City Hall. One newbie’s prodding Wednesday even sparked debate and questions about the annual budget process under Mayor Jim Watson.
All Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper wanted to do was hold off on deciding the budget process for a week while new members understood the implications.
That drew debate about how the budget is stick-handled through council, with some politicians fearing a return to long, unwieldy meetings.
Leiper brought up the perceived rule of departments being able to add or cut within their own budgets handed down from the mayor and city management.
Capital Coun. David Chernushenko admitted that it “didn’t feel too good” going to open houses and feeling like there was nothing he could do to alter a budget.
Even veteran Gloucester-Southgate Coun. Diane Deans was under the impression the rules last term said council couldn’t shift money between departmental budgets during the annual debate.
But the city clerk confirmed that council was always able to move money around the budget between departments.
Barrhaven Coun. Jan Harder feared opening the budget debate at council to public delegates, and moving money on the fly, will go back to the days of acrimony in the chamber.
“It’s like the wild west all over again,” Harder said.
“It might have been good entertainment, but it wasn’t good governance.”
Leiper withdrew his motion but he certainly made his point about having flexibility in the budget.
Other rookies also made an impact during the first council meeting of the term.
Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney challenged staff to show how they’ll improve public engagement since the city is axing a community services advisory committee.
Rideau-Rockcliffe Coun. Tobi Nussbaum notched a win with a motion reducing the threshold for reporting gifts to $100 from the staff-recommended $150. The threshold last term was $30 but a higher value is more in line with other governments.
River Coun. Riley Brockington, however, prefers even greater transparency when it comes to gifts politicians receive.
“I’m a public official and I believe when a public official receives a gift, regardless of its value, I should be reporting that,” Brockington said.
Council also agreed to distribute more widely the responsibility of conducting management performance reviews. Watson and the deputy mayors will review the city manager’s performance and he’ll be joined by the audit committee chairperson and vice-chair on the auditor general’s review. Other councillors can contribute through evaluation forms.
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