Focus on two committees
Bowen Island’s new mayor and council had their first town hall meeting of the 2011-2014 term last Saturday, January 14, and some 85 islanders crammed into the meeting room at the municipal hall to talk about volunteerism and committees.
Mayor Jack Adelaar told the crowd it was about council hearing from citizens and there was no shortage of islanders willing to contribute ideas and comments. To maintain a more intimate setting and fit everyone in, tables were taken out - councillor Tim Rhodes noted it was Kathy Lalonde and municipal staff’s idea – and mayor and council simply sat in chairs at the front of the room.
There are more than a dozen committees now but council is considering only two this term, a finance committee and an operational committee dealing with infrastructure and services such as water, sewage and roads and other areas like housing and the arts.
These two committees, mayor Adelaar said, would have sub-committees to support them. The two major committees would report to council and from there, along with input from the public, council would go about achieving their recommendations.
These ideas are not set in stone and part of the purpose in setting up the gathering was to open an informal public dialogue around them. Councillor Cro Lucas told the Undercurrent that another component of what council was seeking was “suggestions on how to achieve the key things that council and the public want to see happen in the next three years.”
A consistent theme from the more than 20 islanders who addressed mayor and council was the need to respect volunteers for the time they put in by acknowledging their reports and acting upon them.
In the past, there have been resignations from committees by volunteer members who felt their efforts were not acknowledged and their reports were simply shelved. Council told those in attendance that they will pay attention to committee recommendations and set about realizing them. The roadblock is finances and council is hoping for ideas on generating revenue to achieve projects such as sewer upgrades, seniors and low-income housing, the revitalization of Snug Cove and a community centre. Currently, council has municipal staff looking at ways of limiting costs and increasing revenue, in part to make more money available for projects.
There were also more specific recommendations. Don Marshall talked about “revitalizing” the sustainable action committee and Peter Williamson said planning comes with a vision and committees must reflect that.
Joyce Ganong of the Bowen Island Community Foundation said a committee in support of community groups was needed. Mary Ellen deGrace spoke about the 45 volunteers now contributing to the Knick Knack Nook.
Bruce Howlett said committees should not be permanent but include specific timelines and goals and Bud Long echoed those thoughts and said they should not have potential options filtered out by council before they began their work. Bill Newport of the island’s Fish and Wildlife Club believes a committee to look at ways of improving how we handle food waste on Bowen needs to be established.
There were some who simply applauded council for seeking input; Barbara Wahler called the meeting “a great first step.” Long-time islander Ian Henley was one of those who said that council will earn his respect by acknowledging the work of committees and, when possible, acting upon their conclusions.
James Glave suggested a blog on behalf of council where issues can be discussed. He felt it could help engage younger islanders in the political process. As he stood at the front of the room, he asked that everyone born after 1969 to raise a hand. There were only two hands raised.
Michael Cornelissen said simplifying financial statements so lay persons can understand them and separating essential from non-essential projects is needed. Robin Burger pointed out that there are already recommendations in place regarding affordable housing and was hopeful council would act in this area.
The mayor and each council member concluded the meeting by giving impressions of this first town hall of the term and all spoke of how positive and helpful it was. Councillor Lucas told the Undercurrent that there will be another one in February. Topics will vary each time, Lucas said.