What do you do? April 4th

Tuesday, April 4th

So – I really haven’t defined a format for these entries, nor have I set a scope of what I plan to cover. My intent is to share as much of my day with you as I can, and I will aim to be as succinct as possible – but upon reviewing my first draft of this  – it’s filled with details you likely don’t care about.  Feel free to speed read, skim, skip, or analyze this however you choose.

If you are following along from yesterday’s post – I need to acknowledge that even after posting my blog entry – I was responding to emails and social media from bed last night! I think I finally called it a night around 1 am. Now, truth be told I likely wouldn’t have fallen asleep any earlier even if I wasn’t working. My mind has been going non-stop the past while, and more so this past week.  But let me fast forward to my day today.

Today started out like any other weekday.  Matt left at 7 am as always, and I made my way downstairs around 7:30, to a half a pot of coffee.  Perfect – I’ll just pour a cup, add some sweetener, and get the milk. Here’s where things started going downhill. We were out of milk.  Oh well – a little annoyance, I poured a mug anyway and thought I would give it a go…

My oldest had an appointment at home this morning, so I sent the youngest off to school on his own and got to work on a project while we waited for his appointment to arrive.  Once he began his appointment underway, I went to the local Tim Horton’s drive thru and bought a cup of coffee.  I couldn’t do the no-milk coffee at home.  Then I started working in earnest.  This morning, was phone calls, and computer work.

One of my first calls was to the Councillors office at City Hall to touch base with my office staff, and provide direction about some outstanding items we are working on. My admin assistant and I communicate – usually once a day by phone, sometimes more, sometimes less – it depends on what is going on in my inbox and at city hall.

Around 1 pm, I took some time away from work to run personal errands and by 2 pm, I started to get ready for the council meeting.  It should be noted that my uniform at home consists of blue jeans and a sweater – not exactly council meeting attire.

Originally I was to go for a walk with one of my constituents around a park that he has identified problems in, but because of the rain today, we rescheduled for tomorrow.

Around 2:30 pm I went into City Hall.  On my way in, I ran into one of my colleagues in the parking lot. On committee and council days, the two hours before a meeting the council office gets quite busy with people coming and going, preparing and chatting.  After a short chat with my colleague, mostly about family and work, my admin assistant and I met in my office to discuss some projects I am working on. Based on the feedback from the community in my performance review, I have realized that despite my attempts to reach the community there are still gaps.  We are strategizing around a ward-wide mailout that tells people how to get ahold of me, about my community meetings and how they are advertised, as well as about my monthly newsletters.

After meeting with my admin assistant, I spent some time talking with two other colleagues about events on the weekend, and about gender biases in the education system.  I’m not even sure how we got on that topic, but there you have it – the low down on what City Councillors chit chat about!

Council tonight was a quick one – we were done right before 7 pm.  Although it was done in 3 hours, we covered some important items. The gallery was packed tonight. After a brief in camera session (council meets behind closed doors to talk about some items as allowed under hte Municipal Act), we went back into public session and moved the agenda to deal with the bus rapid transit report from the civic works committee. This has been consuming so much of my brain for the past week, I was glad to finally have the discussion.

I did not enter into too much of the debate, but I did enter briefly.  I voted against the option that won, and after the vote, I spoke to the amended motion and explained why I voted against it.  This is where I kick myself a little.  I should have spoken up before the amendment, but I didn’t.  In all honesty – I struggled tonight finding the right words, and one of my colleagues spoke to the amendment, and really covered everything I wanted to say.

I often find it frustrating to hear the council echo chamber – Councillors each getting up and saying the same things the person beside them just said, so I try to enter debate only when I have something more to add.  Again – if I reflect on the feedback I received in my performance review, I need to make more of an effort to insert myself in the debates more often.  I will keep working on this!

In the end, the amended motion passed and council will review options mid-May.  I took the opportunity to indicate that I am not interested in kicking the can down the road much longer on this.  I am ready now and will be ready in May to make a decision.  The problem with waiting is that we are costing ourselves more money, and losing opportunities – projects we have already approved and are moving forward on, are now on hold, and much more delay can jeopardize those projects. I feel strongly that Council needs to make a decision.

Today, I think for the first time, I took the mayor’s chair and chaired the Council Meeting as he spoke to a motion that the deputy mayor had put on the floor.  Although usually a routine chair swap, a point of privilege was made, and I had to make a pseudo-ruling.  I say pseudo – because short of calling the member out of order (which he was not), I had limited powers when the point of personal privilege was made.  I issued a brief caution and asked the member to change his language moving forward.

A very exciting thing happened at the end of the night – Council appointed Martin Hayward as the new City Manager. Martin was previously the City Treasurer and has been the Acting City Manager since February.  I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Mr. Hayward since the beginning of my term, and have every confidence in his ability to lead the city.  He is kind, patient, pragmatic, and a person of high integrity.

After Council, I had a quick meeting with staff about another idea I am working on, then enjoyed a dinner with some of my colleagues.

You may not be aware, but for committee and council meetings, dinners are available on site.  I understand that this is rare in municipalities.  Toronto takes lunch breaks and everyone scatters.  I enjoy our communal meals.  It is an opportunity to spend time with staff and colleagues. *Fun fact here – Martin Hayward (the new city manager) and I have dined together at almost every council meeting since 2014.  Somehow on month 3 or 4, we realized this, then just made it a thing, one of us saving a seat for the other. This has helped me to develop a good working relationship with Martin.

I was home by 8 pm to relieve my mom.  Most Tuesday nights Matt has to leave by 6:30 and we are lucky enough to have my mom come over and help bridge the gap until I get home.

My youngest was clearly overtired – evidenced by a meltdown over forgetting how to fold shirts because I don’t let him fold enough laundry (yes… this really happened.  I had to commit to inviting him to help me fold from now on).

I am wrapping up the evening by writing this blog post about my day, then will return some correspondence until about 10 pm tonight.

So there you have it, another day in the life of a City Councillor.  It can be a flexible day – allowing me time to work on other projects and run errands, but still full all the same.

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