activist notes


6.8 Implementation

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6.8 Implementation

6.8.1 Monitoring implementation

6.8 Implementation

Once a policy or by-law has been passed in Council, it seems like the campaign has arrived at a successful conclusion.

At the same time, activist experience is that policy isn’t carried out or a by-law enforced as it should have been. The activist theory is that staff resistance is somewhere at the root of this problem, that staff are opposed to the policy or legislation or that they don’t think it’s important enough to take it up. This is a general problem with any legislation enacted by an elected body and passed on to a staff responsible for carrying it out.

Think of issues of implementation this way:

A municipality or other governmental organization is a going concern. Over time, members of staff have worked out ways of getting things done that respond more or less to requirements imposed by Council, province and federal government and the ordinary and everyday requirements of keeping the City in order and responding to citizens. They’ve worked out ways of translating legislation and administrative rules into ongoing work practices that recognize the final authority of the budget and financing. Every few years citizens elect a new Council; sometimes it’s the same as the old; sometimes it represents a change in viewpoint. A Council with new ideas and priorities may introduce initiatives that don’t gibe with what’s already been established (lots of compromises). Members of staff have to figure out how to handle these, and work them into and perhaps change the existing set-up. What a new policy calls for may create problems for established ways of getting things done within budget constraints and they may also entail finding additional staff work-time that has to come from somewhere else.

The policy proposal for Ethical Purchasing that came before the Vancouver City Council created a new staff position to be specifically responsible for implementation. Then there was an election, and the progressive group lost its majority in Council; the Ethical Purchasing Policy (EPP) was set aside and funding for the assigned staff position was removed. However there was staff support for maintaining the position; motions in council to restore the position and continue implementation of the policy with some modifications were introduced. In addition the British Columbia Ethical Purchasing Group launched a protest (see below), the position was reinstated and the policy put back in effect.

One major area of compromise is the budget; management staff and the Mayor work out compromises among financial demands of different departments, each with its own responsibilities, technological and staffing requirements.

[Activist Note: Remember from earlier in this Guide Toronto’s 20 plus divisions? Here’s the list again Affordable Housing, Toronto Building, Children’s Services, City Planning, Court Services, Economic Development, Culture and Tourism, Emergency Medical Services, Facilities and Real Estate, Municipal Licensing & Standards, Parks, Forestry and Recreation, Public Health, Public Information and Creative Services, Shelter, Support and Housing Administration,  Social Development, Finance and Administration, Social Services, Solid Waste Management, Special Events, and Special Projects.]

Each has its own budget (though purchasing may be centrally managed), each is in competition with others for their share of the municipal budget; each has its established and relied-on sources of supplies, and so on. A change like Sustainable or Ethical Purchasing Policies has somehow to be worked out and through the various divisions or departments. Some, like the Vancouver Park Board may have its own elected board that decides how the budget it receives from the municipality will be spent.

Members of staff within each department have also had to arrive at compromises. Introducing a new initiative can throw this balance out. Some initiatives, such as those that involve housing or industrial development, may introduce costs but also promise future increased income. Those that may increase costs without promises of improved revenue are more of a problem.

Changes in relations with outside bodies, particularly those involving changes in purchasing contracts with business of whatever kind, may involve unanticipated problems. Businesses with contracts with the municipality may resist, refuse to supply needed information, or simply not comply with changes that have been officially imposed in Council.

Anticipating difficulties and incorporating appropriate provisions in the policy is critical. For example, a ‘no sweatshops’ policy might be installed in such a way that the municipality would be responsible for making inspections – that would mean additional staff or switching staff from other jobs. A complaints procedure is an alternative – that is, the municipality will respond with an inspection when someone complains – this was the procedure incorporated into the Vancouver City Ethical Purchasing Policy. But that itself involves organization. How are people to know that they can complain? And who to complain to? If they’re unionized, the union can be a source. Think also of faith groups, particularly those established in lower income areas or in immigrant communities who may be more likely to be subject to exploitation. 

Anticipate such difficulties and try to ensure that the policy proposed anticipates practicalities of implementation.

Think about what kinds of rewards may be there for municipal Councillors and staff. Elected Councillors will look better to electors if they’ve been involved in adopting a policy that enhances the municipality’s public reputation, or visibly serves a significant section of the population. Management staff have professional associations, conferences, and networks both locally and across the country. These are important resources for an interchange on changes and making changes of particularly kinds. Some managerial staff may teach post-secondary courses or courses specifically for professionals in their field. A given policy and the development of managerial knowledge about how to work with it may also provide managers hooked up in these ways to enhance their own professional reputations. Some, like Vancouver, for example, have adopted sustainability practices in a variety of areas and are able to offer experience of how to make sustainable policies effective while avoiding increased financial costs.              

6.8.1 Monitoring implementation

Not uncommonly the passage of a policy in Council establishes only the basis for further struggle that goes on both within Council and through public pressures created by your organization. The effectiveness of the campaign is in mobilizing support and in creating ongoing connections with the supporters and with the public in general. Opposition may be mobilized by the very act of passing a policy; problems may emerge as members of staff confront problems of lack of work time or other difficulties in putting it into practice. Difficulties may be put in the way of implementation by other interests such as local businesses that members of municipal staff have to deal with. In a sense the campaign doesn’t end with the successful passage of the relevant motion in Council. Some of the work of dialogue and negotiation with staff may only begin once the policy has been formally established. But there is often difficulty at this stage of the campaign to maintain the level of active involvement and support that is needed. Coalitions in particular may be rather fragile if the campaign has to be projected beyond the apparent success of passage in Council.

[Activist Note: The Baltimore Maryland example of continuing the campaign for a living wage for contracts workers into the stage of implementation.  Legislation was passed in the city in 1994 to establish the wage rate of service contract employees. The existing Wage Commission had responsibility for implementing it. But payroll information was difficult to obtain from contractors. More than a year after passage of the ordinance, many contractors were still not complying with the reporting requirements, or sometimes the law was simply not applied when contracts were renewed. So the original ‘living wage’ campaign organization formed a new organization for law-age workers called The Solidarity Sponsoring Committee (SSC). Without any official role, SSC went directly to workers, helping those who weren’t getting the mandated wage rate to complain to the City and putting pressure on to the City to hold hearings. Later contract workers for the Baltimore City Public Schools lost protection because the Maryland legislation eliminated City running of schools. The ordinance passed by the City did not apply. Again SSC supported workers in protesting and together they eventually succeeded in having the contract workers’ right to the improved wage rate recognized.  (Luce 117-120)]

Monitoring is best thought of as an integral phase of the campaign. Keeping track of what’s happening, of changes in the configuration of municipal politics, to staff initiatives to modify, and to collect evidence that might indicate to the public that the costs to the municipality were small and the reputational credit significant. A move made by a progressive majority in Council may be undone when it is succeeded by a conservative majority. If changes have already been implemented, activists may find that staff are more on their side than on that of the conservative majority in Council. Once new practices have been built into their everyday routines, their preference will be to avoid changes that undo them. Issues of implementation may also confront a conservative majority. 

Anticipate difficulties but don’t assume resistance and remember that the budget, and the budget process, are always key.


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