Helps thinking outside the box to consult councillors

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps used post-it notes and easels to determine which councillors wanted to be on which committees.

Easels with post-it notes in the council chambers marked a new approach to committee appointments at city hall.

As opposed to announcing which councillors would be on which committees at the inaugural council meeting, Mayor Lisa Helps decided think outside the box in a more hands-on fashion. Helps asked each councillor that had previously served on a committee to give a brief description of the committee and the work it does, then she gave post-it notes to all councillors to write their names on and post on flip charts with the committee names on them.

“I really wanted to make it public and transparent and draw on what the councillors want to do,” said Helps. “I wanted to make sure that councillors had an opportunity to put their skills to work where they wanted to, not with what I think.”

For the majority of the committees, terms were split into two two-year terms.

On only one occasion did a secret ballot have to take place, when Coun. Chris Coleman and Coun. Ben Isitt were both interested in the first term of the Greater Victoria Labour Relations Association.

Each were given three minutes to give a campaign speech before the vote. Coun. Geoff Young was away, so the vote was tied 4-4.

Isitt then gave up the position to Coleman who already had experience on that committee.

“You could see people really paying attention and doing it in a careful and generous way,” said Helps. “It felt like a new beginning yesterday.”

Coun. Pamela Madoff said the success of the appointments demonstrated how well the council is working together.

“It’s really built on the council orientation sessions that we’ve had,” she said. “I think we’ve already become very collegial even though we’ve got a new mayor and new councillors.”

Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe said she thought there would have been more competition for some of the appointments.

“It just shows the diversity that we bring to the table,” she said.

In addition, Coun. Madoff and Coun. Ben Isitt proposed that councillors reported back on their committees at the beginning of December each year to review how the appointments are going and on the work of the committees.

“I think it’s a very good idea to touch base at the end of the term and a chance to check in and see what’s working [and] who wants to move where after having a chance to experience [the committees] for that period of time,” said Madoff.

 

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