May 21st, 2024

Should the current council have proceeded with CIP planning and approval that the next council will inherit? Why or why not?

By Lethbridge Herald on October 12, 2021.

John Middleton-Hope
“It is a multi-year plan and that is part of leadership. The next Council will have a chance to imprint the CIP and MDP with their footprint. If elected, I look forward to the opportunity to listen to citizens and forge a forward looking plan that is affordable and is a balance between addressing our current needs and those of the future.”

Dale Leier
“The City should not have proceeded with the CIP planning and approval knowing full well a new Mayor and Council would be installed shortly. In short, they have acted in bad faith and voters need to keep this in mind when they go to the polls on October 18.”

Mark Campbell
“The current council worked hard to determine significant projects in the current CIP plan. The next council can always revisit those decisions if they determine it is in the best interest of the city.”

Belinda Crowson
“Our system is designed so there is always a City Council in place and the power and mandate of one flows directly to the next. A member of the current Council remains on the job until the new Council takes the oath of office. The current Council has all the rights and responsibilities of governance until that day, including budgeting. Indeed, other Councils have also made capital and budgetary decisions in an election year. So, what the current Council did is in keeping with past practice. Throughout the entire four-year period of a Council term, every decision made by a Council is inherited by the future Council. This is as true of a decision made on the first day as a decision made on the last. Over time economic conditions, public input, funding from other orders of government and more may change. This is why mechanisms are in place to permit Councils to make changes as they see fit. In fact, the current Council on occasion opened up and changed the budget. So will the next Council. Having noted the above, that is not to say that the current system used this year for CIP is the best possible system. This is why Council worked with administration to devise a new system that will realign the timing of operating and capital budgets. Of course, changing this system has and will take time and until then, we use the current system and make the best possible decisions within that system.”

Bill Ginther
“I feel strongly that any major decisions made by City Council close to a civic election should be deferred to a new council who will be charged with decisions around its implementation.”

Kelti Baird
“Capital Improvement Planning is a 10-year cycle and it was expected that the current council would deal with CIP deliberations within their term. The only reason CIP planning and approval was held as close to the election as it was is due to delays in the process necessitated by the COVID pandemic. It is important to recognize that this election cycle we are turning over at minimum half of our council seats, which means we are already losing significant amounts of experience on Council. As a prospective Councillor, I appreciate the current Council’s partial approval of the CIP due to the proximity of the election. CIP deliberations would need to have been completed rather quickly after the election in order to keep administration’s work going smoothly, so as someone potentially facing a steep learning curve after the election, I really appreciate the previous council’s solution. It’s important to note also that new council will not be bound to CIP approvals, and can open and adjust budgets at any time to respond to external pressures (like pandemics, or economic collapses, or other catastrophes). I appreciate the work that administration and current Council did on the partial approvals of the CIP, and their out-of-the-box thinking of dealing with issues. This shows good and thoughtful leadership and for that they ought to be commended. I’m excited to see how the remaining CIP decisions will be affected by new council.”

Nick Paladino
“Tying the hands of the incoming council seems questionable to me. I don’t believe the current Council should have planned funding any capital improvement projects more than say, one year out (end of 2022). This should be adequate time for designing and completing projects previously approved. The new council should then be the proper decision makers through to 2026.”

Darcy Logan
“It is definitely not ideal that the CIP was brought forward in an election year. That being said, the incoming council is in no way bound by the outgoing council’s decision. They can decide to re-evaluate the funding allocated within the 2022-2031 CIP if they choose. Ultimately, optics aside, it is really a non-issue.”

Davey Wiggers
“Yes, a Council should proceed. Not all items in the CIP are necessarily considered ‘contentious’. A Council of the day is charged with performing their duties. In most cases, they cannot do anything this close to an election that couldn’t be undone by a subsequent council, should they choose. That said, with the amount of division inherent in the last Council, putting it off for a new Council would not have been a wrong decision either.”

Harold Pereverseff
“The current (outgoing) City Council definitely should proceed with their Community Improvement Program (CIP) and that it be passed onto the new City Council. I say this because the CIP is a ‘green document’ meaning that it is not written in stone. The CIP may have programs added to it, amended or postponed. 
When the CIP is passed onto the new City Council, it is an excellent base, having something to work with. Ideally, there are some incumbent Councillors who are re-elected to shed greater light on the CIP to newly elected Councillors moving forward. However if none of the incumbents are re-elected, the CIP framework is in place. Yes, there is something to be said about ‘starting off with a clean slate’ however there is also wisdom in having vision and direction in place. I believe that City Councillors had informed and consensus decisions when they formulated the CIP, and this after having had experience as Council members for at least three years. Obviously, as time passes, priorities may vary, and situations may result in definite changes in direction for any plans including the CIP. Having said this, we should not and cannot place too much emphasis on the CIP, rather in the collective judgement of those on City Council who will determine the order of the day including the basis of the CIP. Reviewing the current CIP, I see it as a work in progress, and something I, as an elected Councillor, could and would work with.”

Stephen Mogdan
“Yes, of course. Council has a duty to attend to the business and affairs that affect the city; we elect it precisely for that purpose. It should not abrogate its responsibilities simply because an election will be held in the next number of months. The argument that a council shouldn’t take action that will bind a subsequent council is contrary to the very idea of council decisions: no council can bind a subsequent council, since conditions will change over time. Municipal councils take actions all the time that are intended to address current and future issues or situations; those actions can be altered by a subsequent council, should it feel the need to do so.
If we take the view that a current council shouldn’t decide on something because that decision will be inherited by the next council, where do we draw that line? How far out do we still allow a current council to make decisions? Everyone will have a different opinion on this, based in part on how favourably they view the current council. But it’s a slippery slope towards paralyzing inaction for a current council. Our current council had been receiving information about projects that might be part of the CIP, and was in the best position to make decisions on the current CIP process. It absolutely had a duty to consider and take action on the then-current round of CIP planning and approval.”

Ryan Wolfe
“Council has a job to do. The question suggests that council could stop doing their job due to upcoming municipal elections.  Upcoming elections are not an excuse to stop the work of council. Council should continue to seek input from the community and stakeholders. The incoming Council can then decide how best to proceed or possibly not proceed with the previous council’s plans.”

Tim VanderBeek
“It really doesn’t matter if the current council preceded with the CIP or not. When a government changes, provincial or federal, it is not bound to follow what the previous government had decided and a new council would be no different. In fact, a major change in the make-up of council would mean that the electorate was dissatisfied with the direction of the previous council. The new council has the right to revisit the CIP and decide its own priorities. That is not to say that it should totally ignore what the previous council has done. It should look at the old CIP and keep what it feels has merit and discard items it feels do not. All they may have really accomplished was to waste some time.”

Rajko Dodic
“The City Council has to address a CIP (Capital Improvement Program) at some point during their term and I don’t see a problem as to when that takes place since the CIP will always be inherited by a ‘new’ Council. Most (70 per cent) of the CIP deals with infrastructure and transportation projects (road, water, sewer, and the like) which are needed projects and are rarely controversial. The 30 per cent that get the most attention are the ‘community’ projects and, the fact is, that very few of these projects are actually funded projects which means that, even if they are on the list of approved projects, it doesn’t meant that they will actually be built; particularly, if those projects are more than four years out from the date the CIP was approved. The reality is that a ‘new’ Council that wishes to revisit the CIP has a lot of flexibility in doing so; they can add projects or remove them if they haven’t already been started which is the case with many of the community projects identified in the most current CIP. Thus, if you look at the 2018-2027 CIP and compare it to the 2022-2031 CIP, you will see that they differ and, similarly, new Council will have an opportunity to make changes when it is their time to debate the 2026-2035 CIP during the upcoming term. In short, the current CIP is not fixed in stone and the new Council will be able to make changes to it if they decide that’s in the best interests of citizens.”

Jenn Schmidt-Rempel
“Projects in the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) do not automatically get built. As someone who’s watched both the Operating and Capital budget processes with much interest over the past 15 years, I was pleased that Council finally decided to align the budget processes. Aligning the process allows the new Council to approve or not approve projects. Council approved a new, aligned process for deliberation and approval of the Operating and Capital budgets. Starting in 2022, the CIP will begin the process of becoming aligned with the Operating Budget, and existing 2026 capital projects (which are unapproved) in the 2022–2031 CIP will be brought forward for the new Council to consider. The new process will be fully in place by 2026, where Council will be able to debate the four-year Operating Budget and the four-year CIP in the same year. It also means that each Council will determine their own capital priorities and deal with the tax implications of those decisions. Further, starting in 2023 Council will receive ongoing annual reviews of the Operating and Capital budgets for the next four years to determine if adjustments or amendments are required. The new process gives Council more control over the budgets, more opportunities to adjust the Operating budget mid-cycle, and greater accountability and input from the public. Council will be much more involved with budgets – it’s more work! – which will result in Councillors having a better understanding of City finances.”

Shelby J. MacLeod
“With the Mayor and four council vacancies to be filled, it will take time for the new Council to be up to speed. Understanding current city spending commitments, available federal and provincial funding envelopes for 2022 and beyond is critical. I watch City council and follow the SPC’s discussions, keeping me up to speed on the challenging budget times ahead. I believe the newly elected council should follow the existing CIP plan as it stands, until they have a full grasp of the city’s financial situation and commitments. The Council will need updated building, staffing, and ongoing maintenance cost projections for all projects, as some of the CIP costings are over 10 years old. The new Mayor and Council must be accountable to the taxpayer, regardless of what the CIP plan recommends. The adage, building the project is the cheapest part; the staffing, operation and maintenance last forever – for the taxpayer.”

Bridget Mearns
“Absolutely. This is the process and how capital projects, which can span several council terms, are successfully achieved. Anyone who has experience with strategic plans and large capital budgets understands the importance of having a capital plan that has both short term capital projects and long term projects that dovetail to a long term vision. CIPs are an evolution not a reinvention. Many Councillors will not see the completion of capital plans they put in motion. Executing a solid capital plan empowers an organization to maximize the value of its assets, reduce risk and cost, and provide residents optimal quality. Ultimately, any proposal for a capital planning project should identify needs, determine costs, prioritize requests and detail financing strategies. This not only helps ensure that no project moves forward without financial support, it prevents ‘flavour of the day projects’ from advancing. This takes time and proper planning that spans across several CIPs. The new council, like councils before it, trusts the knowledge, due diligence, and decisions of the previous council on the CIP. It is one of the building blocks of their term. The previous Council had the proper knowledge, community consultation, information, and debate at the time to make good decisions on the CIP. Just as this new council, will also put its mark on the future CIP after proper due diligence and community engagement and project planning throughout their term.”

Jeffrey Carlson
“Council is required to submit an approved Capital budget to the Province. Aside from being a requirement, I believe that strategic and long-range planning is important for our City and our community at large. The Capital Improvement Program (Capital Budget) is not only an integral part of planning for facilities, for maintenance of our current infrastructure, and for future growth in our City, but it is also a requirement under Provincial legislation. Timing is always a concern, because the Capital Budget impacts our Operating Budget, and vice versa.   Council recently made some changes to the timing to allow greater input from the newly elected councillors, and they will have an opportunity to review all approved projects immediately following their election. Further, Council always has the opportunity to reopen the Capital and Operating budgets at any time during their time in office, and effect any changes they deem necessary.”

Jenn Prosser
“I understand the current Council’s instinct to put forward a strong plan for the future, and why they would choose to move forward with approving the CIP planning document before an election. The Capital Improvement Program (CIP) planning document is a 10 year plan, and one that is revised and updated every few years. Fundamentally, the CIP plan is a guiding document that is one part of the budget process and is not set in stone. However, for large multi-year projects it is necessary to have a long term plan that incorporates year over year spending needs and vision. The most recent CIP plan was made incorporating work from the Economic Policy Committee and other feedback mechanisms – including infrastructure project spending prioritized by Provincial and Federal governments. It is important for our city to have shovel ready projects so we can leverage funding opportunities immediately. And, again, the CIP plan is a guiding document. One that can be amended if needed, and it supports good financial planning for the short, medium and long term needs of our City. While the current Council has approved the 10 year vision, it is a plan that is put together and informed by subject area experts from within our invaluable city staff. I respect the work that has gone into this document and if elected I look forward to setting the year-over-year priorities with Council colleagues and working to build a stronger present and future Lethbridge, together.”

Ryan Parker
“The CIP planning is completed on a four-year approval cycle with a 10 year planning window in mind. Having this completed helps to keep things moving forward otherwise there would be a gap in approval and planning for our projects. Just because something is approved during the CIP process, does not mean that it can’t be reviewed or cancelled mid-cycle. Similarly, some things are not approved at the time of the CIP process and are approved at a later date. CIP is the process in which we review and approve the capital improvements for the City. There are always reasons to continuously improve processes and we should always strive to improve the CIP process.”

Boyd Thomas
“No. There is a reason that Council is elected every four years. The citizens elected to Council have been chosen by their peers to represent the voice of the community whom they feel will work in the best interests of the city. A new council with new members means new perspectives. Capital investment strategies in the CIP would also change accordingly. Ideally, a new council is hoped to reflect the most recent values and priorities of the community as expressed through the election results. Here is the problem. None of the newly elected members of Council will have had the benefit of the context, consultations, nuanced discussion, not considerations for the directions in the plan: ‘Why was this decision made?’…’We don’t know for sure.’
The new council will be expected to champion current CIP initiatives as their plan. This close to an election, the plan (especially those parts of the plan that are beyond routine upgrade maintenance) should have been delegated to and passed by the newly elected council. I question why it was not, especially when the majority of Council may not consist of incumbents.”

Blaine Hyggen
“New Capital Improvement Plans should be voted on by the incoming Council because the priorities can change very rapidly. For instance if the Federal or Provincial governments request ‘shovel ready’ projects as part of a stimulus package, or if some other mechanism becomes available, existing Capital plans may not be compatible with the new requests. Additionally, the ability for the new Council to change or adapt the CIP becomes much more challenging procedurally, especially if new Council members end up having an initiative or project that they actually opposed in their campaign. Fundamentally, I believe that it’s best to allow major Capital decisions to be decided by the new Council in years where there is an election.”

Jerry Firth
“To answer this question, it is appropriate to understand what a Capital Improvement Program (CIP) is and how it’s implemented. A CIP is a plan that identifies capital projects and equipment costs, proposes a schedule, and identifies financing options over a multi-year period, ranging from four to ten years. As part of this process, a municipal government needs to forecast facility, infrastructure, and equipment needs based on demands and growth over this term. The City of Lethbridge has set up its CIP to be a ten-year plan that overlaps every municipal term (currently four years, and three years prior to 2014). Building from the previous plans, each Council prioritizes projects for the next ten years, with the recent CIP planning for 2022-2031. Because of the ten-year life of the plan, it inherently proceeds across multiple Councils. However, each Council is still afforded the opportunity to make necessary adjustments to the plan as future needs, financial constraints and grant opportunities may result in programmatic changes over the life of the plan. A benefit for Council to make a decision in the first year is the ability to align the capital budget with the operating budget. Deciding in the final year of a Council’s term provides the experience of the Council to make better informed decisions regarding the needs of the community, including a better ability to forecast facility, infrastructure, and equipment needs, which is how Council has been doing it for decades now. I am in favour of the latter.”

Robin Walker
““With the decision to approve capital improvement projects by the previous city Council coming mere months before our scheduled municipal election, it seems disingenuous to me given that the previous mayor and three of the councillors in favour are not up for re-election and therefore will not be among those to see these plans through. I can understand proceeding with decisions on projects with timing that calls for urgency, however the majority of the planned projects do not fit this criteria. Regardless, should I be elected to council I am committed to cultivating positive relationships and working with our future mayor, council, and city administration toward the best outcomes for our whole community.”

Marissa Black
“The current council has listened and heard the concerns of Lethbridge residents for the past four years and have a good idea of the issues and where resources should be allocated. The new council may have different perspectives and ideas of how to allocate resources that might be different than the current council. The CIP plan can be changed by the current council; however, this would take time, resources, and money that taxpayers may see as unnecessary. I would instead like to see CIP planning moved to the middle of a council term, so that councillors are able to have two years to listen to what is important to the people of Lethbridge and properly understand how best to allocate resources. The following two years of the four-year term can be spent guiding the CIP plan. This eliminates the problem of new councillors inheriting the preceding council’s CIP plan shortly before the start of their term.”

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