By MOLLY DOUGLASS
Reeve, County of Newell
With technology allowing a "global"
focus enabling us to communicate and collaborate across continents, should not local government leaders also be looking at "bigger picture" ways to better serve their ratepayers?
Photo: Molly Douglass
Reeve, County of Newell
In exchange for paying taxes, residents expect services such as roads, transportation, recreation, fire, library, recycling, solid waste, perhaps even arts support
-to name a few.
This is a valid expectation because provision of services to build and maintain safe and viable communities is indeed the major role of municipal government. Taxpayers justifiably want services to be provided economically and efficiently. In an increasingly regulated environment with growing costs, what used to work on a stand-alone basis for municipalities unfortunately is no longer practical. Moving forward with affordable strategies means not only positive and patient communication, but also council and staff leadership that considers what is best for their greater, regional community.
It also means acknowledging that financial resources are limited,
but teamwork, partnerships and group efforts are within
our control and therefore, unlimited.
The County of Newell, like other local governments, has partnered for many years in service provision with its municipal neighbours. Additionally for more than a decade, Newell has shared other revenue to enable improvements to the municipalities within our boundaries, which are also our residents' communities. Where such revenue sharing takes place, it is important to determine if it truly translates into longer term sustainability for the recipient municipality. If it is only a stop-gap measure for the short term, ratepayers on both the giving and receiving end realize no real benefits.
It is incumbent upon all involved to consider this more closely through an efficiency lens. It is also incumbent upon municipalities to take an objective look for savings in their legislative and administrative setups. In 2016 our Newell region had a total population of 24,662. That number includes a total of 32 elected officials from the municipalities. It is hard to imagine how any of us 32 could think that is a reasonable number when the City of Calgary has 15 elected officials representing a 2017 population of 1,246,300.
Should we not be looking at ways to have an improved,
innovative regional government that reflects our belief in
fiscal responsibility and streamlines the delivery of services?
Why wouldn't we?
Collaboration and communication bring together financial and human resources as well as the potential to accomplish more. If we are genuine in serving our residents' best interests, we must begin to investigate and achieve cost reduction.
We need to ask good questions and listen to each other.
Everyone deserves to be heard.
If a new form of local government might strengthen community identity and be key to keeping communities sustainable and attractive, it certainly is worth the discussion.
Let us not fail to better serve our residents by being afraid to venture into new ways of doing business---including services such as transportation systems that enable more people in rural Alberta to get where they need to go.
Molly Douglass is in her 14th year as Reeve of the County of Newell. Prior to her municipal work she was Principal of Bassano School. Married to John, a rancher, and living in the rather remote area of Finnegan, Molly does her best to avoid cattle work by escaping to a variety of local government duties. She believes the Newell region is the best place in the world to live due to the variety of people and landscapes, the strong community spirit, and the economic opportunities.
Example of a short pilot project
Brooks and County of Newell have started for
event busing, using money left over from
a Newell County study.
Rural Transportation News. Alberta 2018 is produced by ALL of Alberta (Association for Life-wide Living of Alberta). Contributors and people in RuralTransportation Team Alberta are committed to changes that contribute to the quality of life for everyone in rural Alberta. We value your feedback and ideas.
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Cathie Bartlett is Editor for Rural Transporation News. Alberta 2018. She is a former journalist, and now an active member of the
Battle River Writing Centre.