As I wrote in my last post minutes ago, I was at "The Learneds" this week taking in academic papers and sessions.
One of papers I heard was by Daniel Henstra of the University of Waterloo on "Complex Problems, Local Solutions: Policy Analysis in Municipal Governments".
In his paper, Henstra praised the City of Hamilton's staff report template as a best practice among municipalities.
Henstra noted the template requires staff to include background and history on the topic of the report, creates a workflow that produces information enables persons unfamiliar with the report topic to understand the report, and that the template requirement to provide three alternative recommendations to the staff recommendations provides insight into how staff come to their recommendations.
The alternatives also reveal that staff have carefully weighted information, increasing the ability of the public to have confidence in the merits of the recommendation presented.
I'm working on how I turn Henstra's paper into a full episode of the TPR radio show, there was a great discussion of municipal policy analysis, and I definitely want to give you listeners a deeper dive into the the topic.
Henstra sent me a copy of his paper, which is current a final draft to be a chapter in a book to be published in early 2018, this morning.
On Hamilton's staff report template, he writes:
"A review of staff reports submitted to councils in several municipalities suggests that there are subtle variations in the way policy proposals are presented. In all cases, the reports highlighted a recommended course of action on the issue, offered a rationale for this recommendation, and provided some supporting documentation (e.g., results of environmental scan; highlights of public consultation). However, the amount of information and specificity of advice in the reports varied, which appeared to be a function of the template used by the municipality. For example, a 2013 staff report that proposed a Rental Housing Licensing By-law in Hamilton, Ontario, provided a policy rationale—to document and regulate illegal rental units—but also a historical background, implementation plan, statement of alignment with the city’s strategic plan, and three alternative courses of action that council could consider (and why these were deemed inferior to the recommendation) (Hamilton 2013). Although typical of staff policy proposals in Hamilton, this level of detail was not found in other municipalities."