Advisory vs. Advocacy

After a read of Joanne Chianello’s great piece on the role of Advisory Committee’s Saturday November 19th (click the link to read it here http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/Good+ideas+city+hall/5736007/story.html) I wanted to add a few comments after having sat on the Roads and Cycling Advisory Committee (RCAC) up until October of this year.

City Council needs to recognize the Advisory Committees (AC) as a resource for their direct connection to the residents and the concerns and comments they bring.  As a Member of RCAC we met to discuss Road AND Cycling issues.  The committee would hear from concerned citizens and City staff about many issues including some that stand out, like:

  • The Ottawa Bike Plan
  • Bike path Networks and missing links
  • eBikes
  • Multi use Pathways (perhaps including the one mentioned in the piece by Joanne Chianello)
  • Laurier Segregated Bike Lanes
  • Road construction
  • Transit issues (Bus bays)
  • Ring and Post bike parking
  • Bike parking in the market
  • Bike training and Road safety
  • LRT and many others

RCAC was consulted by and worked very well with City Staff.  RCAC members would attend Public information nights and consultations on many projects as well as sit on RCAC Sub-Committees and all this was done for FREE!

Our interactions with other ACs were limited, but on several occasions RCAC held joint meetings with the Pedestrian and Transit AC.  But our meetings were conducted professionally and with guidance from outstanding City staff.  I cannot comment about the AC that works in bare feet I guess that would be the exception rather than how the ACs regularly works.

I also recognize that RCAC would not be as effect as it is without the leadership of the Chair Michael Powell, a dedicated Ottawa resident that cares about the city.  Though it may or may not have been required (it is an item of ongoing debate) a Work Plan was created and updated each year as a guide for RCAC to follow to ensure it met its requirements as a Committee of the City.  I would certainly recommend that each AC have and update a workplan, whether the City Council asks for it or not.  The workplan provides a measure of accountability for the AC which can only help to ensure the AC’s remain as part of City governance.

There are ways to help the AC’s; City Councillors could attend a meeting of an AC (as a member of a City Committee i.e. planning) that would make recommendations to their committee.

As Perry Marleau (@PerryMarleau) mentioned on Twitter in response to Ms. Chianello’s column:: “Want real changes at #OTTCityAdvisory Committees? Get the Chairs and V-C together for consultation process.

I also suggest that AC Chairs and Vice-Chairs meet with City Committee Chairs to have both sides understand how they help each other.  The value of the ACs greatly out paces the $400K that is budgeted for them; it is a forum where residents can express their opinions in greater detail.  It would be a shame that the Advisory Committees might be seen as not needed, this public forum is important and should be treated as such.

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