda indicated only 100 pages, less than one-fourth of that of the BNEC.

Clearly, a better balance is needed.

1 comment:

Why's woman said...

I was not able to attend either the Built and Natural Environments or Community and Neighbourhoods Committee meetings, so thank you for your notes. I appreciate this blog.

A-Channel News at 11 p.m. Tues. Dec. 14/10 had no coverage of anything that had occurred at the Community and Neighbourhoods Committee meeting. Naively, I somehow thought that there would be news coverage of at least some items from every such meeting of committees or council!

In your first paragraph of this entry you mention that the Built and Natural Environment Committee is ‘also affectionately known as the “B’n E” committee’ .

I hope sincerely that the Built and Natural Environment Committee does not become known as B ‘n E. As well as sounding like the crime designation Break and Enter ( which I could excuse for its humour), I can see B ‘n E morphing further into simply Built Environment … which, to me, means buildings, roads, businesses. B ‘n E is a slippery slope to thoughts of planning and development. Environment, meaning living environment, could get lost.

It would have been with best intentions that the Governance Committee recommended changes to committee names … wanting living environment matters to become part of the planning process for anything built and anything to do with neighbourhoods and communities. The way I see it, there are people around (on council, in communities and business) who continue to put living environment separate and far away from all else. I don't want them to find ways to make this easier to do.

I hope to see the words Natural and Environment remain linked in any references to this committee, because environment issues are the paramount issues of our time.

Best regards, Why’s Woman