Letter: Dear Mayor and Council

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letter to the editor

I watched the Nov. 7, 2016 city council meeting where you passed the new, closed door, more expensive, citizen selection process for the city’s forty boards and committees.

Thankfully, the new selection process eliminates the embarrassment felt by volunteering citizens that comes from the entire city watching as you give some candidates the appointments and reject others.

But the new closed door process brings back the age old problem of trust.

Namely, how can we trust that the recommendations made from behind closed doors are not just the friends of the pickers? How can we trust that the closed door decisions are fair? And in this case, how can we trust that closed door recommendations are truly skill based?

The simple fact is we, the viewing public, can’t trust closed door decision making at all.

In both open and closed door decisions the majority’s bias will always win, and we, the viewing public, prefer to see the decision making process so we can determine if the majority’s bias is reasonable; Is the winning bias based on making life better for all Saultites, or is the bias for the benefit of just some Saultities, or, or even worse, is the bias an I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine payola-type bias.

Closed door citizen appointment processes are habitually based on I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine type considerations. Senate appointments being the prime example.

Tell me something City Council, will the five city staff on this new Committee be fired from their jobs if they start picking their friends for recommendation if it is found that some more qualified person has been rejected by them?

You, Mayor and Council, didn’t do yourselves any favours enhancing my trust in your decision making with the unaltered passing of this appointment selection resolution because the process you passed is:

1) more expensive for us taxpayers, and
2) not skill based,

That’s a pretty bad resolution when you’re talking about making skill-based appointments for all of the city’s boards and committee, and your fourty minutes of questioning and comments did nothing to change/strengthen the recommendation.

Using paid city staff to select volunteers is waaaaaaaay more expensive than using free city council members. Staff time costs us taxpayers a lot of money.

I thought this city council is focused on cutting all unnecessary expenses in these tough economic times down at city hall?

Cut backs here, cut back there, but when it comes to spending money on freeing up time for city council members, hey, no expense is too big.

Sad.

And regarding the skill of the five city staff appointees to make these selections, well, lets just say that the Curator of the Old Stone House is probably not one of the most skilled five people in the city to select the best volunteers to sit on fourty boards and committees even though she is phenomenal at curating the Old Stone House.

Even five people from the city’s Human Resources department would have been more skilled than the five who were chosen.

After all, city HR staff go through resumes, and make recommendations as to who the best people are for city jobs every single day.

And despite Councillor Shoemaker’s loud protestations about keeping this process open to the viewing public while ensuring that the appointment recommendations be skill based, he did not make one single solitary suggestion as to how the current process can be “tweaked” to ensure the elimination of the real embarrassment that volunteers feel by not getting picked in an open process that will see fewer and fewer citizens volunteer for these boards and committees.

Not one suggestion from Councillor Shoemaker. Just sound and fury…

What to do with this bad, yet citizen volunteer respectful resolution?

Luckily, Saultite Don Walls has a solution that can be done in front of the camera, and which will make everybody, applicants, city council, and the viewing public happy.

Don Walls’ process to be conducted in an open session of City Council:

1) If there are 10 “qualified” candidates, but there are only 4 spots on a committee, then put the 10 names into a hat, and pull 4 names out.

2) If there are 16 spots on a committee, but only 12 citizens apply, then give all 12 citizens a spot on the committee.

Simple.

Fair.

Embarrassment free.

And, very importantly, it’s a process done out in the open where everyone can see.

The only issue is: Who is going to be appointed to pull the names out of the hat? Let’s form a committee (kidding ).

But seriously, there has to be a mechanism to determine who is “qualified”, and Don Walls suggests this:

1) Have each city council member, all 13 of you, review all of the resumes submitted for every board and committee individually, say, in the privacy of your own homes, putting each resume into one of two piles for each committee: a) Qualified, and b) Not Yet Qualified.

2) Get back together, all 13 of you, in caucus to protect the volunteers from embarrassment, and take each resume, and if 7 out of 13 (the majority) of you have the resume in the “a) Qualified” pile, then that person’s name goes into the hat for that committee.

3) Go back into open session and pull the appropriate number of names out of each committee hat.

4) Make the appointment announcements, and

5) Sincerely thank the other un-appointed “qualified” applicants for offering their service to our community and their fellow citizens.

Thank you Don Walls!!!

A simple, open, transparent, inexpensive, citizen privacy respecting, skills-based citizen appointment process.

Plus, Don Walls’ process gives every city council member a good opportunity to know the many many citizens who are interested in helping improve our city, in this case, by reviewing their resumes. These council connections with highly engaged citizens, Mr. Mayor, will be extremely valuable as we all move forward together in building the Sault Ste. Marie that we all desire.

I now respectfully ask that you, Mayor and Council, reconsider the approved Nov. 7, 2016 Board and Committee selection process, and replace it with Don Walls’ selection process at the Nov. 21, 2016 meeting of City Council for the upcoming 2017 Board and Committee citizen appointments.

It’s not too late to do the right thing.

What say you Mayor and Council?

Respectfully,

Mark Brown
Citizen of Sault Ste. Marie
[email protected]

P.S. If you don’t do so already, I highly recommend that you, Mr. Mayor, write to all citizens who are deemed to be “a) Not Yet Qualified” thanking them for their interest in helping to improve our city, and letting them know what they might do to become “b) Qualified” during the next round of appointments. Respect.