On April 22, 2015, at a meeting to introduce the idea of roundtables to Corporate Leaders, Doug Godfrey, Manager Bylaw Compliance, Security and Licensing, shared how by-law staff have recently been creating and doing bylaw reviews differently. They have started using staff-community round tables in their processes. Prior to this, bylaw staff worked on their own or with other City staff to create regulations based on what they thought the public wanted. Now bylaw staff engage community members and organizations to help with their work. Doug provided three examples from the past couple of years.
1. Public Nuisance Bylaw
At first, by-law staff limited discussions on the development of this new bylaw to City staff only. When the broad community questioned and expressed concern with the proposed bylaw that staff had developed, bylaw staff decided a different approach was required. Although staff did hold a number of public forums to gain feedback on the bylaw they proposed, staff could not overcome the fact that the community was not involved in the creation of the proposed bylaw. As a result, the reasoning behind the creation of the draft bylaw was misinterpreted or misunderstood by the public. While a small portion of the bylaw was passed, the majority was not supported by the community and Council, and as such the bylaw will require rework in the future. At this time, staff debriefed this issue and felt that any bylaw review in future should involve the public and stakeholders at the start.
2. Driving Instructor Licensing Bylaw
From the start bylaw staff invited key community stakeholders and the public to help develop this bylaw. At first, the driving instructor industry did not wish to be regulated, but after hearing the concerns of community members and other key stakeholders, they agreed that regulations were best. Through this process the industry also had opportunity to identify regulations they wanted included. In the end a bylaw was created which was acceptable to all the community stakeholders. These regulations were recommended and approved by Council without questioning, and have been implemented and effective.
3. Animal Control Bylaw
Bylaw staff invited a wide range of community stakeholders and interested members of the public to develop a new bylaw with staff. This stakeholder table developed their own mandate and time lines, and has worked together over the past year to develop a draft regulation, which is almost complete.
Doug also shared that working on projects with a staff-community table may take more time at the front end. When forming a table one of the most important decisions is who to invite, which depends on the scope of the project. Then you have to allow time for members of the table to get to know each other and while it seems to start off slowly, it does pick up speed. In the end the benefits seem to outweigh the costs because:
- Bylaw staff seem to get it right the first time because of the increased support and acceptance from community stakeholders and Council. And this reduces the need for rework.
- When a round table is formed, community stakeholders are willing to invest time into the project, increasing project capacity and support. For example with the Animal Control Bylaw table, a subgroup was created specifically to research options and report back to the larger table. City staff were not part of the subgroup.
- Bylaw staff have found that a staff-community table results in better ongoing community relations. Once the table concludes, the relationships remain. For example, community stakeholders from the Driving Instructor Licensing table continue to email each other directly regarding concerns that arise.
- Recommendations from the tables are relatively painless to implement. When all parties (City staff, industry leaders and the public) are in all agreement and on the same page, what is there to argue about?