Municipal Elections 2014  

Questioning the candidates #4

In part four of our 10 part series questioning the 31 candidates running for one of eight councillor positions in Kelowna, Castanet News asked each candidate:

Question #4 - Would you endorse a core review of staffing and wages at City Hall? Why?

--Note: Candidates who do not appear did not send in an answer in time for this feature.

Billie Aaltonen -  Yes. Because it's the only way to know what’s actually going on. 

Cal Condy - Oh man...would I!! Almost 300k a year for 1 guy???

Maxine DeHart - Before deciding, I would first want to understand the complete Terms of Reference of such an undertaking, the method, the cost and end goal.  If we spend taxpayers’ money on a study, we have to be prepared to accept the outcomes whatever they are and have a plan to deal with them.

Ryan Donn - .I would endorse increased training for our City of Kelowna staff. For example you may not know but there is an affordable option to train our local Firefighters to the standard of a primary care paramedic (PCP). Due to our first responder policy you will often see firefighters arrive at various accidents before the ambulance service. If we add the PCP training (I've heard the cost for this is around $50K) our community becomes better served for those unfortunate times we are in an accident. I see a review of how to increase our level of service would be my priority. With the recent 5 year agreement made with CUPE the next councils hands are rather tied in regards to staff wages and anyone who is using that line should be clear of what is possible rather than simply making promises that read well in a questionnaire.

Ken Finney - Yes.  A review of city staff positions to see if public cost concerns are identified.  Results may reinforce or require a review of efficient use of public funds.

Gail Given - Not at this time as external core reviews can be very expensive and disruptive to an organization.  City of Kelowna has a very low proportion of staff to population in comparison to similar size cities.  I don’t believe this would be the best use of tax dollars.

Carol Gran - TaxpayersFirst is supporting an operational audit to find out exactly how out of line the staffing at the management level is and what wages and benefits should be compared to the private sector. The playing field needs to be levelled.

Tracy Gray - It is the responsibility of elected officials to review and sign off of budgets annually.  These budgets include decisions such as if key positions need to be filled once people retire and if positions continue to be relevant.  The last Kelowna citizens survey stated that 81% of tax payers thought they had good value for the services they receive.  Kelowna’s percentage of staff to managers is 85% and the BC Public sector average for municipalities is also 85%. We need to be continually asking questions and being fiscally responsible, but I feel there are other priorities we need to focus on at this time.

Charlie Hodge -In regards to ‘senior staff’ – yes. Overall I believe our general staff and City workers are tremendous and do a fine job; however we are top heavy in some levels and departments. Of greater concern than even salaries is that Council is supposed to set the basic course and destination in which they want Kelowna to head - and senior staff is supposed to then advise the best and smartest routes to do so. I do not believe that is currently happening. Council is NOT running the ship - and has not for a while. Council must restore its role as leaders in the decision making process at City Hall. General staff and department heads need to feel free to communicate with elected officials and not face filters through senior staff. That has not happened since the recent ‘Re-organization’ in City Hall. Red tape needs to be reduced in various departments to help encourage vitality and a positive working environment in our community. My past term on Kelowna Council proved my willingness to ask tough questions, an ability to cut through bureaucratic baffle-gab, and an insistence that Council and staff show an appropriate respect for listening to the views of the public and businesses during the decision making process. Council must listen to the public’s thoughts and concerns and then direct staff to build projects accordingly.

Beryl Itani - Yes, I believe that the City is management heavy and I am not sure when the last time this was done.

Graeme James - Yes.  Over time all business and organizations, cities included, should undergo an audit to ensure value for dollars spent is being realized. Every successful person, business, organization or city knows regular performance reviews and reflection ensures optimum performance level and success.

Leslie Kendall - Yes, to be sure we are not over or understaffed and that we have quality personnel in all positions.

Bobby Kennedy - Definitely. I think that it would be beneficial for everyone including city hall workers to know where our money is going and if there are places we could free up for more cap space towards our overall goal of continuing to be the best city on earth.

Mike McLoughlin - I support a review but I do not support hiring outside consultants to review city staffing level. It is expensive and unnecessary.  City council will take a look at the question and make adjustments based on an internal review as compared to what is happening in other communities.

Alan Monk - Subject to a reasonable cost for such a review, I would endorse such a process.  I think it is the primary task of council to see that public funds are spent efficiently. Gaining access to impartial and clearer information on the internal work flow structures of the public service will help council find ways of assessing and achieving this goal.
David Mossman - You're talking about the Fat Cat City Managers…there is no union workers that make anywhere near the $200K+ money that Mangers make.  Plus more mangers have been brought on in recent years.  Even as a pro football player I never made over $100,000, I don’t think any city manager is worth $200K+ .  Fortunately the union workers are secured at very reasonable pay levels and modest hikes over the next 5 years.

Dale Olson - My concern is the pay scales, perks and benefits of the senior management; not the rank-and-file at City Hall.  Good wages for the rank-and-file ultimately helps drive the Kelowna economy.  However, in the upper management ranks we see salaries that are far out-of-line with the local pay scales for equivalent work and skills and this is absolutely a concern.

Brad Sieben - I believe that staffing and wages at City Hall should be looked at on an annual basis, ensuring that Kelowna is working within the range of best practices for cities of a similar size and characteristics.  Key city management positions should be identified and dealt with in this manner.

Mohini Singh - I am not opposed to a review.  Having said that, I’d like to have a clear understanding of what the objectives are for the review so that the outcomes of the review can be clearly analyzed.  There is a substantial financial cost for such a study and it would probably take at least a year to complete.  During that time, resources (city staff) may not be able to complete their own daily tasks and the process can lead to poor morale if not conducted properly. I do not believe in conducting studies just for the sake of them.  I would want to understand the impetus for such a study.  Do city residents believe our staff are overpaid?  Do residents believe we are overstaffed?  What are the comparisons to other cities the same size?  There are ways of obtaining general answers before embarking on a huge costly study that may or may not result in significant changes.   In order to endorse a core review, I would need to be convinced of its merits.

Derek Somer - Just as the City pays top dollars for managers, it should pay no more wages and benefits for entry level wages than the private sector. All Staffing and wages at City Hall can be replaced by foreign workers earning a fraction. Business has to compete globally with wages and salaries; the city  must do so the same as well.

Luke Stack - I believe the citizens of Kelowna get good value from the staff at City hall. I do support internal core reviews of departments on a systematic basis. The City uses external comparatives on a regular basis to ensure we are offering competitive salaries and benefits.  Union negotiations have proven to be lengthy and challenging, but through a long, respectful negotiation we have arrived at a fair settlement for five years.

Laura Thurnheer -  There has been a lot of talk about taxpayers’ dollars being spent inefficiently. I don’t agree. I think the real problem is rising costs and clearly this has been impacted significantly by increasing labour costs with labour being over 50% of the municipal budget. The important factor to be considered is the price/value relationship: are we getting value for our money? Comparisons with other cities of similar size and demographics would help us to know if we are getting it right. So, yes I would endorse such a review as good due diligence and review of best practices is a necessary and vital part of good fiscal management.

Sean Upshaw -

Yes I would. I would also make sure it is an independent body. I would recommend that its goal is not the elimination of people but the elimination of waste that may be required. Let me say very clearly here though, our city employees should not be the target. The target should be how could we make this city the most productive work force in Canada. If some wages are exorbitant then perhaps they should be renegotiated, taking in to account all of the repercussions of their true cost. This is city is well run for the most part and my intention is to keep it that way. I would like to take it to the next level though. I think one of the positives that may come out of this discussion is that it is Council that is supposed to steer the city not the other way around. You asked, why I would endorse a core review? Here is my answer to that part of your question. Because all parties concerned are better off living with the knowledge that our city is doing an upright and exemplary job. We need to know our city is being operated with integrity, honor and efficiency. If I were an investor on the outside looking for a place I wanted to set up a business I would be attracted to a city like that.

Dayleen Van Ryswyk - As a business owner I have to always be looking at my costs. Wages are part of the cost of doing business. When it comes to City Hall, I’m all for having a review on wages and staffing. How else would we know if we are over or under staffed. Are we utilizing staff to their full potential? All things we should know. As a person from the corporate world, I also know that management positions can outweigh lower positions. I think it would be especially prudent, to take a look at senior staffing and management positions, to be sure we are getting good value for our money, especially since they tend to be the highest paid personnel in any organization. I support a “starting at the top and working our way down approach.”


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