Community Comments on Strategic Plan

In June 2023, Council drafted a new Strategic Plan and then in October decided to ask citizens to comment.  Now at the Committee of the Whole (CoW) meeting on November 6, Council will be asked to approve the final plan. Before that vote, staff will report on what was learned from the citizen survey.  Although 257 residents looked at the survey page, only 64 actually completed the survey – that’s a small sample of the 3,337 registered users on EngageCobourg.ca.  Seems few people care about the Strategic plan.  See resources below for the full report by Kara Euale, Communications Manager.  But few responses or not, they will guide Council and Staff on priorities.  However, the good news is that CAO Tracey Vaughan has promised to provide an operational plan early in 2024.  That should provide the specific actions missing from the Strategic plan.

As well as the online survey, staff also provided five In-person engagement opportunities but have not reported on what was learned from that.

Let me try to summarize:

The plan had 3 Strategic Priorities – survey respondents ranked Thriving Community as number one, closely seconded by Sustainability and Service Excellence was ranked third.

Key responses

Q. In comparison with the previous Strategic Plan, do you believe the draft Strategic Plan 2023 – 2027 and Beyond plan is a clear framework to assist staff achieve Council’s vision?

10 – Yes
13 – No
41 – need to wait and see

Q. In comparison to the previous Strategic Plan, do you believe that the Strategic Plan 2023 – 2027 and Beyond plan will allow for more transparent reporting and status updates?

20 – Yes
14 – No
30 – need to wait and see

Q. Do you believe the Strategic Questions will be an effective tool in aligning future Operational Plans and budgets to meet Council’s vision as set out in this plan?

18 – Yes
15 – No
30 – need to wait and see

Vision and Mission

The survey also asked about the new Vision and Mission statements.  (New and old Vision and Mission statements shown here)

New Vision:  Welcoming community; thriving town

Q. Do you agree with the new Vision Statement for Cobourg?

22 – Yes
22 – No
20 – Somewhat

The Survey asked for suggestions on Vision Statements and there was a wide variety.  For a full list, go to Appendix A in Resources below:  Q11, Page 14.

New Mission:  Exceeding expectations through quality experiences

Q.  Do you agree with the new Mission statement for Cobourg?

18 – Yes
22 – No
21 – Somewhat

The Survey asked for suggestions on Mission Statements and there was a wide variety.  For a full list go to Appendix A in Resources below: Q12, Page 17.

In addition to multiple choice questions, there was a question asking for further feedback.

These covered a wide range; many wanted more specific goals; some saw the plan as “corporate mumbo jumbo”.  Go to pages 20 to 28 of Appendix A.

There is no indication that the citizen feedback resulted in any changes to the plan but I note what’s included in the motion that staff recommends:

  • That Council direct staff to use community feedback received on the draft strategic plan to help inform the 2024 Operational Plan [as promised by the CAO].
  • That Council adopt the Town of Cobourg Strategic Plan 2023 – 2027 and Beyond.

So the feedback would not change the plan but would influence priorities and which things to actually do.

I wonder what the priorities would be of the taxpayers who did not participate in the survey?  Maybe people will tell Nicole, Adam and Aaron at their informal meeting – see “Other Links” below.

Resources

Town Documents

Cobourg Blog Articles

Other Links

  • Nicole Beatty’s Facebook page – includes invitation to join Nicole, Adam Bureau and Aaron Burchat at Lailies and the Dutch (was Dutch Oven) on Tuesday Nov 7 at 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm for “an informal conversation”. No specific subject and no presentation. Does not mention Strategic Plan. Also on Adam’s and Aaron’s Facebook pages. 

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Dave
20 days ago

The criteria for home builds has switched its priority to rental builds. In viewing the rentals available and prices in Cobourg for these and the few units being built I had hoped to see in the Strategic Plan more incentives for building commercial rental housing which would in time ease the ridiculous rents being charged which has been pointed out previously has discouraged people moving here to fill the factory jobs. Only a plan by the County to build affordable home ownership type housing which would mostly be beyond the ability to purchase for factory workers. This would also aid the current citizens of Cobourg who spend a large part of their earnings paying the rent and keep their dollars out of supporting the economic health of business here. Competition is the best criteria for control of prices asked. This would also reduce the need for affordable housing and in the mix to be built co-op housing could be part of the parcel instead.

Rob
21 days ago

I would be curious to hear from anyone who attended the come talk with us event last night with Clr. Beatty, Clr. Burchat and Clr. Bureau….

Cobourg taxpayer
22 days ago

As I read over the latest public responses to the strategic plan most comments are equal yeses and nos and more of wait and sees. What a waste of time, effort and money once again. But when a plan is written so vaguely what else can one expect. Can someone keep track of the CAO promising that staff use the feedback to inform the operational plan. This must be included in the CAO performance review. Hello council who will keep track of this?

Bryan
Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer
22 days ago

CT,
The Town has no KPIs (key performance indicators) or performance reviews in spite of the KPMH recommendations to put them in place made well over a year ago.

A policy/grant/KPI writer was hired, but so far no product.

Bryan
Reply to  Bryan
22 days ago

Sorry, meant KPMG.

The lack of an editing ability is greatly missed

Pete M
Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer
22 days ago

Home depot has a great slogan tha speaks to their customers”How Doers get more things done.”
That is what we are asking of the Town Hall. They need to be Doers first and then strive to get things done.
The citizens want decent roads, safe drinking water, proper sewage, safe streets, decent recreational facilities and an opportunity for the individual pursuit of happiness.
Town Hall needs to stay in its lane of municipal matters and not stray into provincial or federal matters. But when the province or feds are failing in their areas and that is impacting on the community, then they need to be a strong voice for the community.

cornbread
23 days ago

All this planning, strategic stuff, wishful stuff and we can’t even get enough retailers to fill out our once occupied and fairly successful Northumberland Mall.
I think for once we should look back at that tune…”Give me some oldtime religion” and think back to what Cobourg really was until we entertained a bunch of new breed big city consultants to show us the “new way”. Let’s get back to where we were about 35 years ago…Just a good place to live, work, and raise a family. Forget the new fancy sauce…give me good roast beef and mashed potatoes.

JimT
Reply to  cornbread
23 days ago

Are you suggesting we all stop buying from the internet and go back to the mall for everything? Seems unlikely.

cornbread
Reply to  JimT
23 days ago

If you want to be a hermit on the internet, that is your choice…I’d rather be out meeting people…person to person dialogue.

Ahewson
Reply to  cornbread
23 days ago

I buy online so I can do things I actually want to be doing in my spare time. Drudging around shopping isn’t at the top of my enjoyable activities list. I don’t think many people are out there shopping for the sake of meeting people. You’re just as likely wasting peoples time if that’s what you’re trying to accomplish. Standing in aisles talking, blocking everyone else, holding up checkout lines, that sort of thing.

In any case, online isn’t going anywhere…

Dave
Reply to  Ahewson
22 days ago

I support the businesses where I live. Buying on line should it be clothing good luck! Perfectly shaped men and women that make the clothes look good but probably not on the purchaser. The quality of anything is hard to ascertain from a picture. But if that is what you want to do Ahewson be prepared for further residential taxes as the businesses of all kinds close.

Bryan
Reply to  Dave
22 days ago

Dave,

A business closing has no impact on property taxes. The owner of a “business” property pays property & school taxes even if the business is closed.

Rob
Reply to  Bryan
22 days ago

I suppose that is true assuming the owner of said business chooses to remain in town after the business closes and isn’t forced to move in search of work, affordable housing, etc… What about those employed by the business? You’re assuming they continue to live and work in Town and aren’t forced to move elsewhere to earn a living and live affordably. Perhaps the business generated spin-off opportunities, jobs and home purchases/building? Businesses closures can impact the tax base, just as business investment can have the converse impact.

These things do not happen in isolation of one another. Thriving communities are interdependent and contain thriving local businesses… This way of thinking seems one dimensional – unless I misunderstood it.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Rob
22 days ago

Many of our local businesses make it very difficult to support them. I parked in front of Millstone Bread on Albert this afternoon hoping to purchase some tasty treats. They are now closed Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

Rob
Reply to  Ken Strauss
21 days ago

That is a shame and certainly not limited to small businesses…I understand Post Cereals had an extended plant shut down, other manufacturers have restructured/laid-off and changed production schedules (closed on weekends), Canada Pallet and others has experienced a significant downturn.

Small business is not immune to external economic challenges and and unacceptable inflationary pressures created by the Federal government … you need deep pockets and creativity to ride it out. Hopefully Millstone will bounce back!

But I do agree….wanting to shop downtown after 5:00 p.m. on weekdays isn’t possible, Sunday shopping is difficult – all of which made even less desirable by a Town who takes pride in the only bylaw they seem to be able to enforce – parking.

Feel free to smoke meth and pitch a tent on public property but don’t you dare forget to feed the meter.

Maybe that should be our new Town motto ; )

Dave
Reply to  Ken Strauss
21 days ago

Perhaps it needs more custom Ken. If it was booming it would be open.

Ben
Reply to  Ken Strauss
21 days ago

Obviously you didn’t persuade your neighbours and friends to shop there. Low sales mean shutdowns, modern economics Ken

Dave
Reply to  Bryan
22 days ago

I see many closed stores downtown Bryan, the ownership of which has not been concluded and their tax accounts are not available for public perusal so far all anyone knows they are in default. Should businesses it would only spell a grimmer outlook for Cobourg and I can’t help but predict with fewer jobs this would certainly have an affect on the properity of Cobourg and its tax base.
Also in viewing the true picture of things on line I will never forget visiting another town viewing homes for sale. In person the sure didn’t look anything like what they looked on the internet. Some could even have qualified for a haunted house at Halloween!

Beachwalker
Reply to  cornbread
22 days ago

The mall is not owned by the town.

Tucker
Reply to  Beachwalker
22 days ago

What Mall? It’s shameful to call ours a Mall. On line is here to stay.

Lemon Cake
23 days ago

The first 2 questions are a non starter – unless you have taken the time to read the previous plan and do your research, then you’re not going to complete this survey. I’ve got 2 kids and my husband and I work full time. We elected councillors to make decisions that require this level of research and consideration. Online surveys are simply not designed for this level of input and yet they keep trying to use them this way (i.e., input on on the new boardwalk that required some knowledge of materials and engineering).

Leona Woods
23 days ago

I don’t know what more the Communications people can do. Non-participation is on us. I did not even check the page and I consider myself an involved and committed citizen in this town. Perhaps the ideas are too big and too abstract, and too long term. Perhaps my previous experience with strategic plans that sit on shelves has disillusioned me and directed me to spend my time elsewhere. I am mired in the day-to-day minutiae that seems so much more immediate, and doable, with problems that can be resolved. I thank those who worked so hard on putting the plan together and wish them luck as they make the plan actionable.

ravery
Reply to  Leona Woods
23 days ago

l totally agree – how about a “power point “presentation? -right to the point – then possibly there will be more interest – be brief – as not many have the time – but are truly interested

Just a thought
Reply to  Leona Woods
22 days ago

There are SO MANY things they can do.
Let’s start with meeting the citizens where they are, using a medium they are willing and able to access. I’m not saying what that is right now, but I do have the skill set to find out. Engage Cobourg is not it – it’s been around for several years, and there are just over 3,300 users. Clearly, it’s not working. Posting on Facebook about something once or twice is laughable and embarrassing as a communications strategy.
They must ask questions the respondents are capable of understanding and answering. Simple, clear, meaningful questions.
They could solicit focus groups.
They could incentivize (something needs to be done to seek enthusiasm and engagement)
They could embrace storytelling as a vehicle for information delivery.
They would think creatively – a communications strategy isn’t just posting memos and trying to get an uninformed audience to answer a few questions.
This has been said before, and I think it was brought up by someone running last time for municipal office – there are capable, interested professionals in this town. I genuinely believe they disengage because of the terrible experiences and countless disappointments they have felt when they try to get involved or witness when others do. Find them, welcome them. Ask them their thoughts – consider trusting them. Consider letting go of the secrets guarded about what is and is not done at a staff level. Something isn’t working, and it hasn’t worked for a long time. That sounds like an upset to the status quo, but it’s high time that happened. We waste so much money on consultants who use cookie-cutter templates (which the strategic plan is) and buzzwords that mean nothing. Many of these companies employ newly graduated young people who are not capable of delivering what we need at this moment. They certainly don’t live here. We need a hero or two, and we need bureaucrats to get out of the way.

ben
23 days ago

Although 257 residents looked at the survey page, only 64 actually completed the survey – that’s a small sample of the 3,337 registered users on EngageCobourg.ca.”

Obviously another failed community engagement plan! Back the drawing Board Cobourg Communications!

ravery
Reply to  ben
23 days ago

so true