The citizens of Oak Bay now face significant challenges, with more to come in the next 4 years. For probably more than 20 years we have allowed our District Council to be penny-wise and pound foolish. The District has been pinching pennies from year to year, living as though we are house rich and cash poor. We have been floating, contented with the status quo. Councillors might say that the citizens have actually been encouraging this course. The cash call is coming. The lifestyle change is coming.
In our families, at work, and in our community, most challenges can be foreseen, if we look around and look ahead. In any case, as Winston Churchill said, “the plan is nothing, but planning is everything.”
The citizens of Oak Bay need to look around, and attend to what they see. They need to ask questions. They need to plot the trajectory that has brought them to this point, as a reliable indicator of the trajectory ahead, unless they plan and change the trajectory.
Too many of us, like King Canute, are standing at the shore and commanding the incoming tide to stop where it is. In the case of Canute, he actually knew that he couldn’t stop the tide: he was giving a courtier a very practical lesson. In the case of Oak Bay, too many of us actually believe we can maintain the status quo, and prevent any change from happening except that which is comforting to us.
A series of posts will highlight some of the challenges facing the District and its citizens, beginning with the proposition that the District is understaffed.
Comments are welcome. The issues are real for the citizens of Oak Bay, so there is an urgent need for different perspectives, good information, thoughtful questions that invite different lines of exploration.
1. The District of Oak Bay is understaffed and staff are under-resourced
The District of Oak Bay is significantly understaffed. Staff are stretched too thin. The executive team is too small. One result is that important developmental work is left undone and important proposals go to Council without sufficient relevant, current, and comprehensive information. Another result is that process work is put off, stretched out over too long a period of time, done poorly, or contracted out with inadequate contract management, resulting in frustration for citizens, public servants, and District Councillors. Being understaffed also compromises the District’s appeal as a place to work. Staff organization is not optimal. Job descriptions do not match realistic and current work assignments. Clearly, staff don’t have enough time to explore and imagine; learn and become comfortable with new skills; hone familiar skills in light of new technology and processes; reflect; review and revise. Clearly, staff don’t have enough time, energy, or resources to maintain a reasonably deep level of engagement with citizens or to fuel foresight.
The District does not have some of the software and hardware that would make on-going work more manageable by being less manual.
Sooner or later, all of the citizens of Oak Bay will pay the price, in one way or another, for the District’s perpetual staff shortfall.
We had a similar situation in Alberta when the goal was debt reduction. The objective was admirable but the side effects were not fully appreciated. Decaying infrastructure, delayed projects, underfunding of various departments such as health and education led to pent up demand for funds after the original objective of debt reduction was reached.
A new round of spending began that did not satisfy the demands of many needy sectors of the electorate that seem to conjure up worthwhile causes faster than elected officials can find revenues to pay the bills. Of course the elected could come up with a blueprint for a measured program and try and promote its acceptance. Do they want to do that? Do they agree on a plan?