Leadership vs bureaucradic administration

The Need for Strong, Decisive Leadership

Owen Sound has the distinction of being the highest taxed municipality in Southern Ontario, while, at the same time, the community with the lowest household incomes. The underlying cause of how we earned this distinction is the scarcity of strong decisive leadership on Council. The failure of a majority of councilors to reject staff proposed budgets with increases greater than inflation and their over reliance on staff reports and consultant studies has been a constant characteristic of councils over the past 20 years. A case in point ...

On Monday September 12th, John Tamming tabled a motion to explicitly ban Short Term Rentals (STRs), by non-resident property owners, from areas zoned residential. You would have thought that this would have been a “no-brainer”, given our existing zoning bylaws. Also, it was widely known at the time that action taken by South Bruce Peninsula last Fall, to control STRs, has been very successful in reducing complaints.

Unfortunately, the motion was only supported by two others, Scott Greig, who is running for Deputy Mayor this year, and Carol Merton who is running for council. It would have been very easy for Council to follow South Bruce Peninsula's lead and establish a licencing program and direct staff to monitor compliance using the same software used by South Bruce Peninsula. Instead Council voted to direct staff to produce a report so Council could revisit the topic next year.

Decisive Leaders Assume Risk - without fear

Results-focused leaders, like the three who voted for this motion, are prepared to take on risk, and make decisions based on the currently available information. They focus on getting the job done and are not afraid to make a decision based on the information available at the time. They are also fully prepared to make adjustments in course in the event that new information becomes available down the road. However they never put off a decision for months waiting for the abundance of detail necessary to make a safe, worry free decision that could never be challenged.

In contrast overly cautious bureaucrats have very little tolerance for risk. They always want to “flame-proof” their decisions by relying staff reports and consultant’s studies for support. In the event that things “go-sideways” or someone criticizes their decisions, they have the pile of staff studies and consultant’s reports to hide behind.

In the case of the Short Term Rentals (STRs), Council, in a very characteristic manner, voted to "kick the can down the road" claiming that they could not make a decision without a staff report and knowing how they were going to enforce violations. They had a successful example of how to control STRs in the process established by South Bruce Peninsula, yet, they chose to completely ignore it, in favour of a staff report. As a result, the affected communities will have to put up with these "party houses" for another six months. As well, non-resident investors will be encouraged, by Council's failure to act, to purchase more income properties in our community thus reducing available housing for Owen Sound residents.

My last job in uniform was as the commanding officer of a detachment of ship construction project on the west coast, with a mandate to complete construction of five ships and run each through an exhaustive set of trials - all with short timelines and on a limited budget. If I had practiced the safe, risk-free, bureaucratic decision making process exhibited by the six members of council who voted against this motion, those ships would still be in dry dock today and I would have been demoted for displaying a complete lack of decisive leadership.

Owen Sound’s population and prosperity have been trending down for many years. We have the highest taxes in Southern Ontario and the number of those filing income taxes on wages has been steadily declining. While, at the same time, the populations of our neighbouring municipalities have been steadily growing for the past 20 years. The primary reason for this is a lack of results-focused leaders on Owen Sound Council who for years have failed to push-back on staff budget requests and have approved annual taxes increases at a rate greater than twice the rate of inflation.

One of the strongest results-focused leaders on Council, John Tamming, decided not to run again in the 2022 elections. A factor in his decision not to run was his frustration with his bureaucratic colleagues’ lack of decisiveness. I believe that without John Tamming's leadership the annual savings of approximately $250,000 that we are currently enjoying from the closure of the Airport would not have materialized. His absence on the next Council will most certainly leave a leadership vacuum.

So when you’re considering who to vote for this election ask questions of the candidates and try to separate the true results-focused leaders, who are capable of turning things around at city hall, from institutional bureaucrats who will accelerate Owen Sound’s downhill slide with their endless thirst for staff studies and consultant reports. We need councilors who are prepared to take on risk and make decisions in order to restore Owen Sound to the thriving, prosperous city that it was many years ago.
 


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Leadership
2 comments on 1 page
We need a Council that can make a decision without the need to rely on expense studies. Their failure to make a decision on Short Term Rentals was disgusting.  
Joanne Brown

You are 100% right. I've been watching council meets for a few years now and I can't believe how this council is so afraid to make a decision. They have never made a decision that I remember that they've not had staff so a study and bring them a report. I agree that we need a council that can make a decision in a timely fashion and not delay everything for months waiting for more information. They are just too afraid to make a decision.  
John Davidson


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