Aurora Citizen

News & Views from the Citizens of Aurora Ontario

The Importance of Policy

Posted by auroracitizen on March 4, 2011

The recent debate about whether to support or not support the Aurora Jazz Festival reminds us of a couple posts we published back in 2009 — The Role of Council and 2008 — Council Versus Staff Roles.

If Council had a clear policy about how our dollars should be spent for promotional support, there would not even be a discussion at the Council table.

This is the same situation we have recently seen with the pool policy — or lack thereof.

For example, there is an ice user policy and a field user policy. These were developed by Council — with input from all user groups —  and are now implemented by staff without political interference.

It would be safe to assume that no user group is completely satisfied — but they seem to be all equally disappointed but treat equally fairly. Which is probably the best case scenario when the demand exceeds the available resources.

This Council needs to defer any decision on promotional support until a policy is in place (again with stakeholder input) and then let staff do their job — implement Council policies.

Then we won’t have user groups appearing before Council appealing for funds and Council making one-off decisions on an ad hoc basis.

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9 Responses to “The Importance of Policy”

  1. Darryl Moore said

    Thanks Elizabeth. I agree with you. I am only wondering how much (or how little) deciding the amount of support to give to unique events such as the jazz festival, the street sale, the farmers market, and a long list of others, (I know not all currently get support, but that is beside my point) lend themselves to a policy framework, and how much these sorts of things need to be decided on a case by case basis, by council rather than staff, with a broader policy for guidance.

    If anyone has dug into this to see what sorts of policy procedures other municipalities have come up with, I’d love it if they shared.

    cheers.

    • Darryl Moore said

      Oops. This was suppose to come after Elizabeth Bishenden’s post in the thread below. Sorry folks for making you jump around the page more.

  2. Anonymous said

    Hallelujah! Recognition that policies and procedures are indispensable in managing business, that town staff actually know how to do their jobs and that council, like a board is not there to micromanage or meddle in operations but to guide policy!
    These types of items alone that show up unnecessarily on the agenda could cut meeting time in half and allow council to deal with the business they have been elected to deal with.

  3. True to a point, but the implication of having a blanket policy is that all such events are of the same importance and value to the town. I don’t think this is always the case, and there has to be some room for Council to provide unique responses to unique proposals. The Farmers Market, Concerts in the Park, the Street Sale, all are fairly unique enterprises which may have greater value to the town as a whole than say, a group of neighbours wanting to have a street party.

    I don’t think you can ever have a blanket policy that will cover all circumstances, any more than you can have mandatory jail sentences that will always be fair.

    I agree with having a blanket ice and field user policy as they deal with a whole category of common and similar usage. Are you suggesting then, that we should have a music festival policy too? I would agree to that if were were likely to have many such requests, but I somehow doubt that. Are you suggesting that we should have a town park policy? I would see such an instrument as being very difficult to develop because the range of possible usages is very wide and each use could have a very different net value to, and impact upon, the town.

    • sharon said

      We did have 2 requests in 2009 for a Music Festival. One, for a one day event as part of the Farmers Market, presented by Ms. St. Kitts, and the second, a 3 day event presented to council by Mr. Mike Moran. Hmmmm….
      Maybe a policy isn’t a bad idea?!

    • Elizabeth Bishenden said

      Setting policy is a great idea… but…

      A Music Festival Policy is for sure a bad idea. It doesn’t address the underlying issue, which is that the Town Council is not setting policy that makes sense in terms of serving the citizens of Aurora.

      The discussion around the Jazz Fest has revealed that Town Council needs to:

      1. Use the policy for park space use that is already in place to make some decisions… or else revise the policy if it is found to be out of sync with community needs and wishes.
      2. Develop a policy about sponsoring charitable/not-for-profit events.

      If the Council had referred to the existing policy about park space usage, it would have directed Staff to work with the AFA tp evaluate which park spaces would best suit the AFA’s needs for its Jazz Fest.

      If the Council had a policy about sponsoring charitable and not-for-profit events and if it adhered to its own policy about using the parks, they could easily decide if the participation of the Town in the Jazz Fest would be seen as an actual ‘+’ for Aurora.

      Policies don’t address each and every possible contingency. They set a framework in which decisions can be made fairly.

    • A web is spun said

      This is correct.

      Mr.Moran had a proposal and met with the LSAC committee.

      Guess who was in attendance, that was not a member.

      None other than Sher herself.

      So where did she get the tip off about his plan for a festival?

      Seems Mr.Moran got shafted just like The Farmers Market.

    • Hi Elizabeth,

      Perhaps council should review non-profit policies as you suggest. I certainly do not have a problem with that. I admit however that I currently have difficulty seeing what those policy changes would be such that they give adequate direction without overly restricting the process. I would certainly be interested in seeing what policy recommendation staff came back with if charged with this task.

      In general, as I said during the election, I see municipal level of government primarily as a provider of basic services. Since their revenue is not from a progressive source like income tax they are not well positioned to support charities, as they would often be taxing the poor to support the poor, which is of little benefit. I do think there are some events and groups which do merit some municipal support. I do not know if the Jazz Festival would be one of them, but it may be. At least for a few years for it to become established.

      Making these evaluations is not something which I think can easily be covered by anything other than the broadest of policies, but reviewing these policies would certainly make for interesting debate.

    • Elizabeth Bishenden said

      Darryl,

      The way I see it is that if they want to provide basic services, the Town Council must both enact, revise, and respect policy.

      Enact because that is how they make their mark and bring new policies to the fore.

      Revise, because that is how they update what happened in the past.

      Respect, because they have to say that previous councils had something good or not to say about the governance of the municipality. That said, the respect has to be earned.

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