February 28th, 2024

City Notebook: Time is starting to tick away a little

By COLLIN GALLANT on December 11, 2021.

cgallant@medicinehatnews.com@CollinGallant

So, what are Medicine Hatters to make about Medicine Hat’s new city council sending back a budget update twice now, each time asking for more information?

Left with not much of an explanation, Medicine Hatters are making of it what they will.

For many this adds fuel to a growing theory about rift between administration and council, which is an offshoot of a general vibe leading up to the October election where City Hall and the city at large weren’t really on the same page.

For others, there’s some reinforcement of the idea that a council full of first-time electees don’t know what they’ve gotten themselves into and better get up to speed ‘tout de suite’… pardon my French.

What we do have, at the very least, is a bit of a lesson in municipal government, the at-times opaque processes and protocols that lead to all manner of suspicions.

It’s well-established – though not generally known or believed – that a council member can’t just call up a road crew, garbage man, or accountant and get something done or a policy changed. Imagine the gridlock that could result.

Legally, council’s only employee is the city manager, and he’s in charge of the other 1,000 or so workers at the city, but the hitch is he’s directed by council.

In practice, it doesn’t have to be so black and white if a decent working relationship can be struck, but the apparent disconnect at present is a poor reflection.

It’s also not the only glancing sign of intrigue at 580 First Street these days.

By my eye, council members were generally surprised to learn more details about the city’s carbon capture initiative when it was described in the House of Commons by MP Glen Motz this month.

Motz isn’t a city council member but is obviously in the know to some degree, and probably properly so.

You’d think such a massive project would be a day-one item on the orientation agenda for a largely new council.

You’d also think that having some analysis of recreation centre closures at the ready would be a prudent move by administrators after it was clearly a major election issue.

On the other hand, since most of the new council members campaigned on the issue, you’d assume they could have asked or even grilled administrators about the issue during an initial budget briefing in early November.

Now, we’re delayed until late December.

And that’s not even dealing with the myriad ins and outs in the budget that council members want full access to.

For the record, the city hasn’t presented a “line-by-line” budget to the News in eight years.

We got a big binder for the 2012-2016 budget cycle, but the practice of making such a document publicly available was ended for 2017 – much to our protestations at the time.

By then, in fact, we had to explain the concept of such a document as over four years financial reporting morphed, accounting practice changed and so did expectations.

Now we’re four years later again, with a new council.

A look ahead

Council’s public services committee meets Monday and will tour the two rec facilities at the centre of a budget debate. Funds to operate the Moose and Crestwood rec centres were not included in the most recent 2022 budget update presented to council. That matter goes back before council on Dec. 20.

100 years ago

Alberta, which didn’t return a single Liberal candidate to the House of Commons during the recent election, should lobby to have representation in the cabinet of Wm. Lyon Mackenzie King, the Edmonton Board or Trade told reporters 100 years ago.

Defeated Liberal MPs Frank Oliver or William Duncan could be given special liaison posts, it was suggested.

Locally, Mayor Huckvalle was returned to office in annual civic elections by a count of 823 to 715 over challenger and former alderman Isaac Bullivant, the News reported.

MLA Perrin Baker was re-elected by acclamation after the new minister for education was subject to convention of recapturing a seat after joining cabinet.

Two brothers from near Warner were charged after directing a work gang to thresh grain on a Sunday. Joseph and Lee Tenny told the court that Lethbridge high winds prevented much work through the week and wages for hired men were mounting. They were fined $1 for contravening the Lord’s Day Act.

A woman in Chicago was held in jail as authorities attempted to identify the 15 men she had married over the past four years to collect allotments for wives of servicemen, it was alleged.

“She’s a nut for soldiers and sailors, but not marines,” a family member told the Chicago press.

Collin Gallant covers city politics and a variety of topics for the News. Reach him at 403-528-5664 or via email at cgallant@medicinehatnews.com

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