CRD's Gary Holman Offers LCC 101 - Answers About our Local Community Commission
Twenty Salt Springers joined us for all or part of this ASK Salt Spring conversation with CRD’s Gary Holman with a focus on our soon-to-be-established Local Community Commission (LCC). After our Territorial Acknowledgement, Gary spoke briefly about some news from the CRD Board. He noted that our recent local election had resulted in a great deal of turnover, resulting in many new faces around the CRD Board table.
Concerning our proposed budget requisition, to be approved March 2023, in addition to those already announced, the CRD/Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) negotiations may result in additional requisition increases: https://cupe.ca/capital-regional-district-workers-bc-reach-tentative-agreement).
Homeowner assessments could also impact SSI’s CRD tax requisition. Gary noted that in 2022, Salt Spring property assessments had outpaced other CRD communities, resulting in an increased tax requisition for shared regional costs. As property sales have slowed and prices also seem to have dropped slightly, we will have to wait until our final assessment early next year to assess the implications for our CRD tax increase for 2023.
Switching gears to our new LCC, the bylaw establishing it, Bylaw 4507: (https://www.crd.bc.ca/docs/default-source/legislative-pdf/referendums/2022-ssi-local-community-commission-(bylaw-4507)/bylawno-4507.pdf?sfvrsn=8745abcd_4), was approved by a significant majority of voters in our local election, October 15, 2022.
CRD staff will submit a report clarifying some of the logistics required to establish this LCC to the December 14, 2022 CRD Board meeting. As always, this report will be posted as part of the agenda package on the CRD website: (https://www.crd.bc.ca/crd-home) by Friday, December 9, 2022. This report will likely confirm date of the election of Local Commissioners, expected in the spring of 2023, as well as other LCC-related details.
Concerning the mechanics of this election, it will follow the Local Government Act requirements: (https://www.bclaws.gov.bc.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/r15001_00). CRD staff will manage this election while also hiring an Elections BC returning officer. While mail-in voting will be allowed as usual, the process can be complicated. It is expected that most voters will vote in person at designated polling places.
Elections are expensive - this one expected to cost taxpayers $60,000. This will be a one-time expense as subsequent LCC elections will be held during our normal local election cycle every four years. For this first time, two voter approval processes were required - the first to gain voter approval to establish the LCC and then an election for LCC Commissioners.
What if a Local Commissioners resigns during his/her term? Legislation offers three options to fill this vacancy:
Hold an election;
Offer mail-in voting only instead of an in-person voting opportunity; or
Appoint a Local Commissioner: After a 30 day public advertisement period soliciting public interest, and on considering recommendations of the Local Community Commission, the CRD Board can appoint a qualified individual for the remainder of the vacated term.
While a vacant position may also be legally allowed for a short period, Gary cautioned us that this would result in an LCC with an even number of members (three Local Commissioners and our Electoral Director), presenting the very real possibility of problematic tie votes.
A participant asked whether this LCC had been approved for a limited period with a Sunset Clause, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunset_provision). We learned from Gary that this LCC was approved indefinitely but that the bylaw establishing it could be repealed by referendum at some future date. He also noted that, were Salt Spring to incorporate, this LCC would be dissolved, replaced by a city council.
As many of us know, the four island-wide volunteer commissions, Liquid Waste, PARC, Community Economic Sustainability, and Transportation, will be dissolved, the services they oversee transferred to the LCC. As each commission has recently approved their Five-Year Capital Plans, staff will work with Local Commissioners to help them understand and adhere as much as possible to these commission-established plans
Additionally, while the details of this dissolution have yet to be determined, it is Gary’s hope that these volunteer commissions will also have an opportunity to provide Local Commissioners a summary of experiences and issues that may not be captured in these Capital Plans. It is Gary’s hope that this will be accomplished by both face-to-face meetings as well as briefing documents from each commission.
When Gary was asked whether having an LCC will help Salt Spring access grants not available to us as an unincorporated region, Gary replied that we currently have access to virtually every grant available to municipalities. And, we have recently been very successful, bringing many millions of dollars into our community through these grant opportunities. The only exception is Improvement Districts, which are not eligible for the infrastructure grants. Were we to incorporate, Improvement Districts would be forced to dissolve become part of a municipality, but not so with the creation of an LCC.
NOTE: Surprisingly, even Fire Districts that have joined local governments are ineligible for infrastructure grants for firehall construction. Recently, though, fire infrastructure projects have become eligible for Community Works - gas tax - funding: (https://www.ubcm.ca/funding-programs/canada-community-building-fund/community-works-fund0. Gary allocated $1 million of our gas tax funding to help fund our new firehall. CRD also negotiated the transfer of the Ganges firehall for a nominal cost.
While Bylaw 4507 gives the LCC authority over many of our local services, including all the services currently assigned to the four island-wide commissions, it does not include all local CRD services. After some experience with this LCC, Gary will work to expand this number to include all these local services, including gas tax funding.
How can additional services be added to the authority of the LCC? One way is to seek voter approval, which some might argue is more democratic, but it would also be possible for the CRD Board to request the province to approve this expansion of services, thus avoiding the costs of another referendum.
A participant asked whether additional local CRD staff would be required to support Local Commissioners. When the bylaws establishing and defining Salt Spring’s LCC were presented to the CRD Board July 13, 2022, a staff report was presented estimating that 1.2 full-time equivalent administrative support staff would be required for our LCC: (https://crd.ca.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=31535&GUID=E685D265-40F1-4415-BB04-728D9191CEF4). Gary has repeatedly disputed this estimate. He continues to maintain that the dissolution of the current island-wide commissions will free up enough staff time to support our LCC. He did, however, note that Local Commissioners may determine that more staff, such as another engineer and/or engineering tech or a project manager, may be needed to move CRD projects forward more quickly. Any such budgetary recommendations would be made by the elected CRD Director and other Local Commissioners.
A participant asked: How will we know if this LCC is successful? It was agreed that, while metrics to quantify successes/failures would be great, even well-funded municipalities do not seem to regularly employ these metrics. Without quantitive data, what can we use to evaluate its performance?
Significantly-increased democracy and transparency in our decision-making with voters selecting their Local Commissioners and invited to watch their discussions and decisions.
Increased speed getting important projects done*.
Better decisions made from an island-wide perspective rather than the siloed approach of our current appointed commissions.
Potentially greater effectiveness of elected Local Commissioners to advocate with provincial agencies such as the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI), BC Housing, and Islands Heath, to name a few.
* But it was noted the elected dictatorship of an Electoral Director could be faster than democracy :).
Speaking of advocacy, the conversation temporarily shifted to frustrations over our roads and the difficulty getting them painted and swept when needed. Will an LCC be more successful working with MoTI to - together - identify our top priorities and get them addressed? Stay tuned. . . .
As our time together drew to a close, it was clear that there was a lot of information that we knew about an LCC. And, that there were many, many questions that can only be answered through experience with this LCC and assessment of what works and what doesn’t. It appeared that participants at this ASK Salt Spring gathering - even those who had clearly-opposed an LCC adoption - were cautiously optimistic and very interested to see how we proceed crafting this Made on Salt Spring approach to our CRD service delivery.
Thanking Gary for his hard work, willingness to listen, answer our questions, and spend these hours every month with us, some of us left while others stayed to get our free radon test kits**. (Thanks, Gary!)
**Did you miss your opportunity to get your free Radon Test Kit? (https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/health-risks-safety/radiation/radon.html). You can collect your kit from Islands Trust this week or come to ASK Salt Spring November 25: Rob Pingle will join us at 1:00 to offer you any of the remaining 100 test kits.
Please join us Friday, November 25, 11-1, to welcome BC Ferries Managers to discuss our ferry system.
Please join us at our NEW LOCATION - the *Lobby of the Middle School:
*From Rainbow Road, turn right (just after the School Board building if coming from Lower Ganges) and drive up the hill where you can park. (If the parking lot is full, you may have to park lower on the hill near Mahon Hall. You can also park on Park Drive.)
Enter the building on the left as you look at it, and you will see the Lobby to the right as soon as you enter.
See you Friday, November 25, 11-1 in the Middle School Lobby to welcome BC Ferries Managers!
What would you like to ask them?
Please tell us about your priorities for Salt Spring ferry services for the next ten years.
How do you propose to resolve the safety concerns on Fulford Hill?
What about Vesuvius Bay Road?
What plans do you have in place to ensure that the sailing cancellations that impacted Salt Spring last summer will not be repeated?
Do you think Salt Spring will get two Crofton-Vesuvius ferries and two on the Fulford route during the summer as proposed?
What can you tell us about the Fulford and Vesuvius terminals?
Please join us this Friday, November 25 for a rich conversation with BC Ferries Managers. Remember: the Middle School Lobby!
***New fundraising option***
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Our Partners. . . .
Country Grocer through Save-a-Tape and Gift Cards, Island Savings’ Simple Generosity grant, and Institute for Sustainability, Education, and Action (I-SEA).
A heartfelt Thank-You!