Local community commission idea explored – Gulf Islands Driftwood

Salt Spring Islanders will soon learn a lot more about the local community commission (LCC) governance model, which will likely go to a referendum in the fall local elections.

A move from a single director to a director plus four elected members overseeing Capital Regional District (CRD) operations on the island is being considered by a group of Salt Spring Islanders and advocated by the current director of the island’s CRD, Gary Holman. What an LCC might look like, along with the benefits and unintended consequences, was discussed at an ASK Salt Spring virtual town hall on Feb. 25 with 21 people in attendance.

An LCC expands representation and makes relationships with local government more transparent, Holman said. Discussions and votes on CRD issues would take place in public meetings, whereas now many decisions, including the distribution of aid grants and gas tax funding, are made by the director and the staff.

An LCC can be anywhere from a simple advisory body to extensive delegated authority, depending on the regulations that establish it. All powers and authorities of a regional district, except passing bylaws and final approval of items such as budgets and financial plans, can be exercised by an LCC, explained Brian Webster , a member of the Salt Spring Parks and Recreation Commission and one of the residents working on an LCC working paper.

“In my opinion, it is a pointless exercise if it is simply a question of creating a large advisory commission either to add, which would be the worst case, or to replace a group of current advisory commissions,” he said. -he declares. “The whole point of doing this is to get the people of Salt Spring Island on Salt Spring Island — a diverse cross-section of democratically elected people — to make more decisions.” Webster added that a “timid version” of an LCC is “just another layer of local government” and would not be acceptable to voters.

Implementing an LCC could involve consolidating some of the commissions that oversee economic development, parks and recreation, transportation and liquid waste disposal on the island, Holman said. As the largest and most complicated commission, Holman said there was a benefit to keeping the parks and recreation commission. He also wouldn’t support consolidation of the entities overseeing the island’s sewer systems and water districts, as they already have a group of elected commissioners to represent their ratepayers and he wouldn’t want to eliminate that relationship.

Opposition to an LCC could come from residents who strongly supported incorporation and who may see it as defusing interest in incorporation, said Linda Adams, a former Islands Trust CAO who is also working on the document. of work.

An LCC avoids one of the biggest concerns of incorporation, which takes on the cost and liability of the island’s road network. Adams pointed out that the island’s roads are 25.1 meters long per capita, 2.3 times the BC average.

“Our city government, if we had created one, would be absolutely overwhelmed with some of these costs and do nothing else,” she said.

Holman agreed that with extreme weather events becoming more frequent, the cost of emergency repairs could financially inundate a municipality.

Although large communities are generally not the ones that establish LCCs, the challenges of incorporation and the unique circumstances Salt Spring finds itself in with a large land area and small population could be things that make the LCC an option. a “made in Salt Spring solution,” Adams said.

Questions were raised about how an LCC would impact and interact with the Islands Trust. This is a relationship mandated by legislation, Adams explained, with the Islands Trust Act setting out the trust’s role in planning and regulating land use as well as its relationship with regional districts. . Although no legislation will change, Adams said it may become easier for the Trust to collaborate and coordinate with the LCC as a single body rather than several separate commissions.

“I’m concerned about the potential for whims, for example, land use issues,” Holman said, so it’s critical to ensure that the existing relationship is explicitly reflected in the settlement settlement. LCC.

Keeping the Islands Trust’s land use decisions separate from the CRD’s service decisions has some advantages, Adams said, such as avoiding pressure from municipalities to increase development density to pay for police services, roads and other costs.

“Our system that keeps these things separate is part of what kept us from getting sucked onto this train and going down this path of increasing development in order to provide services to us,” she said.

An LCC can encourage more women to run for office, Mairi Welman said, “because women like to collaborate and a lot of women are terrified of running for office right now because of the toxicity of the drug. atmosphere. I think there is safety in numbers.

Holman noted that the chairs of all of the island-wide CRD commissions are currently women.

Ron Cooke argued for younger representation in a future LCC, as Salt Spring alumni might not face the same pressure as youngsters.

Nejmah Guermoudi said “diversifying voices and ensuring there is space for everyone” is a key concern in efforts to move towards unity on the island.

Holman argued for a modest stipend for elected LCC members, similar to what mayoral and council compensation might look like. Currently, Election Ward Directors have a base salary of $40,626 plus expenses, not including compensation for their roles on CRD boards.

A stipend, Adams said, would “hopefully allow people from all walks of life” to run.

Once completed, the discussion paper will be reviewed by the CRD and the province for accuracy before being released to the public.

Holman said an advisory committee would be set up to oversee the public consultation and unless there is overwhelming opposition, which he doesn’t expect, the question will be put to voters on October 15. . If passed, work would begin to form the LCC and members would be elected in 2023.