City hall blog: Inquiry on inquiries results in city staff questioning inquiry work

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City bureaucrats will probably high-five each other in their offices Wednesday afternoon if council approves a measure in the governance report that could reduce staff workload.

Council members are allowed to submit “formal” inquires to staff if they want information about how the municipal government is functioning. Sometimes they’re asking for explanations about how a particular policy or program is being implemented. Other times they want statistics.

The formal inquiries come near the end of council and committee meetings and they usually create a bunch of work for staff, who are already trying to deliver council-ordered initiatives.

There are painfully obvious cases where inquiries can be dealt with by a phone call or email between a councillor and staffer, but, of course, then the public wouldn’t know about their councillors doing things, and they can’t have that.

Staff want to stop an apparent trend of inquiries that require oodles of time and resources.

With an affirmative vote on Wednesday, council members will have to submit formal inquiries 24 hours in advance of a meeting and have the questions scrutinized by staff. If an inquiry involves a lot of work, committee or council will be asked to vote on whether or not staff should look into it.

This goes back to last April when Coun. Keith Egli submitted a formal inquiry targeting colleagues who spring formal inquiries on staff on the floor of committee and council meetings.

I remember Tweet-mocking this.

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