Our response to
Another $400K, this time invested in consultants, outside our borders, for what appears to be a fairly straight forward information gathering IT project. This is in addition to the salaries paid to the City’s IT department. That should not be taken as a shot at the hardworking, frontline IT professionals employed at the City. It is however a message for the City’s decision making IT Managers. It is my understanding that we invest over $70 million annually towards consultants. The message is therefore directed to Managers of each City department. You should not be permitted to hide behind the failures of consultants that are often hired to avoid accountability in the first place.
In 2010, the Hamilton Civic League conducted a Community Values & Priorities Survey which was volunteer-powered at zero cost to the City. For 2013, we have partnered with McMaster University and will soon begin to design a new survey with a complete implementation plan to ensure each Ward is represented. It will be another feet on the pavement, door to door survey. We are the same group that recently visited over 350 Aerotropolis area homes to survey ALL residents, again at zero cost to the City. Four volunteers spent a week at City Hall reviewing 35,000 pages of tax assessment data to identify all industrial employment lands in an effort to hold local government and paid consultants accountable for related data within their reports. In a matter of minutes, the City’s Finance or IT department could have produced an identical report, saving hundreds of volunteer hours but were unable to do so. We discovered 1000+ acres missing from the City/consultant reports. I put much more faith in a zero cost, grass-roots, volunteer-powered survey and invite everyone to get involved in our project to ensure we get this critical accountability tool right for 2013.
I recall the following recent events/issues that have arisen over a fairly short period of time:
• The City decided not to adopt a bi-weekly garbage collection schedule at a potential savings of $10 million over 7 years. Will anyone be held accountable?
• The City permits heritage buildings to be demolished. Will anyone be held accountable?
• Against the wishes of area residents, the City approved the largest expansion of our urban boundary in history and is defending it at a cost of $300K. Will anyone be held accountable?
• CasiNO! Will anyone be held accountable?
• Waterfront Trust!!! Will anyone be held accountable?
• Skyrocketing employee costs! Council and Managers, this is not a shot at frontline City employees! Will anyone ever be held accountable?
• Unacceptable poverty levels. Will anyone be held accountable?
• A $15,000 traffic-calming, speed bump! Will anyone be held accountable?
• Will the City’s Accountability Committee be held accountable for the lack of progress?
It is fantastic to witness the blog surge in civic engagement when these and other issues arise. I believe our level of civic engagement plays an important role in the state in which we find our community today. Imagine the results that could have been achieved and the money that could have been saved or kept in our community through this one, fairly straight forward IT project had engaged residents learned about the project at the planning stage rather than after its failed implementation. How many more ill-conceived and/or outrageously expensive projects are in the works today that make this $400K mistake appear as just another drop in the bucket? Like all engaged residents, I accept my responsibility to try to improve our community, but accountability belongs with the financially compensated decision makers at City Hall.
Have you had enough? Is it possible that the frustration resulting from this single issue combined with that of so many other issues has generated a heightened clarity of focus and further ignited your commitment to civic engagement? The road to Accountability 2014 requires the immediate and ongoing commitment of all currently engaged residents to continue to expand the dialogue, to encourage the unengaged to get involved and to turn our thoughts, words and emotions into meaningful actions.
It is unfortunate that we won’t all agree on the best path to Accountability 2014, however we can certainly advance widely held values and priorities in pursuit of a healthy, happy, engaged, accountable community. Please take this opportunity to commit to further developing and implementing a plan of action. Join the Hamilton Civic League today. Attend a meeting, get involved in an existing project or propose and advance a new project.