I wanted you to let you know that I will be running for re-election as a City Councillor in Salmon Arm this Fall.
During the last election, I talked about how running for council was like applying for a job. I was a candidate and the election period was my interview. Running for re-election, however, is more of a performance review, so here goes.
I studied carefully, asked hundreds of questions, attended a thousand meetings and read tens of thousands of documents. I learned a great deal indeed and I appreciate the investment you’ve made in my on-the-job training.
I learned that every city, while unique, still has to follow the same rules. A municipality is a child of provincial government. We stand out by the quality and strength of our relationships. I have built meaningful relationships with my fellow council, city staff, community partners, neighbouring municipalities, our regional district and our provincial and federal representatives.
But the most important relationships we have are with you, our community members, our volunteers, our business owners, our neighbours, our seniors, our families and our youth. Wether it was a coffee, a committee meeting, a council meeting, a visit at the park, a chat at the grocery story, a late night text or an early morning e-mail, I have always been honoured to hear your ideas and concerns. Some would say that is the burden of being a local elected official. I don’t see it as a burden. I see it as a gift because you chose me. It has been an honour.
I’m proud to say I have moved the community ahead on a number of fronts – arts and culture, Canada 150, housing, social impact, healthy communities and communication but, I couldn’t have done it alone. That’s now how a healthy community works. A healthy community always has work to do and I’d like to keep doing it. I learned quickly that the best approach is always about collaboration, communication and compassion. And every time I raise my hand for a vote, I think carefully about cause and effect, net benefit and long term outcomes. Which means, from time to time, we haven’t been able to agree. And I’ve honestly never worked with a group of people so able to disagree agreeably. And I’m very appreciative of the respect and inclusion at all the tables to which I am offered a seat.
As for the next four years, as a growing city, one of BC’s fastest growing, we have some issues to address.
Prevention for one. Our greatest (and very important) shared expense is policing. I’m not convinced we do enough on the prevention front. On average, Canadians spend $335 per person per year on policing. I’d like to see us be more mindful of preventative measures. A homeless outreach worker, an increased focus on youth activities, extending transit service into evenings and Sundays, a friendship centre, a year round shelter and a renewed focus on public spaces. But those decisions are not ours alone to make. We need to continue to build partnerships with non-profits and other levels of government to see those improvements made.
Inclusion, for another. The world is changing. Barriers are being busted. Silo thinking is a thing of the past. This runs the gamete from housing to active transportation and youth activities to immigrant services. Generally, we need to continue to build a city with everyone’s needs in mind. Specifically, there are things we can do right now. The Ross Street Underpass, for one. Currently, the safest way to cross the tracks is in a vehicle. That’s not inclusive. If you’re in a wheelchair or pushing a stroller, or riding a scooter or a bike, it’s not safe. Transport Canada has told us as much. We now have an opportunity to remediate this without an increase in taxation. We need to do that. I also feel strongly that we have great assets that can be further developed including lights at the skatepark and lights at the beach volleyball court on Canoe Beach. Our kids need to know their city cares about them and extending the use of things that kids like is a good start. Plus, it shines a light on good behaviour. The dark, not so much.
Diversity is equally key to a healthy community. So often, people will run for council in an effort to push their point of view and their solutions to problems they perceive. I know that because when I ran in 2011, I thought I had all the answers. I didn’t. And I didn’t win. And I’m very grateful for what that taught me. The job of a Councillor is to listen, especially to people who are not like you and to people who might not like you. We can’t live in our own bubbles. Only through appreciative inquiry can you expect to make the best decisions. To be frank, a canned approach of solutions to problems only some perceive will simply not work because it’s exclusive of others. And exclusivity does not a healthy community build. Some years ago, Council decided not to support any public declaration so as not to offend one group over another. I don’t agree. I would advocate for the rescinding of that by making a budget referral for programmable LED lights at an appropriate public venue so we can light up with pride for important causes such as diabetes awareness, LGBTQ, autism, cancer prevention, earth day, etc. You get the idea. We need to celebrate the work of our volunteers on the very causes that will change the world and make it a better place.
Recognition is key. It appears, at least to me, that we don’t know the depth and breadth of the incredible advances made here by our business community. There are, without any shadow of a doubt, things that happen here that simply couldn’t happen anywhere else. We have a mature and incredibly powerful group of technological manufacturing, service and retail businesses who aren’t recognized for the work they do and the lives that they change. We need to celebrate that. I’m hopeful our community branding project will help share those stories to our current and future residents.
And there’s still all the usual business of council, zoning, development, infrastructure, protection services, parks and roads, long term financial plans, annual budgets, the official community plan and the long term strategic plan. It’s complex and compelling work. And I love it.
I will tell you this, a living and thriving city is never perfect. And I will never make promises I can’t keep. Except for this. If re-elected, my hair will get more grey, I will need a stronger prescription for my glasses, and I will show up for you every day. As I have for the last four years.
I hope to see my name on the list of successful candidates come the evening of October 20. Regardless, I thank you for being here. I thank you for voting and I thank you for making Salmon Arm all that it is because, wether you vote for me or not, I believe in us. To my mind, Salmon Arm is the most liveable small city in Canada. And while on occasion being one its councillors keeps me up at night, more often than not, it motivates me to gets me up in the morning to keep doing the important work that needs to get done.
As always, you can call me on 250 833 5554 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org