During the municipal council meeting of 12 march 2012, municipal councilor Félio made a presentation about the development of Rockland south. As an ordinary citizen and Clarence-Rockland taxpayer who still counts using his fingers, I offer here some of my comments about that presentation, under two headings: the good and the less good.
1. The staging was well done in my opinion:
a. Félio delivered his presentation using two projector screens, one showing slides written mostly in French, and the other showing them in English. Those shown written only in English came from a presentation delivered a few months ago by Watson Associates, a consulting firm, on Clarence-Rockland infrastructure investment needs.
b. Because he used a voice amplification system well-adjusted to the room in which he delivered his presentation and separate from the one normally used during council meetings, I clearly heard the presentation.
c. A copy of the presentation was delivered to spectators at the beginning. This allowed those who wished to follow the presentation using that copy instead of reading the slides on the screens. Of course this also allowed those with a copy to keep it for study or reading later on if desired.
2. Félio stated that all the work for this presentation was made by members of the municipal council Infrastructure and Buildings Committee, as well as the city's interim chief administrative officer and the municipal service directors. No outside consultants were used, thus saving money to taxpayers in the work associated with that presentation.
3. I feel that what seems to have been Félio's central message deserved to be made. That message, as I understand it, is as follows: a major residential and commercial development which could result from the reconstruction of Caron Street could possibly provoke significant impacts on municipal infrastructure and services needs, at very high costs, possibly unaffordable level to taxpayers, or financed by deficits which themselves could be unsustainable, or result in services and infrastructure needs not met because of lack of available funding.
4. Potential financial challenges that Clarence-Rockland may face in terms of answering to municipal infrastructure and services needs provoked by development stemming from the Caron Street project, need to be studied in light of the so-called infrastructure deficit estimated at close to 78 million dollars(for example needs for repair or maintenance of roads yet unmet forms part of that deficit). This amount is applicable to the city's profile as it exists today, and no plan has yet been adopted by the municipal council describing how those needs will be met, if ever. I feel Félio was right in underlining that situation.
5. Félio concluded his presentation by recommending, in part, that the council’s Infrastructure and Buildings Committee be mandated by council to propose options (schedule and costs) for the Caron Street reconstruction project. I feel that signals a will to proceed, in principle, with the Caron Street project, once an approach has been identified which appears, after careful consideration, the most responsible in terms of the interests of the Clarence-Rockland taxpayers.
6. Following the presentation, mayor Guibord allowed members of council and the public to asks question about it. This was unexpected by me. It gave me the opportunity to ask one question, the aim of which was to ascertain that I had understood the presentations core message and its rationale; I humbly admit that I had not clearly grasped all that was key to Félio's message.
7. The presentation is available on the city's Web site, making it accessible to anyone interested in it that may have been absent during its delivery.
THE LESS GOOD
8. In my opinion, generally a presentation should state its objectives close to its beginning, no later than after making a short introduction if desired. Félio's presentation omitted this important step in my view, proceeding directly to its main body, without first explaining why he was making it and even less what were its objectives. How can he and I evaluate if the presentation accomplished what he wanted without clearly describing what exactly he wanted to accomplish by delivering it? Omitting to describe clearly presentations objectives is a trap into which many people have fallen in the past and continue to do so often in delivering presentations to the municipal council in my view. Félio fell into that trap in my opinion.
9. Frankly, in listening to that presentation, I felt as if I was sitting in a college or university classroom listening to a lecture by Professor Guy Félio, PhD, titled: Municipal Infrastructure and Services Management 101 - A Case Study. I even wondered when the exam would be held! A symptom of professional deformation will some say?
10. The presentation was riddled with excessive minute details and graphics to a point that it was dizzying; it was all rather overwhelming to a point of being an obstacle to a clear understanding of the presentation. A summery or consolidation of that minutia could have and should have been presented instead; that would have been helpful in facilitating clarity and comprehension of the presentation, without compromising its integrity or persuasiveness. The excessive use of detailed minutia in my opinion simply exposed the presentation to the risk of been perceived as one designed to first impress rather than to express.
11. The excessive use of dizzying minutia and overly buzzy graphics resulted in a presentation which lasted too long in my view, a good half hour or longer as I recall. In my opinion, Félio's message could and should have been delivered in a 10 to 15 minutes presentation, at most. To have prolonged it as long as he did reflects a lack of discipline in is preparation I believe. Dare I say it may have possibly been a lack of respect towards its listeners?
12. Although I support the presentation's recommendation to examine options for the Caron Street project, it was not as clearly supported by the main body of the presentation as I would have liked. In fact, when I heard that recommendation at the end of the presentation, my reaction was: exactly how did he get to that again? I believe there is a close relationship between the Caron Street project, residential and commercial development and its impacts on Clarence-Rockland infrastructure and services which could have and should have been more clearly explained during the presentation.
13. A caution about all the assumptions on which the presentation is based would have been justified in my view. Although they are spelled out, the impacts which they may effect could significantly vary, depending on their choices; for example the interest rates for the next 20 to 30 years, or the inflation rate for the same period. The impacts described using the assumptions selected in this presentation are quite dramatic and even financially scary in my view. However who among us is capable of predicting the future with certainty as attempted in this presentation? All those nice numbers describing the financial impacts of development projects in the presentation are uncertain in my opinion, because they are highly susceptible to significantly change in response to on one more changes to the assumptions used in this presentation. It would have been necessary for Félio to signal this major limitation to his presentation’s reliability and utility in my view.
14. As I see it, the sensitivity of the presentation's results to probable changes in its underlying assumptions used over its 20 to 30 years vision, projects it to my eyes of a highly academic and hypothetical character. It casts serious doubts in my mind as to its practical value in the decision making process for the Caron Street project.
15. The presentation contains two recommendations to the municipal council. Although mayor Guibord congratulated Félio for all the work done with this presentation, no decision about it was made by the municipal council. In summary, Félio wanted council to make two decisions in response to his presentation; he got none at that time. Does a council member intend at some future meeting to table a resolution for approval by council aimed at following up on the presentations recommendations?
16. The following council members were absent during this presentation: Michel Thivierge, André Henrie, Raymond Serrurier and Bernard Payer. I see no particular urgency in the presentation. In order to assure the greatest possible number of council members at the presentation, did Félio consider contacting his colleagues to confirm their presence? This presentation was made during March break; therefore I'm not surprised that a number of councilors were away and I believe that Félio ought to have factored that in selecting the date for delivery of his presentation.
17. My comments above followed somewhat the format of a balance sheet, describing what to my eyes were the positive and the negative elements of this presentation. Placed on the balance of my subjective judgment, I feel overall they lean towards the negative side. The main reason in my opinion is that results described in the presentation are sensitive to variations to uncertain, unpredictable and probable changes to the assumptions upon which it is based over the 20 to 30 years period it examines. Consequently, I believe it is of doubtful reliability and quite limited utility as a reference for use by the municipal council in its decision making process applicable to the Rockland south development.
« Back to index