At a special Council Meeting on Thursday, April 1, Council looked at the Strategic Plan that was created at the start of their term in 2019 to see if it still reflected their priorities. After more than 5 hours of discussion, they made only minor changes but a lot of details were revealed about each councillor’s thinking. The process was facilitated by session leader John Matheson (of StrategyCorp) who spent time with councillors in advance of the meeting to get their ideas. As a result, the starting point was a chart showing priorities as he understood them – see below. The comments of councillors in reviewing those priorities pointed to how each saw their role and what they hoped to achieve in the 18 months remaining in their term.
Some general observations
In the sequence that they were raised in discussion.
- Council recognized that they have expanded their scope with concerns about climate change, sustainability, affordable housing and accessibility. But then as John Matheson remarked “if you are not going to set direction for the community, who is?”
- Councillor Chorley: “there is a lack of a clear policy re the Beach and Tourism”
- Councillor Beatty: “there is an underlying tone of racism in the Town”. Councillor Chorley called it “a latent racism”. Councillor Darling said: “the public need to be educated”.
- Councillor Bureau: “there are two kinds of tourism, ‘beach’ and ‘not beach’ and they are totally separate.”
- Deputy Mayor Séguin: “A look at Tourism philosophy is long overdue” and “we need to re-evaluate the Tourism strategy”.
- Councillor Chorley: “there are staffing gaps.” and “some plans just don’t get done – e.g. Cultural Master Plan, Waterfront Plan, Parks Master Plan, Downtown Master Plan.”
- I noticed that no-one mentioned any citizen input as was collected by an Engage Cobourg Survey (with 32 responses). However, several Councillors mentioned citizen concerns they had heard about.
- Deputy Mayor Séguin: “Looking after seniors is critical”
- Councillor Beatty: “We are not engaging with the youth population”.
- There are some opportunities for “significant development:” Tannery Lands, Brookside Site, Repurposing of Memorial Arena, Revitalization of Harbour.
- Councillor Chorley: “We need to introduce Performance Management and KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators)”.
- Under the heading “Threats”, John Matheson gave a summary of what he heard from Councillors and described one concern as “Beach Access: What is our strategy re Beach Access? Who comes to Cobourg, who should access it.” Councillor Beatty became very emotional and objected strongly to this sentiment.
- Councillor Burchat in commenting about the priorities chart (above) said: “some high priority items may get completed in future councils – everyone would want them”.
- Deputy Mayor Séguin: “Glad that support for small business is a high priority” and “We need to re-vitalize Economic Development”.
Changes to Above Initial Priorities Chart – (major changes only)
- “Repair and Rejuvenate East Pier” should be changed to “Repair and Rejuvenate Harbour”.
- “Continue Downtown Vitalization” should be removed or moved to light green. Deputy Mayor Séguin said “there has been no report on the $450K spent. Did it make a difference?” Or rather, “although there was a report on what was done, there was no report on whether it made a difference”. Further (she said), “economic development should support the whole Town and not just Downtown.”
- Some semantic changes were made – e.g. A climate action plan has been created so wording specifying “create” is incorrect.
- The reference to “Integrate Transit” does not refer to the current On-demand trial but instead to ongoing work to integrate (somehow!) Transit in Cobourg, Port Hope, Clarington and even Durham. But this is “not just 6-12 months away”.
- There are multiple actions under different headings pointing to Economic Development and this indicates the need to improve coherence and integration of Economic Development. This might be resolved with the Organization Review currently being done. There was a consensus of support for Economic Development – especially small business.
- “Review Third Party Contracts” should be renamed “Improve Corporate Governance”.
- The action to “Explore improving links between waterfront and downtown” should be removed since this is not going to happen in this term. (This refers to the Victoria Square project)
- Policies urgently need reviewing – there are 94 HR Policies and 62 others required by Legislation. Although this is currently being addressed, the work is “overwhelming”.
- Asset management needs to be improved. Not just software to identify issues but also plans to ensure there are sufficient funds available when assets need to be replaced.
The above does not include 100% of what was discussed but includes most of it.
Despite a reminder to the Public about the availability of the Open Forum, there were no questions from Citizens.
The next step is for Staff to present Council with a work plan to address the actions specified in the revised plan. Presumably a revised Strategic Plan will also be published.
Although the meeting was live streamed, a recording is not available on escribe as is the case with normal Council Meetings.[See update below]
- Strategic Plan as approved in 2019
- Strategic Plan Progress report – report on this CAO Report on Progress with Strategic Plan – 20 Jan 2021
Update 6 April
The video of the meeting has now been put on line – go here. So now you can see for yourself the context of some of the words quoted above. And see who was not quoted. The video is 6+ hours but you can fast forward etc.