One of the shortcomings politicians tend to have is a belief in their own cleverness. In Greek mythology, King Sisyphus was known for his excessive pride and arrogance. This led him to believe that his cleverness surpassed that of the gods themselves. His mythological punishment is well known—upon Sisyphus joining the underworld, Zeus enchanted a large boulder for him to roll up a steep hill only to have it roll back down when it neared the top of the mountain. This left Sisyphus to an eternity of unending frustration and useless efforts.
All too often politicians act as though they are more clever than the people they represent. Hubris (much like Sisyphus’) is often accompanied with excessive pride and ambition. These traits create politicians who think that they can fix many of our problems through their favored solutions: either more laws or more process, or a combination of the two. However, there comes a point where things become so inundated with process and red tape that getting simple answers to simple questions from your legislators seems as cyclical and never-ending as Sisyphus’ eternal task.
We all need to ask the following questions:
-Why does it take so long to get things done at city hall?
-Why does it seem we need to be armed with a consultant, a lawyer or an engineer every time we walk into city hall and attend a public hearing?
-Why do things have to be so complicated?
This is not just personal observation, as I have had many conversations and interactions that have cemented my belief in this need for change. Take this for example: I was conversing with one builder who says the Edmonton Home Builder’s Association sits on over 34 internal city committees! At some point these 34 committees must become redundant as Edmonton is only one city. The City is putting undue pressure on associations as they have to spread themselves thin to be able to contribute to all of these committtees. This begs the question of whether we are more interested in results or process.
I offer you another example, a few days ago I received a telephone complaint from a constituent who has visited City Hall many times. She had called 311 asking for the phone number to the Office of Councillors looking for some general council information. 311 informed her that no such reception exists and that each Councillor has their own receptionist. The constituent knew this to be false information and tried, without success, to explain that there is a general reception desk that employs three people. 311 did not budge and the constituent got frustrated (rightfully so) and hung up. This department is supposed to be a tool that is accessible to constituents. Yet, this example shows its inefficiency, leading me to ask is this proper spending of tax dollars if constituents can’t even get through to Councillors for general information?
This exemplifies the irony of a department that is supposed to be a tool for people to make their lives more efficient when in actuality it is completely ineffective. This is what I mean by red tape. Citizens get completely wrapped up in the endless, useless processes that are meant to make the City better when they only cause frustration and inefficiencies.
It is becoming more and more apparent that something is not working under the hood at city hall. It is clear that the systems we have in our civic administration and the red tape that it generates is choking off public dialogue and debate. City council needs to own up to the fact that our public consultants are often more show and tell rather than a true reflection of real public/community opinions on many of our most pressing civic issues.
Thankfully, some departments are better than others – this I will admit. Some branches are more responsive, but this seems to be more due to the individual answering the phone than the system itself.
It is only the ego of the politician that says everything is ‘fine’.
Given where our economy is going, such complacency is something this city cannot afford. Citizen’s should not have to feel like they are constantly pushing boulders uphill, fighting through red tape and double standards of administrator’s to get things done.
Trust in the citizen…I thought that is how government is supposed to work. Today we have something different.