The transition from private business to the very public world of politics has been both interesting and more challenging than I had envisaged. Based on my first seven months in office, the most challenging issue facing our City is financial sustainability.
As I have reflected on this issue, I have concluded that two things may have contributed to us moving from a municipality whose Reserves totaled $100 million dollars just a few short years ago, to one where we are now the second highest indebted City ($94 million dollars), in B.C., after Vancouver. Without a doubt, Capital spending has brought us to a place where other services vital to the health and well being of a community will have to be deferred for many years.
Groupthink may be a second contributing factor, which is a subject that I wrote about during the November 2011 election campaign. That article entitled; The Importance of Independent-Thinking and Principle-Based Decision Making, can be found under archives section (November 2011), at www.henrybraun.ca .
The City of Abbotsford’s vision statement deals with livability, sustainability and prosperity. While I agree that Abbotsford is one of the most livable community’s in B.C. (that is why I have chosen to live here for 59 years), our present course is simply unsustainable and we are certainly not the most prosperous city, although we spend money as if we are!
Regardless of the reasons that brought us to our present situation, one thing is crystal clear; the people of Abbotsford are demanding greater transparency and accountability, coupled with a more meaningful public participation in the shaping of policy that affect their lives. The public is looking for more scrutiny; however, there can be no public scrutiny without access to information, which brings us back to transparency and openness.
Citizens expect public servants to look after the public’s interest with fairness and that we manage limited financial resources and public assets with integrity on a daily basis. If we want to begin to regain the public’s trust, we must demonstrate fair , open and transparent decision making, resulting in predictable, as opposed to ad-hoc decisions, where some may argue that City Hall is picking ‘winners’ and ‘losers’. Decision making done successfully, creates a level playing field for everyone.
Integrity, transparency and accountability of the public service, both elected and unelected are prerequisite to and underpin public trust, as the keystone to good governance. When there is honest and open dialogue, the public’s trust will return!