Summary: My personal perception of community opinion on the mine proposal is that it is very divided. I want to be very careful in deciding to take a position because I feel a great responsibility to explain whatever position I decide to take. I agree the proposed mine is very large and close to residences. I would like more information on how the mining company proposes to avoid or significantly mitigate impact. I also have been focused on the environmental assessment process. I think this process needs to win the trust of reasonable Kamloopsians. So, I am currently neither supportive or opposed to the mine proposal. I await more information and I will continue to add energy to the best environmental review possible. I do wonder if city council should take a position on the mine. Taking a position may show leadeship, but it also might exacerbate community divisions. These divisions might hamper council efforts on other very important initatives, like the new official community plan. Council has certainly been engaging with the mine proposal, without taking a yes/no position.
In detail: I've heard from lots of people who are asking city council to show leadership by taking a position right now either for or against the Ajax mine proposal. Here is one of the latest requests, forwarded quite a few times, from a gentleman named Rod Andrew. Rod wrote this letter to the Kamloops News. Here is the part of the letter that I have most often seen in my email box:
"So, here is my question: Why is our City Council staying out of the debate over the mine above Aberdeen? If the mine goes ahead, much of the work done by its predecessors will be tarnished or reversed. We will be at risk of becoming, once again, a dusty, noisy and, probably, smelly resource town. I suggest that councilors take a good look at Kamloops as it is today, thank the councils of yesterday, and take a stand to keep Kamloops the wonderful town it has become."
Rod believes the mine proposal should be rejected. He writes:
The mine is too big and too close. No amount of new data will change these two factors.
When I was campaigning for a seat on city council, and since I was elected, I have talked to many many people about the Ajax mine proposal. Based on these conversations, my personal perception is that community sentiment is close to 50/50 and there is a lot of passion in how people express their views on both sides. I want to tread very carefully because of the strong division of opinion on the mine proposal in our community. I feel if I take a position, I will need to be able to explain it very well and I will need to demonstrate that I have been thoughtful and balanced in my decisionmaking approach.
I respect the feelings of people who believe the mine is too big and close. I also respect the feelings of people who believe the mine will provide a much desired economic boost. Personally, I have thus far focused on two factors: impact and process.
I would agree the mine is large and very close to residences and schools but, for me to assess whether it is too close or too large, I personally feel I need to better understand the potential impact of it size and proximity. The mining company is currently drawing up plans that are meant to detail how negative impacts would be prevented or mitigated. I would like to understand those plans before considering whether I am for or against the proposal.
My understanding the BC Environmental Assessment office (BCEAO) process is that the BCEAO weighs potential negative impacts against potential positive impacts. I have asked many business people and economic development professionals about the current health and openness of Kamloops' economy. From what I can tell so far, our economy is fairly robust and Kamloops has a strong reputation as being business friendly. So, I am personally more focused on whether the mining company can prevent or very significantly mitigate negative impact. I know many people who have significant respiratory illnesses and who moved up to Aberdeen to escape the valley inversions. Given what I currently believe, I would not support the mine if I felt that their health would be further compromised by the mine operations. Similarly, ranchers and others closer to the mine site should be appropriately compensated for any loss of business or enjoyment of property.
With regards to process, I am talking specifically about the provincial and federal governments ability and desire to really scrutinize the plans that will be drawn up by the mining company. I have largely been quite impressed by the public consultation processes used thus far to solicit questions, concerns, and feedback. I have questions about the rigour of the environmental analysis. One question, for example: Will these be assessments by one expert or a diverse panel of experts? To me, it's critical that a reasonable Kamloopsian will look at the final approval or denial and say that the process was very thorough, totally fair and independent.
I think that city council has engaged in the debate by submitting a long list of questions about the proposal, by inviting the Executive Director of the BCEAO to present on the environmental assessment process, and from time to time commenting on things like the 3D model and a federal panel review.
Just a final reflection here on Rod's letter. He talks about a huge change in Kamloops in the past 40 years. If I could sum it up in a sentence, it would go something like "from a dusty, smelly mill town to a healthy, beautiful centre for sports and higher learning". I think you can respectfully oppose the mine based on your vision for the community. I have made a conscious decision no to do that because I believe that there are also a lot of people whose vision of Kamloops includes a very healthy natural resource sector. I personally see ways in which these two visions can happily co-exist.
Lastly, I wonder if council should take a position on the mine at all. Taking a position might means showing leadership, it also means potentially exacerbating division. We have a lot of other initiatives we have direct responsibility for, like creating a new official community plan. We may want to focus on ways to bring the community together as opposed to contributing to a division in an area where we don't have the final say.
Would love to hear your feedback and advice.
photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/treenaks/3304518306/
I sat in the gallery at the first Kamloops city council meeting of 2011 today. As usual, lots of interesting issues discussed, debated, and decided.
One decision that concerned me a bit was the decision by council to rescind a donation of a tractor to the Thompson Agriplex Society. From time to time, council donates surplus equipment to various community groups. The value of these pieces of equipment is typically in the $5000 range. In early 2010, city staff determined the value of a the tractor to question to be in the same range and asked city council to approve this donation to the Thompson Agriplex Society. In April 2010, council gave this approval.
The society, I understand, undertakes to promote agriculture in our region and has started to hold events and activities at the old correctional camp site in Raleigh. After they got news of the donation, society president Bernie Jensen writes:
The tractor and the loader attachment were both key to several activities that we had planned for this past year at the former Raleigh Corrections property. (letter to council from the society)
Unfortunately, after council approved the donation, city staff was offered a trade-in-value of $22 000 for the tractor. And, because of the $17 000 difference from the previously estimated value, city staff felt they should not donate the tractor and, today, city council agreed.
The Thompson Agriplex Society seems to have no fault in this situation. This seems to be a matter of city staff getting new information. City staff might have even made an error in the sense that the trade-in-value was not examined at the time of the original donation recommendation. Mistakes happen. And I understand, I think, city staff's hesitation to move forward with the donation.
I wonder, though, where this leaves the Agriplex Society. They thought they had a firm deal. They have made plans around the tractor and now do not have it available. It is certainly important for the city to be financially prudent but there is also this niggling feeling that a community group has been left high and dry. I wonder how this will impact the perception of city hall's trustiworthiness and fairness with community groups. Councillors Nancy Bepple and Marg Spina seemed to be concerned about this as well - and both Nancy voted against rescinding the donation I believe.
(Updated Jan 16th 2010: after reading media reports and watching the Council recording from the meeting, I have corrected the above: Nancy Bepple was the only council member to vote agains rescinding the donation.)
I would have also like to have seen city staff talk how about they may be able to avoid such a situation in the future - or at least talked about how situations like this are sometimes unavoidable.
Less than three minute update and thank you. Project to raise $100 000 moving along well. Would love your help!
My MA thesis involves exploring the relative effectiveness of various messages designed to encourage youth to vote. I started researching this topic back last May when my initial thesis proposal was due, but was not able to give it a great deal of time due to my coursework requirements (the other significant element of my MA). Now, the coursework is over for me and I get to concentrate on this one issue.
Although I am looking at a national perspective, I have perhaps found some interesting insights for people seeking to encourage youth to vote in our next civic election in Kamloops.
In 2008, I spent a few hundred dollars and a lot of my time campaigning for a council seat at TRU. Most people involved in my campaign think that effort was largely wasted and inefficient. I did meet some great young people, but not enough.
So what does my research so far suggest?
First, more youth might vote if it is made easier for them. If, for example, City Hall put a polling station or two at TRU or in other places youth congregate, more youth might participate in the election. Perhaps, we could look at providing free transit on election day.
Second, more youth might vote if government was more important to them and seemed more relevant to their lives. This sounds like a pretty obvious truth. The question becomes how can government assume more important and relevance. Non partisan education can help. Also, if the noble parts of government were given some prominence. The media often sees it's role as holding politicians to account, but if more attention was given to highlighting and praising good work, some of the research suggests young people ( and likely many adults) might be interested in paying more attention. There is too much emphasis on the bad things that happen in government.
Third, well organized outreach and mobilization campaigns may help. If a group of young people got together to encourage and, in fact, organize their friends and colleagues to go vote, it could have real impact.
My research is in a preliminary stage. Hopefully, will have more to say.
Photo Credit: pugetsoundphotowalks
I've been pondering some of the reasons why some people go crazy with Christmas lights on their homes. Almost every year, my wife and I drive around an evening or two and just enjoy all the different displays. These lights seem to be about more than showing off - and even more than simple beautification. Over the past years, I've heard a lot of people talk about the importance they place on having privacy in their homes. I think that is a really important need. Christmas lights, however, seem to send the exact opposite message. This is the one time of the year where many folks actually invite people to slow down and have a look. Putting up Christmas lights, in my humble opinion, is an act of invitation, an act of community and citizenship. This is indeed a most wonderful thing.
From my vantage point, by the end, very smart people started to babble on and forget their place. Taken as a whole, however, it was a very interesting Kamloops City Council meeting to watch live. I saw discussions today on:
Quite an afternoon. And sometimes very hard to watch the nerves fray around the Council table.
Hopefully, will have more details in the days ahead. Have a strong feeling that, from this one meeting, there will be blog post material for months to come
Haven't been blogging much this week. My family owns apartment buildings and our manager has been on his summer holiday. I've been covering for him. He'll be back on the job Monday.
While I've been more hands on in the buildings, I've been thinking about how much work managing well actually involves. We pride ourselves on offering a quiet and well maintained building. A good manager is key in this effort.
We don't always get it right but it gives me great personal satisfaction to see happy tenants and former tenants who are applying again for apartments.
I've been reminded of the good work our manager does for us, and look forward to seeing him back next week.
photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/striatic/33595045/
We're all over the provincial and national news websites today. Residents in Barnhartvale have been allowed back to their mobile homes, but the area remains on evacuation alert. Thought it might be a good time to point to some really important locally put together information.