Today is Thursday, April 6th, 2017. Here is the next installment of “What do you do?” Yesterday I asked people to signal to me if they were reading this, and I did not expect to hear very much. I was pleasantly surprised when several people let me know that they were following and enjoyed this insight into the day to day life of a City Councillor. I will be blogging for the month of April – mostly in the evenings. If I happen to miss a day – I will catch it up at my next opportunity. As I am on day 6 of blogging, I am realizing, that I can usually cut and paste the previous day and make minor changes – but I would rather take the opportunity to talk a little about the different aspects of the role. Today’s blog will talk about my day, will touch on Rapid Transit, constituency work, the job description of a City Councillor (or lack thereof), and invitations.
As a City Councillor, there is no job description, hours of work or anything. Once elected, a City Councillor actually has to do VERY little to keep their position. Now, if they do very little, chances are good they won’t be re-elected, but as long as an elected official attends a meeting once every three months, their seat has not been vacated. That’s the minimum required. For me, I have pretty much created my job description based on my commitments during my campaign period, and the demands of Council: attend meetings, return phone calls and emails, advocated for my community, and help people to navigate municipal government.
Today once the kids left for school, I worked in my home office for a few hours. Nothing too exciting, emails, social media follow up etc. I received a phone call about a parking issue. As a City Councillor, I do not get involved with parking ticket disputes – there is a process in place for resident’s to dispute their ticket. In this case, the resident was not so much concerned about the ticket, but the signage – I am working with staff to see that it get’s sorted out so that others don’t run into the same issue.
I met with a friend who used to live in Ward 10 (but has recently moved) for lunch and enjoyed a chat about their perceptions of city hall and events in London. During lunch, I received a call which I sent to voicemail. As soon as lunch was done, I checked my voicemail and realized that it was a constituent who was concerned about rapid transit.
This was a call I was not looking forward to returning, but I did all the same. Sometimes, people call and just want to vent, sometimes they want information, and sometimes they want to share their point of view. This seemed to be one of the first category – someone who wanted to be heard and wanted to vent. I was pleasantly surprised when I returned the call and had a great conversation. I actually posted the conversation to social media!
Here is my synopsis as posted on social media of the call:
I took a call today about rapid transit, here is the conversation:
Caller: I don't support rapid transit.
Me: ok, would you like to know why I supported it?
Caller: Instead, you should make it free for kids to take the bus
Me: Yes, we did that
Caller: Well what about people who have a fixed income? You should make it more affordable.
Me: Yes, we did that too
Caller: Well, it's hard to find parking downtown
Me: Cool - you can park anywhere along a rapid transit route and take transit downtown and not worry about parking.
Caller: Well - we should have better bus service so people don't have to wait as long
Me: Rapid transit will do that
Caller: But that's only on the rapid transit routes
Me: well - when we put rapid transit in we will need to re-work our regular transit routes to feed into rapid transit, also there will be routes we won't need and will be able to increase service where it's needed
Caller: Can't you just use the 500 million on other projects
Me: no, not really
Caller: Well, what happens if we don't have rapid transit
Me: We will have to do a bunch of road widening projects - projected at about 300 million over the next ten years
Caller: everyone should call their Councillor. Now that I talked to you, I understand this project, and I'm not really against it anymore.
Me: Cool. I'm glad you called.
***Edited after posting***
On the topic of calls – I received an unusual call last week from a resident asking what we can do about problem geese in Springbank Park. I received this link today – it all comes together now. HaHa.
Shortly after that call, I made my way into the office to try to get through some more emails (I am terribly behind right now) and prepare for the Governance Working Group meeting at 4 pm. I chatted with our office staff and got through as much as I could. Preparing for the GWG meeting was not bad as the agenda was quite short. At 4 pm we started the meeting, and I was nominated to chair the committee. I was chair of this committee last round as well, and it is a working group I quite enjoy. Once again, Councillor Morgan was selected as Vice-Chair of the GWG.
The meeting was 23 minutes long – mostly because we had to do select the chair and vice chair, receive three reports and set a next meeting date. Hopefully, our efficiency continues for the rest of our term!
After GWG I met with a few colleagues in the Councillors office before making my way home. On my drive home, I followed up with the constituent regarding the road flooding issue from yesterday. While he was not in, I had a lovely conversation with his wife and have been invited to pop by for tea in the next while. He returned my call while I waited in the left hand turning lane off riverside trying to make my way down Wharncliffe (I use a built-in hands-free unit in the car). I was able to provide him with all the information he required and can close the loop on that follow-up. He reiterated the invitation to come over by for tea, so that’s on my to-do list soon, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to catch up with them.
As my day was pretty normal – nothing too exciting, I think I will take this opportunity to tell you about invitations.
I receive on average 2 invitations a day for upcoming events. Some are ticketed fundraisers, some are speaking engagements, some are community events. I often get coffee/tea/dinner invitations from community members.
I often am invited to someone’s kitchen table during the day to discuss a concern of theirs (and on occasion have welcomed the community around my table when that worked out better.) I have been invited to and accepted the opportunity to attend constituents home and learn how to make a traditional ethnic dish. I have been invited to carve a pumpkin for a competition. I have been invited to read books to classrooms, finger paint, speak at events, and help open new businesses. As a City Councillor, I get a lot of invitations.
In order to have a good balance for my family, I try to limit my event acceptance to two a month. As I am often away at meetings 2-3 nights a week and travel out of town about once a month for various meetings – sometimes for a day, sometimes for several days, limiting my events to family-friendly (and appropriate for my kids) events, and two additional nights a month has left me in a good spot. Previously, when I have tried attending more events, I found that it had a negative impact on my family. So for me, two is about the right number. I try to prioritize event in Ward 10 and will make exceptions to my 2 event rule – especially if it’s not at a time that is impactful to the family.
I’m posting this and signing off early tonight (9:30 pm.) Tomorrow morning’s train leaves at 6:25 am for Toronto, and I don’t want to be late!
Thanks for reading this.