I have had no greater honour in my life than being elected to Kamloops City Council. City councillors get to discuss and work on an amazing range of issues. And, on your behalf, we all have the ability to influence policy and action. There are no “backbenchers”.
I have been doubly honoured by my local government colleagues across the province to have been elected to the board of the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM). Every September, there is a lot of media attention on the UBCM because that is the month of the annual convention.
It is quite an amazing convention actually - the one place, every year, where all levels of government, all BC political parties, many companies and non profits converge. At my first UBCM convention in 2006, I was struck by the amazing diversity and richness of the event. The whole province is represented at a UBCM convention.
The UBCM, however, exists for much more than a convention. The UBCM board and staff represent BC local governments in a multi-faceted relationship with Provincial Government. We also facilitate the sharing of information among BC local governments.
I just arrived back from our last board meetings in Victoria. Along with our own meetings, we also met with provincial MLAs and Ministers. We highlighted the issues of mental health and policing, land based spill preparedness and response, and funding for infrastructure projects.
Also serving on the UBCM board from Kamloops is Councillor Marg Spina. Additionally, Thompson Nicola Regional District Vice Chair Willow McDonald was elected to the board last year. They have been amazing colleagues who thoughtfully and actively participate.
The three of us also serve on the UBCM First Nations Relations Committee. The committee has been active in promoting reconciliation efforts that recognize the great wrongs done to Aboriginal Peoples and foster a desire for us all to move forward in a good way.
With recent court decisions, it seems pretty clear to me that all levels of government, and those we represent, will have to work very hard to create and maintain strong and positive relationships with BC’s Aboriginal Peoples. Their inherent rights can no longer be ignored.
For more on the work of the UBCM, visit www.ubcm.ca.
Mentorship panel at a recent elected officials seminar in Richmond BC
There is no one job description for being a city councillor. It's something we all do differently. I'm entering into my third term on city council but I still see a huge value in learning. I want to continue to improve my service.
So, I've attended the training made available by Kamloops city staff, the staff at the Thompson Regional District, and by the BC Local Government Leadership Academy (LGLA). Typically, at the start of a council term, various trainings are organized and promoted.
I have recently been appointed to the Local Government Leadership Academy board and will be helping host elected official seminars this coming week in Kelowna. (pdf file link)
Training for local government officials, thus, has been even more in my mind.
A couple of reflections here:
1) It's an incredible opportunity, honour, and responsibility to be elected by your community to serve. There are pitfalls and risk to be aware of. I feel these should be framed in the overall context of all the amazing contributions one can make on a council and the incredible variety of council success stories. Knowing about pitfalls and risks is useful. These hopefully don't scare people into a state of not acting in the best interests of their community.
2) There are many different ideas and philosophies that can underpin a successful term on a council. In the trainings I have attended, I have tried not to take the presentations as exact road maps to success but, rather, as ideas to think about and assess in developing my own set of ideas and philosophies and way of operating.
3) We spend a lot of time learning the nuts and bolts of local government. I'm really happy when we also spend time on making friends with colleagues and building relationships. My first elected official seminar was nine years ago and I've still got great friends all across BC that I met there. We are resources for each other.
4) People's learning styles differ. And some of the training I've attended as been, to be blunt, really boring. I think it is so important to cater to different ways of information absorption and to think carefully about how to make all presentations as engaging and as interesting as possible. I find colorful anecdotes, real life examples, and variations in voice inflections quite useful in this regard. I especially favour table dialogue and discussion so participants can learn from each other.
Photo Credit: Donovan Cavers (from facebook)
Want to thank all those who votes in November's civic election and to also thank all those who supported me! I am truly humbled and am also very excited to serve Kamloops during the next 4 years.
Today, was the first real council meeting of the term. We had an inaugural meeting last night, which consisted of a swearing in, a couple of speeches, and a reception. Very good time but no reports, motions, and voting. That started today.
We talked a bit about water today. Tony Brumell had the first public inquiry of this term with a question about water meter billing. Mayor Milobar talked about the reasoning behind block rates as opposed to "from the first drop". Happy to elaborate further to anyone interested. We also talked about the energency water intake for the community, sited on the North Thompson River in Westsyde. This is a approximately 9 millon dollar project for an intake that will only be activated in an emergency. But, if we have water contamination in our main water intake through something like a derailment of tanker cars, I feel the community expectation is that we will have backup water.
We also are planning two major road projects that will overlap somewhat next year - the Overlanders bridge resurfacing and the Columbia St improvements which will feature more left hand turn lanes into the downtown core. This is a project we have been working on for some time. Going forward, I'd like to examine such project more carefully for implications for greenhouse gas emissions and for community support.
If you travel along the bridge or along Columbia Street by the hospital on a regular basis, let me put in a plug for carpooling or taking transit, especially if you think these options might work for you but you haven't tried them yet. The construction disruption will be less with less vehicles navigating the impacted areas.
I'm also thankful to my colleagues for electing me to the board of the Thompson Nicola Regional District. I am looking forward to my first full year as a board director and learning about and contributing to our greater region.
It almost feels like many light years away, that farmers market forum. We've had a youth forum, a university mixer, mixers in Aberdeen and Heffley Creek, an arts forum, two seniors forums, and we've still got two or three organized events left.
In the meantime, I've been doorknocking and visiting businesess. I really enjoy these activities and almost always feel more energized at the end than at the beginning.
I would really urge people to get out and vote and encourage their friends, family, neighbours, etc, etc to do the same.
Remember, you don't need to vote for all 8 council seats and all 5 school trustee seats. You will vote for one mayoral candidate and you can vote for up to 8 council candidate and up to 5 school trustee candidates. You can vote for just one person if you wanted to.
Today started with my regular Sunday morning run with the Kamloops RunClub. A smaller group of great folks out today as many of our running mates were in Vancouver today running either 10k or a half marathon in the Rock and Roll series races down there.
We have a really great time running together and we joke and chat and support each other. I was getting some ribbing that, if I gave anybody else a hard time today, I would be losing votes!
(Quick digression to note that yesterday, I hosted a community walk / run / campaign fundraiser that went off really well. We had 33 people walk / run either 2.5k or 5k. So many of my RunClub friends helped, especially Lisa Imeson. That's Lisa, Wayne from Runners Sole (such a great help), and me in the photo above)
After going home for a shower and some r&r, I then went to the Sikh temple on Ord Rd. Got there a bit later than I would have liked but still had a great lunch and good conversations with many friends there.)
I went to Home Depot to buy a mallet for sign pounding :)
The rest of the day, campaign wise, was trying to schedule my next couple of weeks so I am bit more organized. And answering the downtown Kamloops candidate survey and a few emails.
Today started bright and early at the Kamloops Farmers Market and a traditional marker of the start of the civic election campiagn - the Council of Canadians Candidates forum.
I didn't sleep all too great the night before and got a bit spooked by the short time to cover a lot of points. Candidates were asked to answer this question in one minute:
"In view of the fact that the United Nations has declared water to be a human right, how would you address this right in your capacity as Mayor/Councillor vis-a-vis the proposed Ajax mine, public drinking fountains, metered water, pollution through cosmetic pesticide use, or any other capacity?"
Out of respect to the organizers, I tried to specifically each of the 4 specific issues they raised with regards to water use. I forgot one point in my opening statement.
I hopefully made up for this by adding the point I missed in my response to the first question I was asked - which was on community wide wifi. I was also asked a question about the wages of city manager and whether I felt they were too high. I support easier access to community wide wifi and I don't think city managers' wages are too high given the service they have provided the community generally and through me as community representative.
I was humbled by many strong supporters helping me at my "listening booth". I got asked about the possibility of opening up the drop and shop at the landfill, the desireability of paving the oak hills dike, and the days for advanced voting in the election.
I had a bit of nap in the afternoon and then responded to some questions for the TRU Omega newspaper ( I hope I got these in under the wire, was a bit later than I hoped because of my nap). Lots of questionnaires to fill out this election. More than before. This is a good thing, I believe, but workload has increased.
Went to the Diwali function put on by the Kamloops Hindu Cultural Assocation this evening. Great event. Wonderful entertainment. Nice to see a lot of people and to sit with Nancy Bepple and MP Cathy McLeod (along with our friends and spouses.
Was approached at the dinner about the possibilty of the city hiring more Indo-Canadian citizens. This come up from time to time.
As I am sure happens to other council incumbents (especially), I got asked again when I will run for Mayor. I would love to run one day but am quite happy with our current Mayor.