August 15, 2011
Dear Mayor and Council,
RE: Seizing this opportunity – UARB Decision to reduce council size
The reduction in Council size is an important decision in the history of our Municipality. It presents an opportunity for Council to take pause and ask of itself and the citizens whether we have the right governance model to move forward together. This conversation should not happen lightly, nor should it be rushed.
The previous boundary consultation was undertaken on the assumption that we would continue with twenty three districts, so conclusions arising from those discussions may be out of context now and should be reexamined. In addition to this, the UARB expressed reservations with the scope and extent of the previous consultations especially with regards to a full and fair hearing of all possible models of Council governance. For these reasons, the onus is upon Council to request a new process, thereby seizing this opportunity to engage the broader community in a conversation and education process on governance for HRM.
As citizens of this strong and diverse community we ask that you request a short extension from the UARB for the submission of proposed new district boundaries. The UARB should have little difficulty approving such a request given the basis for their recent decision on Council size.
The extension should be used to engage with the public to define how this new Council will work. It should be used not only to discuss the new boundaries but to address the more fundamental issues of how those boundaries and other governance processes impact the day to day operation of not only Council but our municipality.
The decision to reduce Council size is our first truly transformational opportunity since amalgamation to define, for ourselves, who and what we want to be. By taking the time now to fully and publicly explore the ongoing governance challenges presented by our unique community we can invigorate the public and encourage greater citizen interest and engagement not only leading into but following out of next Fall’s municipal election.
We propose that the new consultations and community conversation be guided by the following principles:
- Independent from Council (Councillors should be allowed to make submissions and participate during the consultation, but they should not be members of the steering committee)
- Guided by the legal limitations under which we operate (so all legal limits should be known and adjusted for, but where change in those limits is required it should be identified)
- Not restricted beyond the current legal limitations (all options should be on the table without artificially limiting the options by placing undue restrictions in advance such as “limiting change for voters”)
Conditions have changed since the governance review, and the process that follows the UARB decision offers HRM the opportunity to solidify public confidence in its institutions and governance. In a time when there is great potential for individual concern and posturing by Councilors on a new Governance model; Council would show exceptional leadership and solidarity by asking the right questions about what is the best way forward for all of us.
Thank you in advance for your consideration on this important matter,
CC: The Honourable Darrell Dexter, Premier
The Honourable John MacDonell, Minister Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations