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Retired civil servant offers to assist city improve its performance

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While many Canadians might find their municipal, provincial of federal government services lacking and complain about it, one local man is taking another approach.

David Webb, a retired Ontario civil servant living in the Dunsford area, sees things differently.  In a deputation to council made on Oct. 6, Webb offered to work pro-bono to assist the city to measure and improve the performance of city departments beginning first with a small pilot project.

Webb began by sharing that purposeful action should only be taken by the city based on knowledge rather than opinion. Webb said he had attended a number of city meetings that bogged down and achieved little because participants voiced opinions rather than carefully researched knowledge.

“We need to measure city performance,” Webb suggested, “allowing the city to make corrections.”

“Taxpayers need to know the how long, how much and how many of any city decision,” Webb added, “and the city needs to be more transparent about all its data. Data should be treated as a public asset accessible to all councillors and taxpayers. This open data needs to be available to all, but first staff and some councillors need to be convinced this is a good thing.”

“The city needs to realize that deficiencies detected are an opportunity to change rather than something to be ashamed of,” Webb stated.

Webb suggested that the city should run a pilot project beginning with a handful of departments, and if they find the results worthwhile the gathering and interpretation of performance data should be implemented city wide.

“I will volunteer my time to assist,” Webb offered, “if city staff could provide the appropriate data.”

Councillor Doug Elmslie asked Webb if the work being done by the Office of Strategy and Performance led by Brenda Stonehouse was already doing much of what he was offering to assist the city with.

“My work would be an extension of what Stonehouse is doing already for the city,” Webb began, “but what I am proposing is far more narrowly based, measuring individual services.”

Elmslie continued asking Webb where funding might be found for this data collection project, and how long did the deputant thought the project might take?

“Provincial funding is already available for this kind of work,” Webb responded, “and I expect that it would be two months work after all the performance data had been collected by city staff.”

Councillor Pat Dunn called it an “intriguing presentation”, and wondered out loud how the standards would be set for judging city performance?

“We need to involve citizens so we ask the right questions and create the right standards. I would like to see the CAO (Ron Taylor) prepare a report as to how the City could make this work… in a fiscally prudent manner,” Dunn said.

Councillor Ron Ashmore wondered if city performance could be improved and made more transparent by doing something about the J.D. Edwards case management software that Kawartha Lakes is currently utilizing.

“It is good software,” Webb replied, “but it is not accessible to councillors or the public. Councillors should be given read only access to this software and the ability to create cases and then access those cases afterwards.”

Ashmore agreed that, “it would be nice if to see if we could access those case file complaints once opened and see if constituent’s issues were actually being looked after.”

Councillor Kathleen Seymour-Fagan wanted to know if any other municipalities were implementing the kind of program Webb was suggesting. The deputant promised to look into that for the councillor.

Elmslie asked CAO Taylor what he thought of Webb’s proposal about measuring performance and improving outcomes based on that measurement.

“We can only measure what council asks us to measure,” Taylor began, “and we are already doing some performance measurements as part of our ten-year strategic plan.”

“I think a more robust case management is always good,” Taylor continued, “and we appreciate the need to measure to make effective decisions.”

“In 2021 more measurement is coming,” Taylor concluded, “Council will establish the service levels and these levels will be monitored and measured to determined performance.”

Council voted unanimously to accept Webb’s deputation. His proposal and offer of help will be revisited at the regular council meeting on Oct. 20.

Kirk is a retired high school history teacher and coach who has had a lifelong interest in politics at all levels. Since retiring, Kirk has spent the last three years doing freelance writing of all kinds for various platforms. Kirk can often be found sitting in the press gallery at City Hall observing and reporting on the vagaries of local government.

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