Just before Christmas the town issued a news release that council had begun to shape its vision for its new four-year mandate by completing a draft strategic plan.
Council brought in an Edmonton-based consultant with expertise on municipal governance planning to facilitate the process, and that was a good move.
It was also a good move by council not to rubber-stamp Mayor Jim Romane’s surprising motion on Dec. 11 to move $450,000 from its general reserves to the skateboard park account. Other council members, most of them fully supportive of the skateboard park project, wanted to talk things over first at the Strategic Planning Session on Dec. 18 and 19. Sober second thought is always good for any organization.
What is important about this process is that it was undertaken based not only on its current strategic priorities but also what each council member heard from citizens during what the town now refers to as “the election engagement process.”
Innisfailians elected this council because many felt they were left out of the decision-making process and we all remember too well what took place in the latter part of 2016 and into most of 2017.
Administration and council made an inspiring move to fix the problem with the firefighters by quickly approving a new remuneration policy. The challenge now is to keep the momentum alive.
There are serious housing issues to address. There is a lack of affordable options for medium and lower income citizens. The town has to seriously question whether it should be in the housing development business. It was noted by Todd Becker, the town’s chief administrative officer, in his report to council on Dec. 11 that during a recent engagement meeting with Re/Max it was noted a “barrier to attract developers is that the town could be considered in direct competition” with the ones who best build homes – developers.
There is also the question raised during the election of whether the town should have a dedicated economic development officer, an expert mover and shaker who has the know-how to attract business to the community. There are just too many empty storefronts in town to ignore.
And then there is the planned location for the new skateboard park. There are too many unhappy people about that, notably seniors and members of the Innisfail Horseshoe Club. Let’s engage.
It must be said that today’s council and administration is continuing to send the right positive message that citizens’ input is important.
However, it’s equally important to never stop feeding that feel-good momentum.
Johnnie Bachusky is the editor of the Innisfail Province.