You know it’s a special night at council when they’re passing out programs. The house was about 60 per cent packed as the clock tolled seven ‘o’ clock and city clerk Lois Giles called every to attention for the procession. The city councillors and Mayor came in single file led by a piper and representatives from Guelph-Wellington EMS and Guelph Police.
As everyone took their new spot along the horseshoe, I wondered how they assigned seating as it made very little sense to me. (I did however note that the four new councillors sat two and two on each end of the horseshoe.) But the order of the night was fairly routine, and straight-forward. Giles administered the Oath of Office to Mayor Karen Farbridge, and then administered the Oath of Office to all 12 councillors at the same time. After a round of handshakes and, in some cases, hugs, the meeting was turned over to the Mayor so that she could deliver her inaugural address.
"In this last election, I received a strong mandate from our community to attract jobs; protect the environment; build strong neighbourhoods; and to put people first at City Hall,” said Farbridge. “This builds upon the good work of previous terms of Council and will frame the City’s agenda for the next four years.
“Ten years ago, this concept of the ‘triple bottom line’ was new and might have been viewed as a barrier to business development. Today it is recognized as simply good business. It is the way we conduct the City’s business and it has become our strategic advantage as a community.”
Addressing the new city council, Farbridge said that their job is clear – more jobs, better environmental stewardship, and strong neighbourhoods. “We will deliver these results – and put people first at City Hall – by demonstrating good leadership, sound strategic direction, and consistent oversight,” she added.
Farbridge also took the opportunity to salute Chief Administrative Officer Hans Loewig who will be retiring in 2012.
Farbridge also talked about improving strategic planning, improve oversight at City Hall and to deliver better results to City stakeholders. “I would like to issue a challenge to my colleagues tonight,” Farbridge declared, “to have Guelph set a new standard for municipal governance in Ontario.”
Along with the accountability theme, Farbridge talked about an “internal audit function reporting” to ensure that taxpayers are getting value for dollar, while the Council’s Governance Committee will be tasked with creating a “performance measurement and reporting framework” which will make sure there’s accountability and transparency in the delivery of services.
As well, Farbridge says that this council will tackle a frequent criticism: communication. “The people we serve want to see integrity in the way we do our business,” she said. “They want to know that everything we do is in their best interests. They want to have confidence that we are up to the job. And they want results."
During her address, Farbridge also touched on economic development, environmental sustainability and meeting the “social needs” of Guelph’s more vulnerable citizens – seniors, children, people with disabilities and those living in poverty. “The Community Wellness Plan will provide an overarching community vision and set of guiding principles to facilitate the more effective allocation of resources to make a lasting difference in the lives of people in Guelph,” Farbridge says. “We all have a role to play and each of us needs to understand how best we can make a difference.”
Additionally, Farbridge says that it will be up to council to respond to issues in an immediate manner, and cited the recent troubles with the roof on the Farmers’ Market as a positive example. “The effectiveness of our response to an immediate issue is important but so too is our ability to identify the longer term opportunity for community building.”
To wrap, Farbridge said that it will be up to council to manage the increase of growth in Guelph in the next few years and prepare the 50,000 new people that will be moving here in the next 20 years. “That will require a willingness to step out of old ways of doing business,” she summated. “It will be a challenge, but it is one that I know we can meet with intelligence, integrity, resolve and the commitment to community building that motivates us all.”
You can read the full text of the Mayor's inaugural address here.