St. Albert council sets its priorities
List of six outcomes passes despite early dissent
Tuesday, Feb 04, 2014 03:30 pm
City council’s six priorities:
• Economic prosperity
• A historic, creative and active community
• A green community
• Excellence in government
• Sustainable infrastructure and services
• A safe, healthy and inclusive community
St. Albert city council is set to do a lot of cultivating in the near future now that it’s adopted a set of official priorities.
On Monday night council adopted six “strategic outcomes,” each with a list of associated goals and priorities. These outcomes focus on economic prosperity, fostering a vibrant, green, safe and healthy community, accountable and responsive government, and maintenance and development of city infrastructure.
Council developed the priorities during two days of private meetings in January.
The goals and priorities policy passed unanimously despite initial indications that not all councillors were in full agreement with the list. Coun. Sheena Hughes, in particular, had a raft of suggested amendments.
Council accepted the addition of two of Hughes’ suggested priorities: to explore options to increase fiscal responsibility and accountability in government, and to examine waste collection service frequency.
Hughes also suggested removing the listed priority of transforming St. Albert Trail into a business revitalization zone. The majority of council agreed.
Council voted down other amendments that Hughes brought forward, most notably that the city obtain the services of an internal auditor.
Coun. Tim Osborne said he was happy to vote in favour of Hughes’ fiscal responsibility priority but voted against her internal auditor idea.
“Without the appropriate background information I’m not comfortable supporting this at this time,” Osborne said.
He said his concern with a number of Hughes’ suggestions was that some were substantial changes.
“We did spend two days talking about some of these things,” Osborne said. “I would have loved to have had a more fulsome discussion on some of these issues.”
Osborne wasn’t the only one who expressed a desire to have discussed some of the topics brought forward by Hughes further during council’s two-day planning session.
“I think some of the debate from tonight would have been well-served over the course of those two days,” said Coun. Wes Brodhead. “At the end of this I’m trusting everyone will support this.”
Coun. Cam MacKay said he’d entered Monday’s meeting with a plan to reject the priorities but said he changed his mind due to some of the accepted edits from Hughes.
He shared results from a poll he’d commissioned on community priorities prior to the last election.
A survey of 300 people by Abingdon Research showed 62 per cent of respondents felt keeping property taxes down was the most important issue, with nine per cent listing it as the second most important issue. Making local government more accountable was the first priority of 11 per cent of the respondents and the second most important priority of 30 per cent.
MacKay also showed a slide showing those who did the survey were largely in favour of online plebiscites.
MacKay said he’s found during his election campaigns that people generally love the community and don’t want a lot changed, but they’d like it to be run a bit more efficiently.
“There’s some of those priorities now within the priorities documents,” MacKay said.
Council also voted unanimously to have administration bring back a public consultation process to get resident input for future updates to the priorities list. Administration will also develop a mechanism that will enable council to measure whether or not the city is achieving its priorities.