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The Hoy memo

Shirley Hoy, City Manager, circulated the below memo as a response to Toronto Life‘s cover story about the challenges facing Toronto’s municipal government.

Date: Mon, 10 Dec 2007 18:12:56 -0500Subject: Important message to staff from Shirley Hoy, City ManagerTo: The Toronto Public Service

From: Shirley Hoy, City Manager

In our very busy professional lives it’s sometimes difficult to takethe time to reflect on all it is we do each and every day. And when wedo take that time, we’re often taken aback by what we see, hear andread about our workplace. After all, we are an open and transparentgovernment -- the public’s right to know trumps all else, as itshould.

Toronto Life magazine’s current issue has a cover story, however,that tells an unflattering tale about City Hall. Some of you may havealready read it. Some of you may have only heard about it. Regardless,the story is incomplete.

I won’t provide you with a history lesson here, but a little contextabout where we’ve been, how we got to where we are today, and wherewe’re going is required.

Ten years ago, the City of Toronto was amalgamated into the singlelargest city in the country, in effect, making us the sixth largestgovernment in Canada. The expectations of amalgamation by residents, theprovincial government, and staff themselves, were enormous.

Yet we succeeded.

The chaos of amalgamation cannot be overstated. Quite simply thechallenges posed by melding seven distinct administrations into one,without time to adequately prepare, were overwhelming.

We had to deal with the exceptional pressures posed by downloading,including the capital costs of the TTC. We had to implement a promisedfreeze on taxes, deal with the impending Y2K crisis, and manage theintroduction of the new Current Value Assessment system.

Yet, service and program delivery continued without interruption. Theamalgamation process was seamless to the public. Thanks to you.

We have hit some bumps in the road, to be sure. A labour disruption in2002 brought home to many, just how important public services are toresidents and businesses. The Bellamy Inquiry (MFP computer leasing)helped shed light on some of our failings. Lessons learned from theInquiry have helped shape important policies and decisions for thisgovernment.

Public debates over the future of Union Station and the Island airportexemplify just how passionate the people of Toronto are. It is thepeople that we serve everyday and I know how grateful they are for yourdedication to issues big and small.

I needn’t remind anyone that in 2003 this city was faced with SARS,followed by the blackout in August. Governments are expected to dealwith crises like these. We did. And we did so professionally, alwayswith the people of Toronto in mind.

Over the years, many reports and studies have been tabled examining howthe Toronto Public Service should be organized, how it should supportCouncil, and how it should be accountable for a multi-billion dollarbudget. Many of these recommendations have been implemented.

The former Auditor General for Canada, Denis Desautels, wrote a reportthat pointed the way to greater accountability and transparency with theestablishment of a comprehensive auditing regime that included both theAuditor General and Internal Audit functions. We have done that.

As well, the PATH to Excellence initiative established clear lines ofauthority for staff, introduced key management controls and protocols,and further enhanced accountability, fairness and transparency in theCity’s business and purchasing processes.

And while there’s always room for improvement, it bears repeatingthat the Auditor General’s recommendations, to date, illustrate thatthe City can make the changes required to be both effective andefficient. Eighty per cent of the Auditor General’s 800recommendations from 1999 on have been implemented. Recent audits inspecific areas of Children’s Services and Solid Waste Management haveconcluded that those areas are well-managed and effective.

In an organization as large as the City, there will be problems ofwaste and fraud from time-to-time. Mature, professional governments bothrecognize and address problems when they arise. The fraud and wastehotline, for example, corroborates the fact that the vast majority ofyou operate within the highest standards of ethics and integrity. Whenthat doesn’t happen, swift and appropriate action is taken. Calls tothe hotline and substantiated complaints dropped more than 10% in 2006over the previous year. In fact, substantiated claims represent lessthan one percent of the entire public service. The City administrationsupports the fraud hotline and communicates its availability widely.

We introduced a new administrative structure to achieve greaterflexibility, accountability, oversight and collaboration amongst Citydivisions. There’s greater emphasis on customer service improvementstoday. The 3-1-1 project is well underway, on-line registration and feepayment options are available to residents and businesses.

Indeed, to meet the challenges that all large organizations face today,new talent is regularly introduced to the City’s management andfrontline ranks. Formal succession planning is underway across the Cityto ensure a strong public service in the future.

By far, however, our greatest challenge remains a financial one.

Year after year, you hear the story about the City’s budgetshortfall. This government, under Mayor David Miller, has led the chargein achieving a new deal for cities.

We succeeded in getting the GST rebate and a share of the gas tax. Theprovince has promised to begin uploading social programs again, startingin 2008.

The City of Toronto Act helped solidify what we all know: this is amature order of government, unique from other cities in Ontario. We havenew powers of taxation that have been debated very publicly.

But cities need revenues that grow with the economy. Toronto has putthat issue on the table to the point, now, where the Federation ofCanadian Municipalities and even the premier of Ontario are calling onthe federal government to share the equivalent of one cent of the GSTwith Canadian municipalities -- the economic engines of Canada.

Toronto is a leader in many respects. I am enormously proud of you ‘the women and men of the Toronto Public Service. The real test forquality public services is the work that is done to ensure an excellentquality of life for residents.

And because of you we have clean drinking water. Garbage and recyclinggets picked up. Roads are repaired. Swimming pools are clean and safe.Parents have reliable child care. Police, fire and EMS are professional,reliable and committed to residents and businesses. The TTC is reliedupon by more than one million people everyday. The single largest socialhousing stock in the country is right here in Toronto. Our culture andarts community has never been more vibrant. Our waterfront is finallybeginning to take shape and reflect what Torontonians want and need.People are engaged in helping shape the future of our parks -- theirparks. And we have a bold, daring and aggressive plan to tackle climatechange -- the single greatest threat to our planet.

Toronto has been 10 years in the making. We are a young organization.We will continue to grow and improve. That is what we do as committedpublic servants: meet the demands of the public we serve. Without adoubt, each of you does it with dignity, professionalism and respect forthe public you serve, and for that I thank you.

Shirley HoyCity Manager

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