Ward 4 News

Councillor - Christine Billings

Wednesday Feb 26th - 2014

Feb 26th, 2014

Please see the response from the Province, along with info from the CAO & Staff that no further action will be taken:

 

CAO message: HERE

Letter from Province: Letter_from_Minister_Jeffery.pdf

 

Thank you,

Cam

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Tuesday Feb 25th - 2014

Feb 25th, 2014

Last night, after several months of research, I brought forward a fresh idea for council to consider - an anonymous tip hotline. This idea came about after several conversations I had with various staff members.
 
One employee (who was part of a department within City Hall that was shown via the internal audit to have ongoing overtime issues) met with me over a coffee chat and disclosed that they were aware that there were departmental issues - but had nowhere to turn. The opinion shared was that the current resources weren't helpful at the time, and the employee group could come down hard if the concerns were raised. This City employee also feared potential shunning or belittling from fellow co-workers, making it a difficult work environment. So instead, nothing was voiced.
 
A staff member from yet another department called me at home, quite upset. I was troubled to learn that a collection of City co-workers had unsuccessfully attempted to inform others of their concerns regarding their workplace wellbeing. Apparently, these concerns were voiced more than once. For too long, the issues were an everyday problem that the employees had to endure, or suffer through.
 
These are only two real and authentic examples of why I started to investigate an anonymous employee tip line.
 
I have researched why these communication tools can be of great value to organizations. After recalling just the two examples above, I realized that if such a tool had existed, it may have helped those city employees in revealing the problems within the workplace earlier.
 
According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (CFE), tip offs from staff (and customers/citizens and vendors) are the most common method for detecting internal fraud - accounting for 46% of detections. The CFE says organizations with an anonymous reporting service, like a tip line, will cut fraud losses by 50%.
 
Tip lines are not only about identifying alleged fraud, theft or abuses of city assets. There are several other benefits for providing such a tool:
 

  1. A great organization/employer doesn’t want their employees to suffer in silence. A caring employer should do it’s best to provide the tools necessary to it’s employees for better communication and engagement.
  2. The city should want to keep their best employees. If the work environment is so toxic, and problems escalated up the chain of command are ignored, those employees leave which result in great losses to the organization.
  3. Empowering employees is key. You need empowered employees to come forward with their insights for making our city better for themselves, its employees and residents.
  4. Having a system in place that employees know where their issue is elevated within the organization sends a strong message that their problems will no longer be lost in the shuffle or filed for later.
  5. Not everything reported to a tip line may need an investigation. Yet when common issues are being brought forward the employer can still close the loop using other communication tools to inform staff that management is listening. By using newsletters, posting on internal blogs, or discussing items at staff meetings, it sends a message that the corporation has heard you and action is being taken to address the issues raised. It’s this cycle of employee input to management action that creates trust.
  6. It’s about embracing ideas. Tip lines don’t have to always be about disclosing wrong-doings of a few bad apples. Having a tip line where employees can send in a stream of ideas and insights for improving the overall organizational effectiveness is a tremendous benefit.   
  7. If this council and the administration are going to vouch for our City’s conduct, we need to assure ourselves that we are doing everything possible to identify problems proactively - and an employee tip line could be the best way to do that.
  8. It may identify the misuse of City funds.
  9. Expose duplication of efforts or lack of work being performed.
  10. Bring to light unethical behaviour or violations of the Code of Conduct.
  11. Identify breaches of confidentiality.

Our CAO mentioned three initiatives she is investigating that may address some of these concerns. Her ideas are welcomed and I thank her for thinking of such things that can engage our amazing staff. Of the three ideas however, only one had the concept of a confidential method to report issues. She called it the “Open Doors” email option. As a fellow Councillor pointed out last night, some employees may not want to use, or have access to, a computer to send such an email. I agree.

Furthermore, a survey done of 304 companies found that their monitoring of employees takes many forms:
—45% of employers are tracking content, keystrokes, and time spent at the keyboard
—43% store and review computer files
—12% monitor the blogosphere to see what is being written about the company
—10% monitor social networking sites   

Although I’m unaware if the City of Guelph monitors employees in these ways, It’s no wonder some staff would be hesitant to embrace their available technology (such as email) to voice their concerns and opinions of the workplace. A confidential tip line solves that problem.
 
The investigation into a tip line isn’t solely for City staff. Concerned citizens should also have access to such a tool. Some may feel that the system could be abused - that citizens may call in for trivial things. Yet the citizens are those working with City Hall, by purchasing or selling products and using services with City Hall - and for those interactions a tip line may prove helpful.
 
A tip line is about demonstrating the City's efforts to improve accountability and transparency. When abuses are taking place, it pollutes the working atmosphere for our dedicated and hard working employees and may be abusing the very money provided by taxpayers to provide essential services we come to expect.

Cam Guthrie

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Wednesday Feb 12th - 2014

Feb 12th, 2014:

Guelph Mercury Article HERE: CLICK

The living (green) wall at city hall stares you in the face when you walk through the sliding doors. Since being elected, I've observed that the wall leaks. A lot. A pool of water leaking through into the other hallway is a common sight. Beyond the leaks, the fumes or stench from the wall can be pretty bad. So much so I've heard of employees having to leave their posts at the Service Guelph Help Desks because they feel ill.

So last week I received an email from staff stating the "wall is getting an extreme makeover".

I requested from staff costs of the makeover, and inquiring the costs to maintain it? The staff response is below.

In my opinion, this is a complete waste of taxpayer money. Tear it down. Put the wall, and area in front of it, to serve the public. Create an extended seating area, further the counter space for citizen consultation, use the wall to promote local artists on a rotating basis and so on.

Thank you,

Cam

 

From: STAFF
Sent: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 04:03 PM
Subject: Living Wall costs 
 

Dear Mayor and Council,

I am providing this email in response to Councillor Guthrie’s February 5th inquiry regarding the costs to maintain and refurbish the ‘living wall’ located by the ServiceGuelph desk at Guelph City Hall.

Maintenance of the living wall in 2013 was primarily done by City of Guelph horticultural staff at a cost of $11,732 and is estimated to be about the same for 2014. The work currently being carried out to refurbish the living wall will cost approximately $10,000 and is primarily being done by an outside contractor.

City Hall’s council approved operating budget for 2014 has sufficient funding to cover these expenses.

Should you have any further questions in this regard please contact me at your convenience.

STAFF

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Friday Feb 7th - 2014

City reminds residents of need for three metres of clearance on roadways

Guelph, ON, February 7, 2014 – Unusually large snow banks along roadways have reduced the horizontal width of many of Guelph’s roads.


Ensuring adequate clearance:

Residents are asked to avoid parking on the street where possible. When parking on-street, residents are reminded to obey Guelph’s traffic by-law and ensure there is at least 3 m of clearance on the road – space required for other vehicles such as Fire and emergency medical services (EMS) to pass safety.

As winter control crews work to improve these conditions, no-parking signs may be erected on some residential streets 48 hours in advance of snow removal efforts. Residents are asked to comply with posted signs to allow plows to widen roadways.

To keep roads safe and accessible, do not park across from another vehicle or driveway, and whenever possible, move parked cars off the streets to make room for snow plows.

Trace amount of snow but cold temperatures in coming days

Environment Canada is forecasting a few centimetres of snow but cold temperatures in coming days.

Winter control crews are shifting focus from clearing main and secondary routes to clearing isolated locations of blowing and drifting snow, and snow removal in the downtown core and on permissive parking streets (residential streets).

Guelph’s main and secondary routes are in very good condition following the most recent winter control activity. The residential street plow out which began Wednesday night is also complete.

The City reminds residents of the following to stay safe during winter weather:

•    High snow banks and narrow streets may be a safety hazard to those backing vehicles out onto roadways. Where possible, residents are asked to lower snow banks along their driveways to improve sightlines and remove excess snow from the road to help widen the street in front of their residence.
•    Keep fire hydrants clear of snow.
•    Help keep storm drains and catch basins clear to prevent flooding as temperatures rise.
•    If you’re able, please help clear sidewalks near your property. Seniors and residents with a physical disability who require assistance shoveling can call Snow Angels at 519-822-1155.
•    Clear snow from exterior vents that are connected to fuel fired appliances such as fireplaces and furnaces to prevent carbon monoxide accumulation inside the home.
•    Place garbage carts/bags at the curb on the morning of collection (by 6:30 a.m.) rather than the night before. Do not place waste on top of snow banks or on the road as these pose obstacles to the City’s snow clearing operations. Instead shovel a spot for your carts or bags, or place them in the driveway 1m back from the road.
•    Continue to use caution in parks and on trails.
•    Drive according to road conditions and pack an emergency car kit.

The City’s winter maintenance service helps ensure community safety every day, and in the event of extreme weather.

The City will continue to provide updates to the community, and invites people to subscribe to updates using Twitter or Facebook.

For more information

Rodney Keller
General Manager
Public Works
519-822-1260 extension 2949
rodney.keller@guelph.ca

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Friday Feb 7th - 2014

Feb 7th, 2014:

Sent to all of council, mayor & city clerks:

Please see the letter's received regarding the approved DC By-law:

Cooper Letter to Mayor and Council.pdf

Industrial Equities Letter to Council & Mayor.pdf

Thank you,

Cam

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christine.billings@guelph.ca | 519-826-0567

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