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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Priority watch

Mike Fleury examines his priorities.

Posted By on Thu, Oct 12, 2006 at 3:56 PM

We teased you last week about providing an update (report card?) on council’s list of 12-ish most urgent priorities, which were established at council last October and then brought up again at council in the past couple of weeks. Actually, we were going to write about this last week, but then that whole Sunday shopping thing happened, and we wrote about that instead. We’re pretty fickle. We also love the royal “we.” We don’t know why.

Here’s the thing: Even with an extra week to leaf through the Council Focus Areas that were established in October ’05, it’s still difficult to make such a thing sexy. Exciting. Zingy. Tangy. Inspiring. God help us, we’re trying to do our civic duty, but they don’t make it easy.

Why? Well, in this case, it has a lot to do with the numbing number of plans that are mentioned in this plan. Here, for your perusal, are some examples (taken from a HRM Budget document reviewing the 12 general Council Focus Areas). On police: “To review HRM policing services with a view to developing an effective, long term resource strategy…and submit a report to council.” On fire services: “Develop a multi-year plan to improve service delivery.” On community recreation: “Begin development of an outdoor facility master plan.” On youth: “Prioritize HRM facilities, plan, design and operate in a ‘youth friendly’ manner.” What does that even mean?

There’s also mention, at multiple points, of a forthcoming Library Plan, and other pre-existing plans, such as the Cultural Plan, the Regional Plan, the Economic Strategy, the Immigration Acton Plan…

As priorities go, these are pretty vague. To Joe Q. Citizen, we promise you, this reads like a bureaucratic Nytol.

But there are moments of clarity. The most engaging sections of the report come from some of the simplest, most directly-worded priorities—tangible, achievable goals. “Restructure the Halifax Regional Police to include bylaw enforcement.” Good. The bylaw system needs an overhaul. We agree. “ bike lane on Bedford highway (from Larry Uteck Blvd. to Kearney Lake Rd.)” Yes. Shockingly specific. Good. “Redesign Armdale Rotary.” Please do. “Replace Go-Time.” Hey, only two-and-a-half words!

And, our favourite priority of all, to improve what council considers a poor level of community engagement. Concern is expressed about the “disconnects between what citizens hear and what they see, and difficulties in engaging people.” No kidding. For starters, when trying to get people excited about your priorities, give them something they can relate to and engage in, rather than a signal of intent to think about forming a planning strategy.

Hmm…We got off on a little bit of a rant there, didn’t we? We apologize.

By-law response

A quick follow up to last week’s story about Diana Viet, who fought the city over a bylaw complaint regarding garbage that was accumulating next to her property on North Street: According to Deborah Story, a spokesperson with the city’s bylaw enforcement office, part of the reason Viet’s problem took a relatively long time to be inspected was because Viet initially gave an incorrect address when reporting her problem. Now armed with the proper address, the bylaw enforcement office is addressing the problem.

Address me. Email: mikef@thecoast.ca

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