• Review of Advisory Committees at City Hall

    Last year Advisory Committees sat almost as long at Council (197hrs vs. 211hrs) and required well over 2500 hours of city staff time. These are not limited to the clerk staff either, it includes hours spent by senior management addressing these committees; the City Engineer, Manager for Roads, Manager for Parks & Rec, etc.

    A staff review of Advisory Committees was already underway, contrary to some reports I did not initiate that, however I certainly support it. And as a result of the interim staff report, I do not support maintaining the status quo.

    First there is the redundancy. We have an Environmental Advisory Committee AND a Trees and Forestry Advisory Committee when it seems to me a single environmental committee makes more sense. Creating small silos instead of integration is also a problem. For example Cycling and Transportation meeting separately, sometimes providing conflicting advice, when an integrated approach (which I believe needs to include pedestrian and transit issues too) to transportation is the better model.

    We have to have certain advisory committees. Ontario legislation requires municipalities to have an Accessibility committee for persons with disabilities to help provide input on how our decisions may impact people. We are also legislatively required to have a planning advisory committee, which in London is the Environment and Ecological Planning Committee.

    While we are not required to have a heritage committee, if we have one there are legislative requirements on what they must do. London does have such a committee and it does a great deal of valuable work.

    All the rest of the 13 advisory committees are things past council’s made up as they went. They have not all been created equally, nor do they all provide equal value.

    A formal committee process does not allow rapid response public input, but it does require a 2 year commitment for in person meetings at city hall from members which is why many of the 161 appointees are the same people year after year after year. A two year monthly commitment is a significant ask and presents all kinds of barriers to people who don’t control their own work schedules, have childcare needs, and so on.

    Other communities are getting public input in more flexible, responsive ways that better represent the public at large. Citizen lotteries where people are selected randomly to give feedback, pools of thousands citizens who sign up to have surveys sent to them, there are lots of ways to foster more diverse, more representative of the broader population, to be a part of the public engagement with city hall.

    Maybe it is time to do something different in London.

    That is the reason why the following motion was passed by the Governance Working Group:

    That the Civic Administration BE DIRECTED to report back to the Governance Working Group (GWG), with respect to the following:
    a) options for the consideration of the GWG including:
    i) revisions to the current advisory committee structure including, potential reduction of overall committees, mergers of committees with areas of overlap/redundancy, to achieve a more meaningful and collaborative approach to citizen engagement; and,
    ii) any alternative collaborative structure(s) for citizen committee work, including alternate citizen selection models for participation in committees and working groups that would encourage participation from a more diverse range of Londoners, that would link directly to the council strategic plan; and,
    iii) revisions to the current advisory committee structure that enhance advice on public preferences on decision making through the provision of clear specific directions from council and administration over self directed “work plans”
    b) additional service area detail related to the existing committees that are more closely linked to the role of ‘expert panel’.

    The Staff Report can be read by clicking the link to the PDF.
    Staff Report on Advisory Commitees

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