September 21, 2017
Dear Chestermere residents,
When I started out on the journey to be elected as your Mayor, I decided my top priority was to get out and meet as many of you as I could. Some have suggested that I should have attended more meetings and spent more time on Facebook, but I wanted to listen to you, first. Today, I am very close to completing my goal of knocking on every door in Chestermere so it’s time to talk about my next priority.
As you may know, none of the existing Council will be returning for another term. This means that if you elect me as your Mayor, I will be one of very few on Council with any direct municipal government experience. There’s a lot that the new Council will have to learn together. Unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury of time. Council will need to move quickly if we’re going to effectively address our common concerns.
Today, I’m proposing the following action plan for our new Council:
- Open the door. As I’ve stated all along, I’m a strong advocate for transparency and accountability. As a result, I believe that we need to move immediately to amend the Council recording policy so that recordings of Council minutes are made public, kept for at least six months, and made easily available to anyone at no cost. Now this may seem like a very small first step, but it’s a step that I think is critical to help rebuild your trust in your Council and Administration. It’s important that you have access to this information and it’s a step that will cost us very little. In the future, we can look at video streaming our meetings like some other communities and additional tools for better communication, but for now you will at least be able to listen to your Council openly discuss the following issues on your own time.
- Begin the process of hiring a new Chief Administrative Officer. This individual is Council’s only employee and plays a crucial role in how well our community is run. We need someone with strong business skills, the ability to inspire a team, a passion for excellence and a desire to serve. We need to start our search immediately, but take our time to make sure we get the right person who can help Council through the difficult decisions in our future.
- Understand our options with CUI. We cannot make decisions on the future of our utility until we fully understand our past as well as the options available to us. Can we bring the utility back under the direct control of Council? Do we have the debt capacity or the legal ability to do so? If not, what control can we even legally have at this time? The bottom line is that we need to move quickly to reduce our utility bills. Once we have received sound legal and accounting advice on these matters, then we can make some decisions for our future. Of course, we want to be transparent and accountable in all we do, so candid communication with you will be the key.
- Adopt an interim operational budget. Since this is an entirely new Council, we need the time for everyone on Council to understand the budget without feeling pressured into accepting it for the next three years. You’ve made it very clear to me at your doors that we need to reduce property taxes and we all know that the first step in doing this is to take a very good look at our expenses. Next spring, once your Council has had the opportunity to work through all of this, we can adopt a longer term budget for our community.
- Perform a high level overview of recent commitments. I have been hearing the concern that a lot of decisions have recently been made by our current Council in a very short period of time. The new Council needs to have confidence that these decisions were made in the best interest of our community and, where required and possible, we need to adjust. We need to get the map up on the wall, with the right people in the room, and ask questions about the current plan for developing our future. If we need to adjust the plan, we will need to know what our options are with respect to the commitments that have already been made.
These five items need to be dealt with immediately in order to get us started in the right direction. Once we’ve got a better grasp of our foundational issues (and can discuss these openly with our residents), we’ll be in a better position to discuss topics such as economic development, community safety, recreation, and other necessary services. We will have our work cut out for us, for sure, but with the right team on Council I’m confident we can move quickly to chart a course for a better future.