Well that was fun. My column this morning on the Mayor missing the first day of the Big City Mayor’s Conference got a lot of feedback. When I say feedback, what I am really saying is that most people hope I move out of the city soon.
One friend asked me that if I was Atch’s chief of staff, what would I do to make him a better mayor in 2016. I really don’t have a problem with Atch personally and I think some things can’t change but here would be my list for what I think any mayor should do.
- Represent us on the national stage well. That means showing up for things like the Big City Mayor’s Caucus when the federal government changes.
- Engage the population well. Nenshi, Tory, Ivison, and a lot of other mayors use Twitter to not only communicate but listen to citizens. He needs a website. My preference would be that we did mayor.saskatoon.ca but even mayorofsaskatoon.ca would work as his platform for which to inform the public. A couple of years ago I visited Michael Bloomberg’s mayoral website. I was blown away but the design and the content. I could find essential services information, New York City research, and all of his initiatives. Really, how much does that cost? It’s all being prepared anyways, so why not make it available to the citizens. Using social media, you can not only talk to people but listen and make them feel heard and connection to their mayor. Some do it better than others but there are people who have ideas, problems, and issues with the city. Give them a voice and help them be heard.
- Be transparent: That debate over Atch posting his schedule online (which he did exactly once) was insane. All he has to do is post the special interests he meets with. Nenshi does this on this website. It lists community groups, consular visitors, business leaders, and the occasional celebrity. It doesn’t give away secret negotiations (which the Mayor doesn’t often do, city managers do) or even his lunch plans. It does let Calgarians know what their mayor is up to and what people are shaping his decisions. Why can’t Saskatoon’s mayor do the same thing? Why can’t the Mayor of Saskatoon have the same disclosure as councilors do over travel and other expenses?
- Acknowledge all of the data that is out there instead of going, “Saskatoon is different”. This isn’t just about complete streets, density, homelessness, suburban sprawl, bike lanes, or policing. It is all of them. Other cities have fought our battles, been confronted by our problems (and found solutions) and many have researched the results. Yet that kind of thinking if rarely shown in Saskatoon. It is the kind of thinking that should come from a Mayor’s chair. They are the one that is there full time, has a staff, and sets the tone. Can you imagine a data driven City Hall adopting best practices from across the continent? No I can’t either. Is it too late to recruit Michael Bloomberg into Saskatoon?
- Be able to articulate where you want the city to go and become. I am not just saying “1 million people” but do you want it to be a car driven city that is all about freeways or a city based around public transit and alternative forms of transportation? You can’t be for everything, have a vision and drive it. Let the people decide what they want, if it isn’t that vision, well that is the cost of leadership.
- Be financially responsible but understand the need for good investments that will save the city money down the line.
- Hire the best managers in the country. Get managers who will push council as much as they will be directed by them. Calgary’s manager calling for investment in the city was great. Jen Keesmat calling out John Tory’s plan for the Gardiner Expressway is how cities are supposed to work. Strong leaders bring conflict but they also bring out great ideas because they are all working on making Saskatoon a world class city. I loved to see Mike Gutek battle with City Council, not because I liked to watch the fireworks but because I honestly felt that we were making progress as a city during those questions and answers. Hard questions were asked and hard answers were given back. That is often where progress is made. On the flip side, the transit debacle showed that competence is hard to come by in our own City Council and administration when they locked out the ATU once illegally and then tried to do it again. If you are going to lock out the transit drivers and make your own citizens going through hardships, at least do it correctly. Maybe it is time to look outside the city for top talent.
- Speak bluntly about the city’s issues. I miss Ralph Klein but we all know what Calgary was going through when I lived there. The same thing with Nenshi today. We are going to face some challenges ahead and some of them are because of the federal and provincial governments. Others are going to be from the business and non-profit communities. Call a spade a spade. The Mayor doesn’t need to be everyone’s best friend, they need to be the leader of the city with our interests at heart.
- Go the galas but attend the community barbecues as well. There are a lot of people in this city that will never be able to afford a Mayor’s Cultural Gala or Swinging with the Stars but things like a community barbecue mean a lot to them. Be at the events on both sides of the river and for all economic classes. There is more to the westside then the Farmer’s Market.
I don’t know if anyone running has those traits but the more they do, the better off the city will be.