A Local Community Commission for Salt Spring? Some Answers and Lots of Questions
Despite small numbers, a rich conversation made our two hours together fly. After our Territorial Acknowledgment, Gary began by giving us some information about the LCC and the process to bring it to referendum on October 15, 2022.
Gary referenced the draft Discussion Paper with recommendations for a Salt Spring Local Community Commission (LCC) that was written by volunteers Brian Webster with able aid from Richard Kerr and Linda Adams, each bringing a wide range of local government and CRD-specific experience to the project. While Gary does not necessarily agree with every facet of the 37-page document, he believes it was well-researched and is a strong foundation for public discussion of an LCC. It is posted on both the Driftwood online edition (https://www.gulfislandsdriftwood.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/LCC-report-2022_FINAL-1.pdf) and the Exchange (https://saltspringexchange.com/2022/05/09/crd-local-community-commission-lcc-discussion-paper-introduction/). Hard copies are also available for review at the Library and free copies can be obtained at the nearby CRD office.
Gary spoke briefly about the volunteer LCC Advisory Committee which he has appointed to consider public input and make recommendations to the CRD regarding the LCC proposal. The Committee is comprised of the chairs (or representative) of each of the four island-wide commissions (Liquid Waste, Economic Sustainability, PARC, and Transportation) as well as representatives of the two Improvement Districts, - North Salt Spring Waterworks District (NSSWD) and the Fire District. Also on the committee are two community members at large, Darryl Martin and retired CRD Salt Spring Senior Manager, Kees Ruurs.
Two Zoom meetings of this committee have been held, the first a closed meeting to clarify the role of the committee and to offer comments on the draft Discussion Paper. At this first meeting, this committee also recommended releasing this Discussion Paper to the community.
The second meeting was open to the public and focused on the process that leads up to the October 15, 2022 referendum as well as listening to comments from community members. The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, June 6, 6:30-8:30 pm. This Zoom meeting will be focused on community input.Please join by clicking:
https://us06web.zoom.us/j/89113929334?pwd=emVSZmRKTGFDSDVQKysxWUh3L3Vydz09. Subsequent meetings will be posted on the What’s On? section of the Driftwood and the Events section of the Exchange.
Helping our community better understand the possibilities and challenges of an LCC is a high priority for this LCC Advisory Committee. This outreach will consist of meetings, opportunities to ask committee members questions at various locations, and articles. Further details about these activities will be confirmed at the June 6 LCC Committee meeting. Gary also believes that organizations such as Transition Salt Spring and the Chamber may want to sponsor LCC information sessions.
While some believe that there is not enough time to fully-inform Salt Springers about an LCC, others see plentiful opportunities for continued community information and outreach in the next four and a half months.
Gary also stated that, as an election commitment, he has been discussing the LCC concept for most of this term and formally initiated discussion of it in February of this year. He took responsibility for delaying formal exploration of the LCC until governance discussions with NSSWD had come to an impasse, but he still believes that the LCC is a relatively simple proposal, requiring none of the jurisdictional changes or major financial responsibilities required by incorporation. (Later in the conversation, it was pointed out that establishing an LCC does not preclude another incorporation campaign in the future.)
CRD staff has been given the Discussion Paper to use as a foundation for creating the LCC bylaws. Hope was expressed that its recommendations will form the basis of the CRD bylaws defining the LCC responsibilities and authority that we will be asked to consider in the October election.
The CRD Board will give these bylaws first, second, and third reading at its July 13 meeting, with final adoption depending on voter approval. (Given the CRD Board’s August holiday break, this is likely the last date possible to get the bylaws approved in time to be included on the October ballot.)
This timeline will give voters three months to review and consider the bylaws before the October 15 election/referendum. The LCC will undoubtedly be an election issue, which means it will also be publicly debated by CRD candidates.
There is agreement that an LCC without sufficient local authority would not be supported by the LCC Advisory Committee nor by voters. ASK Salt Spring participants were also clear, and Gary agreed, that ,in addition to the already-submitted Discussion Paper, CRD staff must consider input from the Advisory Committee. Both the Advisory Committee and Gary will be accepting comments from the public on the LCC proposal throughout June. (Comments sent to firstname.lastname@example.org will be forwarded to the LCC Committee.)
Gary is optimistic that CRD staff understands the importance of creating a bylaw that authorizes sufficient authority and responsibility to the LCC. He also told us that, while the CRD must take a neutral stand on this referendum issue, he believes that local staff are interested in the possibility that an LCC could streamline their duties (e.g., they would only be supporting one LCC Commission rather four separate Commissions).
While there is a high degree of consensus in the LCC Advisory Committee concerning Discussion Paper recommendations, the number of elected Local Commissioners is still being debated. Legislation allows either four or six Local Commissioners with the Electoral Director also serving as a member of an LCC. While the Discussion Paper initially recommended four Commissioners, in the first LCC Advisory Committee meeting, most seemed to support the election of six Commissioners. As a result, the Discussion Paper currently recommends six Commissioners. Gary still prefers four rather than six Commissioners.
Those supporting six elected Commissioners cite the range and complexity of issues to be addressed and feel that, to be effective, there should be as many Local Commissioners as allowed. Gary - and others - feel that increasing our representation from one (the Electoral Director) to five (i.e., adding four elected Local Commissioners) is already of great benefit from a governance perspective. Increasing this number to six may not, in Gary’s opinion, reap enough added benefits to balance the extra stipend costs for two additional Local Commissioners.
Gary also stated that the number of Commissioners could be increased to six at some point in the future after experience with the LCC has been gained. It was recommended that the number of Local Commissioners be brought back to the next LCC Advisory Committee in the first week of June to further discuss this issue and see if consensus can be reached.
While greatly increasing representation and transparency, having more folks legally elected to make local CRD decisions also could bring its complications. For example, what if Local Commissioners and the Electoral Director disagree? By legislation, the Electoral Director will continue to represent Salt Spring at the CRD Board, Electoral Area, and other CRD standing committee meetings like Regional Parks. What if he/she takes issues for CRD Board approval without the support of the LCC? While this could happen, Discussion Paper authors and Gary believe that if an LCC had authority over local issues, the CRD Board would defer the issue until local agreement had been achieved.
Despite this lack of consensus about the best number of Local Commissioners, all of the participants appeared to generally agree with the recommendations of the Discussion Paper, with participants lauding Brian, Richard, and Linda for a fine job creating this foundational document.
Gary emphasized that a key benefit of an LCC - in addition to increased representation and transparency - is the consolidation of the four island-wide commissions ((Liquid Waste, Economic Sustainability, PARC, and Transportation). Decisions concerning the eight services currently overseen by these four separate, appointed commissions, would be made in the regular, open meetings of one elected LCC Commission. It would make it easier for our community to understand these issues, no longer forced to attend multiple meetings to get this information. It was also suggested that overlap between these services that can currently fall between the cracks would be addressed from an island-wide perspective by elected at large Commissioners in public LCC meetings.
Gary is proposing that area-specific commissions (like the local CRD water districts) will continue to function, directly representing and supporting their ratepayers. Some feel that the LCC should have the responsibility of prioritizing all services - island-wide as well as area specific services. These issues will be clarified in the establishment bylaws to be considered by voters in October.
Citing the importance of volunteer work on our current commissions, a participant asked how these important community connections with community groups will be maintained. It was agreed that, while this is an LCC operational decision yet to be made, it is likely that issue-specific groups will be encouraged to remain active and address the LCC with their recommendations but would not be provided withndirect staff support.
There are no LCCs in communities like Salt Spring because most communities our size have incorporated. The few existing LCCs are in very small communities. While some say that this is a concern, there are others who argue that the rationale for an LCC is even stronger in a larger community such as ours with only one regional district representative. They see this as an opportunity for Salt Spring to design a uniquely local solution to address our governance concerns.
Most agreed that the biggest challenge concerning an LCC is getting folks to understand this governance option. Without this community-wide understanding, as one said, the whole LCC conversation will be built on a shaky foundation. While there will be at least two more open meetings in June to further discuss this LCC proposal, many believe that community engagement should accelerate as soon as the bylaws have been released by CRD. However, it was repeated that the success of the proposal hinges on whether these bylaws delegate an LCC with enough authority to successfully address local CRD issues.
Lots of questions, and like any other important issue in our community, please stay tuned and keep reading and participating in the public discourse. The good news is that many of the answers to questions about the LCC will be.clarified by mid-July.
Despite our small group, the conversation was very detailed and constructive, with many of us surprised that it was already 1:00. Thanking Gary, the hardworking authors of the Discussion Paper, and the other members of the LCC Advisory Committee who joined us, for their vision, openness to seeking answers, and their willingness to explore the uncharted territory of an LCC for Salt Spring, we said our grateful Farewells and pushed our Leave Meeting button. (Thanks, Gary!)
Keep your fingers crossed for good weather next Friday, June 3, 11-1!
Weather permitting, we will welcome our MLA Adam Olsen to the United Church Meadow. (If it rains or rain threatens, we will Zoom: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89745830131?pwd=S0dUUUtuZ0pTOU9haDBNMnhaR1M5dz09. (In case you need it, the passcode is 947504)
What do you want to ask him?
What have been the most significant accomplishment of this Legislative session?
What are your proudest accomplishment of the session?
Can you give us a preview of what you expect to be key items in the next Legislative session?
Do you think a review of the Islands Trust Act will be undertaken in the near future?
Will you share your suggestions about addressing our road concerns from a totally new perspective?
What’s next for the Police Act Review Committee?
What’s happening in efforts to protect our old growth?
See you Friday, June 3, 11-1 at the United Church Meadow. (Zoom if rain threatens) to welcome Adam!
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