MELINDA MUNRO: The City of Windsor Sunshine List

Windsor City Hall Photo Jon Liedtke Windsor City Hall Photo Jon Liedtke

April 3, 2023
Rose City Politics

The City of Windsor Sunshine List

On a recent episode of Rose City Politics we talked about the City of Windsor 2022 sunshine list and in particular the anomaly (we hope) of paying for two Chiefs of Police and two CAOs in the same period.  

A couple of other interesting things arise for me from this list. 

As always, I want to start by talking about women. The list does not delineate people by gender but we can make some defensible assumptions about gender and jobs. 

There are 962 City of Windsor employees on this list.  Of that about 600 are police or fire employees which is 62%. We know that police and fire are heavily dominated by men. Just a cursory run through of the list turns up only 52 names that one would assume to be female. There may be others with names like Morgan or Cory that could be women. But that is still only about 10% of those positions.  So even if half all of the other 362 people on the list are women we have perhaps 25% of the people on the sunshine list at the City of Windsor are women.  Wow. 

We have been told many times that Windsor is a difficult city to be a woman and this list is more evidence of that. 

I also want to talk about roles. Keeping in mind that there are always anomalies in a list like this. Payouts of unused vacation or severance can impact where a job shows up on the list. However, there is one job that strikes me as out of place: City Planner.

In my work with municipalities in Canada, I have come to learn that the service that hits it out of the park in every area of municipal jurisdiction is planning. Urban planners are responsible for every element of our towns and cities. They ensure that life safety services like fire and police can move safely through communities, they ensure that neighbourhoods are well designed for liveability, walkability, and comfort. They determine how cities will expand or shrink, where jobs will be located and how to assemble land for economic development. They plan transportation networks and mode share between cars, buses, bikes and pedestrians. No role in a city has a larger strategic impact.  Not the Chief Financial Officer, not the Chief of Police, not even the CAO.  Sure the CAO manages the unwieldy City corporation, but the City Planner oversees the unwieldy city. 

So why is the City Planner paid less than 29 police or fire employees? Why are they 48th on the list? 

I can think of a couple of reasons.  First, the way that the City, and most other employers who have pay equity structures, privilege jobs that impact life safety directly. These roles either directly manage employees who have dangerous jobs, or they have dangerous jobs themselves. The pay equity scale contains some privilege for strategic roles or roles that supervise a lot of people, but not roles that have broad swaths of strategic impact on the community at large.  Second, jobs like City Planner don’t attract overtime the way jobs like police and fire, so while a City Planner or other senior planners may expect to spend many evenings a week at council and committee meetings or in community engagement, they are not paid extra for that. 

But I think the most significant reason is that in Windsor the City Planner has never been treated as a central strategic role.  The Corporate Leadership Team, which comprises the most senior administrators reporting to the CAO has never included the City Planner directly. The City Planner has reported variously to the City Engineer, the City Solicitor and currently the Commissioner of Economic Development. The role is subordinated to functions which ought to be considered subordinate to it. 

It will be no surprise to urban planning geeks in Windsor that we do not prioritize the well-ordered planning of our city and it is not by accident. To listen to our Mayor and some of our councilors, the only strategic goal of our community is to keep taxes low and roads safe for cars. Having the City Planner at the top table would be a constant reminder that those goals are incompatible with a liveable city.  

Hey Windsor, Calgary is Calling. RCP also recently talked about the “Alberta is Calling” campaign and it won’t be a surprise to learn that in Calgary, one of the most liveable cities in the world, the City Planner is at the top table with the roles of downtown strategy, economic development and community planning called out. It is not by accident that cities make the top of the table for the Economist Liveability Index.  

So while many may find the Sunshine List evidence that we overpay public servants, I find it an interesting way to see what we prioritize as a community.  As the adage goes: “don’t tell me what you care about. Show me your budget and I will tell you what you care about.”

Read more by Melinda Munro HERE