Twenty-two gathered to welcome CRD’s Gary Holman to this ASK Salt Spring gathering on a lovely summer day in the United Church Meadow. After our Territorial Acknowledgement, we began our conversation, almost totally about the proposed Local Community Commission (LCC). The timing of Gary’s visit to ASK Salt Spring was serendipitous as the CRD bylaws laying the foundation of this proposed new governance model for CRD services had just been released, and Gary distributed copies of them at the meeting. (For a paper copy for the proposed LCC bylaws, go to the local CRD office; for a digital copy, see: https://crd.ca.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=31535&GUID=E685D265-40F1-4415-BB04-728D9191CEF4).
Gary began by noting the good news about the successful referendum for the new firehall. He also announced the promising news of the acquisition of the 75-acre property adjacent to Mount Maxwell. The landowners donated roughly half the value of the property, for which they will be receiving a tax receipt. CRD has also contributed $300,000 toward the purchase ($50,000 for appraisals, surveying, legal agreements, and other needed work; $250,000 towards the purchase price) to acquire this important watershed property. Another $350,000 still needs to be raised by the community to complete this purchase, and the Salt Spring Island Foundation has agreed to set up a fund and provide tax receipts for donations. We also learned from Gary that some local good news concerning senior government grant funding will soon be announced.
Gary spoke about the promise of an LCC to broaden representation, significantly increase decision-making transparency, and reduce silos in CRD services. Currently, many decisions are made solely by the Electoral Director. Gary strongly believes that more of these decisions should be made in open meetings by more than a single elected official, and an LCC will accomplish exactly that.
If approved by voters in the upcoming local election, the LCC would be given the authority to manage 11 local services, including 8 currently overseen by the four island-wide commissions - Liquid Waste, Economic Sustainability, PARC, and Transportation - and advisory authority for three other CRD contribution services (library, arts, and Search and Rescue).
In addition to identifying these services, the proposed bylaws define the LCC’s level of authority, described as “oversight,”(defined in the dictionary as “watch over from a position of authority.”) For the eleven services over which the LCC would have management authority, this oversight is described more specifically, using language such as “authorizing agreements and property acquisition/disposition, “providing direction on annual budgets,” and “creating strategic plans and priorities.”
These bylaws will be given a first, second, and third reading at the July 13, 2022 CRD Board Meeting (https://www.crd.bc.ca/docs/default-source/crd-document-library/committeedocuments/capitalregionaldistrictboard/20220713/2022-07-13agendapkgrb.pdf?sfvrsn=99a3a5cd_2). If approved by the CRD Board as expected , Salt Springers will be asked to decide whether an LCC has their support in the October 15, 2022 local election.
Gary was asked whether the proposed bylaws followed the recommendations of the recently-released LCC Discussion Paper ( https://www.gulfislandsdriftwood.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/LCC-report-2022_FINAL-1.pdf in the Driftwood and (https://saltspringexchange.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/Salt-Spring-LCC-Report-2022-Final.pdf) in the Exchange. The Discussion Paper and the LCC Advisory Committee that Gary established recommended more services and authority for an LCC. Despite this, Gary is pleased that CRD staff accepted a number of the Committee’s recommendations, thus creating stronger bylaws than originally drafted. He believes that the bylaws are a good start. The services and authority defined in these bylaws can be enhanced as we get more experience and can evaluate successes and challenges of an LCC on Salt Spring.
A participant asked whether this proposed LCC would have authority to make decisions or would simply be advisory to the Electoral Director. Gary stated that the Local Government Act stipulates that regional and sub-regional services are the responsibility of the Electoral Director, who also is our community’s representative at the CRD Board. However, local decisions would be made by the four elected Local Commissioners and the Electoral Director (who together form the LCC) in open meetings by majority vote.
When Gary was asked whether his job as Electoral Director was too much for one person, he replied that the job has become more complex in the past decade and that capacity issues are clearly a consideration. While he maintains that he can continue to do the job, he recognizes that a team of elected representatives would spread the workload and increase capacity.
As an example, Gary spoke of Islands Trust meetings: While a number of Trust agenda items have implications for CRD, he can rarely stay for an entire meeting. If an LCC were approved, it is possible that a Local Commissioner could attend all Islands Trust meetings to identify issues of concern and collaborative possibilities. The same would apply to meetings of our two large Improvement Districts. Therefore, the LCC could not only reduce the number of silos within CRD; it could help connect other governance silos as well.
Later in the conversation, another participant spoke again of silos within CRD i.e., our current advisory commissions, each charged with specific services within their respective establishment bylaws. This participant noted that an LCC would be able address Salt Spring CRD issues from a more wholistic perspective.
While Gary maintains that an LCC will significantly-increase the capacity of elected representatives to address CRD issues, he also noted that it could also bring complications: With a single elected CRD representative, a number of decisions are now made effectively by one person. With four other elected representatives making decisions in open meetings, there is a possibility of serious disagreements on important, and sometimes complex, issues. But Gary welcomes this, understanding that differing opinions and disagreements are an essential element of democracy.
Gary was asked why there are two LCC bylaws rather than one, one to establish the LCC and identify the services it will oversee (Bylaw #4507) and the other to define its degree of authority over these services (Bylaw 4508). Both the Discussion Paper and the Advisory Committee recommended this two bylaw structure to facilitate future expansion of the authority of the LCC. With two bylaws, adding to the list of services delegated to the LCC by Bylaw #4507 would still have to be approved by voters. However, expansion of the LCC’s authority over these services as defined in Bylaw #4508 would not require a referendum.
Gary shared his concern about the CRD Staff Report that accompanies the two bylaws. While portions are very helpful and offer a good overview of an LCC, he believes that staff estimations of the extra costs for an LCC are, in some cases, needlessly high. He will work with CRD staff to rationalize cost estimates presented to voters prior to the referendum and in the CRD provisional budget for 2023 approved by the CRD Board in September.
Gary agreed that this budget decision should ideally be made by the elected Local Commissioners (an example of why CRD decision-making authority has to be broadened), but, since the LCC will not be in place in time for the CRD final 2023 budget approval in March 2023, these decisions will have to be made by the newly elected CRD Director.
While committed to reduce cost estimates for an LCC, Gary does believe that there will be some necessary costs, such as approximately $40,000 a year for Local Commissioner stipends, as well as the one-time costs of the election of Local Commissioners, expected to be in the spring of 2023 if voters approve an LCC.
Gary also understands staff’s assertion that elected Local Commissioners could require (perhaps demand) more staff time than the current appointed Commissioners. But, he reminded us that the staff time spent in existing commission meetings (about 40 a year) should be significantly reduced by replacing these commissions with one LCC.
A participant asked how the LCC would address some of the larger issues in which Gary is involved, such as housing, community safety, health. Gary responded that the Electoral Director will bring these issues to the LCC for their advice. That is why he insisted on a clause in the bylaw that explicitly provides for such a collaborative approach.
When asked about the community engagement plan for an LCC, Gary told us that, if the bylaws get their three required readings on July 13, 2022, the responsibility for disseminating information will fall to CRD. Gary expects that a great deal of information will be distributed, likely including a Frequently Asked Questions document. The LCC Advisory Committee may also decide to engage Islanders in dialogues about the benefits and challenges of an LCC on Salt Spring. As the bylaw was just released, the LCC Advisory Committee will meet soon to determine their role - if any - with LCC information and conversations.
Gary was asked why North Salt Spring Waterworks District (NSSWD) was refused its request to directly report to the CRD Board rather than staff, told that CRD would not delegate powers to locally-elected officials. Isn’t that exactly what this LCC proposes? Gary disagreed with this interpretation, replying that if NSSWD had agreed to become a CRD Commission, it would have been given authority similar to the authority in place for the CRD Water Supply Commission and also being proposed for the LCC. Gary explained that NSSWD was proposing that the CRD CAO would be bypassed, dealing solely with the CRD Board. This would not be the case for LCC matters.
As the LCC conversation drew to a close, one participant summarized his thoughts: If we are seeking a better Salt Spring, these bylaws - although not perfect - define a positive step toward a more democratic and transparent CRD governance with fewer silos. The point was also made that an LCC on Salt Spring could be strengthened as we gain experience, and it evolves over time.
Switching gears, Gary was asked about the soon-to-be relocated SeaBreeze residents. Gary stated that in a perfect world (which BC Housing was initially proposing), the Supportive Housing project on Drake Road would be complete in time to accommodate SeaBreeze residents. Earlier estimated to be completed this summer or fall, BC Housing is now predicting that it will be completed in early 2023.
In the interim, preparations are underway to set up temporary, self-contained, living units on the property next to the Kings Lane Clinic designated for the senior housing residential community, MeadowLane. Not a permanent solution, as Gulf Islands Seniors Residents Association (GISRA): https://www.gisra.ca) fully intends to build there, GISRA was gracious enough to permit this temporary housing solution until March 2023.
Gary reminded us that, ultimately, the Drake Road Supportive Housing project and the recent purchase of SeaBreeze by the Lady Minto Hospital Foundation to house our desperately needed health care workers are big wins for our community. Both projects will be huge steps forward in addressing our affordable housing crisis on Salt Spring.
Our time together over for at least this week, we bid a grateful farewell to Gary, appreciative of all his hard work, resilience to the innumerable challenges of his job, willingness to speak to us with honesty, and listen to our concerns about the issues that matter most to us. (Thanks, Gary!)
Please join us Friday, July 15, 11-1, in the United Church Meadow to welcome Islands Trustee Laura Patrick.
What do you want to ask her?
What are the 2022-23 Trust Council initiatives?
What are some of the issues before our Local Trust Committee?
What is the status of some of the major planning initiatives?
What progress has been made on the engagement process for the Trust Policy Statement and the recently-released Islands Trust Governance report (https://islandstrust.bc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/TC_2022-03-08_GNMC-MarchPresentatin_PowerPoint_FINAL.pdf)?
And. . . .?
See you Friday, July 15, 11-1, at the United Church Meadow to welcome Laura!
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