If I Were Mayor of Sechelt-Think of the Alliterative Appeal
Were I the Mayor of Sechelt I would hope to find myself working with a council whose members understood that they had equal voting power to that of the mayor and in that respect equal responsibility for coming to the table well-informed and able to participate effectively as individuals in discussion and debate as well as in decision-making.
I would want strict adherence to the practice of only going in camera for reasons sanctioned by the B. C. Community charter. It would be permissible for any counselor to seek adjudication from the provincial level if they believed that this requirement had not been honored. I would also want counsel to consider placing a motion on the table at the and of BC municipalities convention asking the provincial government to provide a mechanism for such oversight of adherence to the charter under which it sets out the rules under which local government operates.
There are few things more irritating to the public than believing that discussion they have a right to hear is taking place secretly.
I would want a role for Sechelt at the Regional Board table consistent with both its importance to the region as a service center and as a beneficiary of the revenue it receives from citizens of the region via business property tax.
I would like to see a discussion of creating a playing fields function to operate within or separate from the existing regional parks function, consistent with the de facto use all fields by all citizens of the region. I would like to see us lead a discussion aimed at having this new function seek a role in the management, improvement, and maintenance of school fields with a view to improving their value to the schools as well as the community at large and preempting the building of new fields until we have optimally developed all such taxpayer-funded community amenities.
I would want, in recognition of the benefits extended to the community by the Sechelt Indian band in the form of use of their fields, to invite them into such a playing field function on a basis satisfactory to all parties.
Further to the last point I would want to explore with the band any possible need for either an accord to facilitate issue-based discussions or a regular schedule of meetings on matters of particular mutual interest to both parties. The band is a considerable cultural and economic force in its own right and might see value in such a forum.
A further discussion point on parks should consider the possible purchase by the RD of land within municipalities, particularly waterfront for parks or other public use, recognizing, again, that the municipalities, their appearance and amenities are a benefit to citizens of the region.
On the critical issue of water supply: I would want to have counsel consider a moratorium on approval for any further development requiring a supply of water until we deal with the issue of adequate reserves. The point of this would be to bring clearly into focus for citizens of the Region the limited amount of water currently available to us. We need to come to terms with the possibility and cost of having to develop more storage or an alternate additional source, and the long-term implications on the growth and development of being unable to do either. In a normal summer we already deal with restrictions burdensome to some. Continuing to approve development while ignoring this issue amounts to negligent governance.
In the same area of concern, Sechelt should explore the possibility of working toward a parallel network of pipes delivering untreated water to parks, fields, hospital grounds and possibly to residences throughout the core area to lower the costs of unnecessary water treatment and to consider integrating treated treatment plant outflows considered safe enough to dump into the ocean into that supply. A cost sharing arrangement with the SCRD would be appropriate as the benefit of such a system would be to the region as a whole, including the Town of Gibsons, which also might consider such a system. This has been done elsewhere and the methods used and net benefits generated, if any, should be available for us to consider.
If I were mayor I would hope for a council that would strictly adhere to the community charter on matters of public process. There would, for instance, be no public discussion by counselors on issues dealt with in public hearings once those hearings were completed. Clumsy public process generates administrative cost as well as justifiable distress for the community at large and sustains and adds to public cynicism about politics and politicians.
Where possible I would curtail direct private conversation between myself and petitioners whose objectives will be subject to the consideration and decisions of the council as a whole or are clearly subject to existing regulation. My preference is to have all decision-makers hear a petition at the same time. Where relevent regulations exist petitioners should deal with staff.
I would ask that staff be authorized to produce a report to be circulated in the community outlining the various sources of revenue to local government, in particular the ratio of property tax paid by the full range of contributors to that of the base amount paid by residents. The purpose of this would be to facilitate rational discussion as to how those ratios compare to those in other communities as well as consideration of the different impacts of those revenues on the sectors from which or through which they flow.
Foremost in annual budget discussions should be dedication to keeping increases at or below inflation plus population growth, exceptions only for expenditures approved by referendum. If that becomes problematic council should be pro-active in informing the public why that is.
Worth considering are means by which election campaign processes can be made fairer and more informative, including the possibility of funding those processes with tax dollars. After all, there is a reasonable expectation that more knowledgeable choices made at election time might result in better policy, management and monitoring of service to the public, with an accompanying saving.
A higher-grade bunch might, for instance, seek from the RD a cost-benefit analysis of the new recreation facilities and an explanation of where and why the approved expenditures for them by referendum have been exceeded, if the current SCRD chair is correct about that. A public which was led to believe it was voting for a ceiling on costs might want to know under what legislation the SCRD can spend more.
One small measure the council might want to consider: Signage at crosswalks making it clear that pedestrians have the right of way, perhaps outlining the point and walk method used in other communities. I too often see folks at the curb, as if waiting for permission to cross from drivers.
So—-could I, legally, stand for the office? You betcha. Would I? Hmmmm….interesting question.