A few weeks back, while City Council was in the throes of its discussions over Uber and how best to regulate our vehicle-for-hire industry, a quiet but transformational series of structural changes was unfolding within city administration. The news was overshadowed by our Vehicle-for-Hire decision, so I wanted to highlight the changes – and how they contribute to my goals for delivering Open and Effective local government.
Unless you’ve been lost in the pedway system for the past 12 months, you’ll know that we’ve been grappling with a series of significant and well-publicized infrastructure project management issues as of late. These issues come up in conversations at community league events, black tie dinners and even while I’m standing in line for coffee.
So, to say I was relieved to see these administrative changes come into effect might be the understatement of the year.
These changes have come in two phases, the first of which was last fall when a new, consolidated Integrated Infrastructure Services department (how’s that for a mouthful?) was announced. This new department will bring together the design and construction functions of the City into one branch, adding discipline and consistency to how we approach major (and minor) infrastructure projects. This consolidation begins to break down some of the communication barriers that I believe were inhibiting collaboration and sound project management between and within departments.
The second round of organizational changes, which completes the restructure, came last month. The biggest changes are for transportation: after moving the infrastructure function out last fall, the transportation planning functions were moved into the Sustainable Development Department (our planning dept). The remaining transportation functions were consolidated with other complementary areas like parks operations, which may lead to some efficiencies in managing things like road rights of way, for example.
As part of these moves, the City has also elevated our communications function to a proper department and gave it an expanded expectation for meaningful, open engagement that is now reflected in its title: Communications and Public Engagement.
On the City Council side of the table, we’ve also begun the process to change Council’s committee structure to support more coherent decision making and build clear lines of accountability into the departments. The new Urban Planning Committee should mean a better alignment of the City’s planning functions; City operations now report to the Citizen Services committee; and all infrastructure work will now report to the Executive Committee.
In parallel to this structural work, Council has directed a deeper examination of the relevance and effectiveness of the services the City of Edmonton delivers. Our Service Level Review will undoubtedly find new and better ways of delivering some services, and may even lead to cessation of certain programs that are no longer justified against other priorities. While the scope of this review is significant, it fundamentally asks two simple questions:
- Do the services we deliver still reflect Edmonton’s priorities of today?
- Are we delivering these services as effectively as possible?
In supporting this review, my goal was to ensure that we – you, me and every Edmontonian – get good value for the money we spend on city services.
By no means have we solved all the problems just yet, and there are undoubtedly more challenges ahead. But Council is strongly committed to improving the effectiveness and efficiency of your local government.