By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
Labelling the draft Town of Cobourg Strategic Plan 2023-2027 and Beyond a mediocre document at this week’s committee-of-the-whole council meeting, Deputy Mayor Nicole Beatty was the only abstention on the otherwise-unanimous vote to adopt it (and to direct staff to use the community feedback offered during the process to help inform their 2024 Operational Plan).
The process set out the vision Welcoming Community, Thriving Town, as well as three strategic priorities – Thriving Community, Service Excellence and Sustainability. The mission was Exceeding Expectations Through Quality Experiences.
Chief Administrative Officer Tracey Vaughan described the consultation that was part of the process.
Vaughan reported that 237 residents had looked at the Strategic Plan on the Engage Cobourg site, 188 of whom viewed the contents in detail. Of that number, 64 participated in the survey.
As well, Communications Manager Kara Euale hosted five pop-up engagements throughout the community, which drew some of the individuals who had taken the survey among the other visitors.
Vaughan said council could expect a presentation early in 2024 with more specifics from the leadership team on implementing elements of the Strategic Plan, including time lines, action items and reporting frameworks.
“This shouldn’t become a document that sits on the shelf, but guides the work of staff each and every day,” Vaughan said.
Referring to e-mail she had received, Beatty asked at what point changes to the document might be entertained before it advanced to the operational level.
Mayor Lucas Cleveland said that she was within her right to do so, but disagreed with the necessity.
“I don’t agree with listening to a few voices. I think we, as a team, met together and did a lot of work to come up with that document. We have been elected to lead, and with that leadership comes the responsibility, sometimes, to focus on certain areas and not on others,” Cleveland stated.
“That document is a summation of this council’s combined efforts. Making changes to it based on a few residents’ feedback is definitely your right to do so. I would just be not in support of that.”
“Yes, it’s our responsibility to lead – I also think it’s our responsibility to listen,” Beatty retorted.
“To be honest, I am not overly thrilled with this Strategic Plan. I don’t think that it really captured the essence of our robust two days of planning as a team. I actually think the final document is somewhat mediocre, in my opinion.”
“This is our strategic plan. This is the elected officials’ strategic plan,” Cleveland said.
“We have to remember, this is the one document that this council actually gets to set our priorities on, and our priorities should be our priorities as a council.”
The mayor reminded council that they had foregone a more elaborate process of the kind that had cost previous councils $80,000 to $100,000 in order to carry out the task on a budget of $20,000.
The results aren’t perfect, Councillor Brian Darling acknowledged, pointing out that responses to the Strategic Plan from the on-line consultation pretty well came out evenly among three groups – those who liked it, those who didn’t and those who were unsure.
“We are not going to please everybody,” Darling stated.
“As a group, this is what we decided on. If at the time you didn’t like it, you should have spoken up then.”
Having been on council through previous strategic plans, he found most of them were too ambitious actually to be accomplished. This one, he said, “is way open to allow us to be flexible in the next three years to get some jobs done.”
“Okay, so we have a basic document – I support this!” Councillor Miriam Mutton declared.
“This is where we start from. Let’s get on with it.”