In 2014 I ran on a simple platform of WATER, FARMS & PEOPLE. I believe that I followed those beliefs and here is a list of what I have accomplished in my 4 years in office.
WHAT I HAVE DONE LOCALLY
- Music in the park
I facilitated a group of Cobble Hill citizens who wanted more community events and so the Cobble Hill Event Society (CHES) was formed. Music in the park was their flag ship event. This event has brought thousands of people together over the last three years in the heart of Cobble Hill.
People of all ages have made new friends and the local businesses have thrived with the influx of people coming into the village. I also volunteered for the first two years as the sound technician.
- Farmers market (CHES)
Now in it’s 3rd year, the market has become it’s own self sustaining entity. Every Sunday there is fresh produce, local crafts and home made goods to buy. This is another community event that helped bring new people into Cobble Hill and strengthen our local economy.
- Homesteading fair (CHES)
With so many farmers and homesteaders in South Cowichan, CHES put together a two day event that featured free workshops, vendors and music. The event shut down part of Watson avenue and helped show how a pedestrian friendly space can give new life into our village.
- Design charette (DC)
While the Official community plan outlines building heights, set backs, etc… The look and feel of our village could be shattered with a 3 story, steel and glass concrete building. The Design Charette was a community process that outline a visual process of what could fit in a cute village core while at the same time addressed walk ways and walking paths.
Now with an OCP and DC in hand, we can move forward to the next step of building sidewalks/pathways that will allow us to be safe while walking through the village core.
BONUS: In the DC, a colour pallette was created to visually bring together the existing buildings too. Using that pallette, many of our businesses have spruced up their buildings and given a new bright look to Cobble Hill.
- Town hall meetings
I tried something new in 2018 that didn’t end very well but I still think it was a good exercise in community engagement. I planned monthly town hall meetings with specific topics in hopes of bringing new ideas forward. And while the attendance started off well, a small group of citizens concerned about other issues were able to refocus the intention of the meetings which made it difficult to address concerns. Despite my best efforts to accommodate this group, people who were put off by this, stopped coming to these meetings and I felt there diminishing returns on the process.
And while this could be a failure in some peoples eyes, I feel that there were lessons to be learned for future consultations and community engagement.
- Cobble Hill commons
This is now a gorgeous green space in the center of Cobble Hill Village. This crown jewel was made possible through gas tax grant money and didn’t cost taxpayers anything. This beautiful park was in part done due to the overwhelming success of music in the park and the hundreds of people that came out. We were also able to add 20 parking spots to the village at the same time!
- Fisher road water (Cobble Hill Aquifer Integrated Taskforce)
After years of knowing that there was nitrate contamination seeping into the Cobble Hill Aquifer, we were able to get the province to step up to the plate and form a taskforce to start confirming sources of contamination and enforcing the law against these polluters. This resulted in well testing and ongoing monitoring. With the Provincial Ministries at the table and new data coming in, the CVRD is working with the province to ensure industrial activities are in compliance.
The CVRD has struggled to get the Province to work with us and I am so excited to see us making headway in this very important realm. I would also like to publicly thank our CAO, Brian Carruthers, for leading the charge on this. It wouldn’t have been possible with out him.
- LNG Malahat
We now know that this project will not be happening but at the time of the proposal, there was tremendous public outcry over what the CVRD was going to do to stop the project. And while the community’s anxiety flared into anger, I put out a public youtube video explaining the situation, our powers as the CVRD and how we as politicians were equally concerned.
By no means do I believe I “stopped” the project but I can say that the response to the video was positive. People were happy to hear that we (politicians) were very aware of the situation and cared just as deeply. I put myself out there not for some political gain but because it felt like the right thing to do and too often it’s easier to hide in the shadows and wait for the chips to fall.
Cobble Hill has it’s own merchant group! The Cobble Hill United Merchants society brought together business owners in the village and surrounding area for social events and discussion. I worked with Anita (two hoots gallery) on the concept and there have been great ideas brought forward to me that I am now working with our Economic Development Officer to implement like highway signage and community block parties.
- Online videos / FB advertising
Coming from a background in video production, I used video and facebook to let you know what was happening around important issues and events such as the malahat LNG project, the closure of the RCMP station and the design charette.
I was also worked with my fellow directors to increase the communication budget for each director so that we could adequately fund newspaper ads, flyers or online marketing.
- Land matching farms
In 2018, I worked with our economic development officer, Amy Melmock, to bring in a group called “The Young Agrarians” who will pilot a Land Matching Program here in the valley. It will pair up new farmers with land that isn’t in use. It is my hope that we will see more young farmer start ups happen over the next year.
WHAT I HAVE DONE REGIONALLY
- Added New planning staff
Who is going to build new housing or create a large employment base when it takes 2 years to get things done?
I pushed for additional staffing in the planning department every year and was successful but we still have a ways to go. If we want to have the employment opportunities and housing for our residents, we need to resource our planning department properly.
- Changed AAP process
I have expressed in a video how I feel about the Alternate Approval Process and when it makes sense to use it. We previously followed the bare minimum requirements for AAP’s but now we have doubled the consultation time, added communication budgets to them and rigorously think through process for the board to really think it through.
- Increased communication budget
As I stated above, directors were allocated $1000 a year for communications. For reference, a half page ad in the citizen in $800.
Two years ago I proposed a pilot project of $5000 a year using reserves to see if directors found it worth while. Now, it’s a permanent fixture in our electoral area service budget.
- Kerry Skate park
I remember reaching out to Francis Kelsey and asking if I could put an ad in their school paper. They told me no politician had ever asked that! The result?
A group of teen skaters and bikers meeting with me to talk about how the skate park could be built out to be safer for little kids but advanced enough for the youth to expand their skills. Over the next year, you will see a safe place for youth expand into an inclusive space for families to sit safely and hang out.
- Asking questions of the chair
My first day at the board table turned heads with a simple request, “I’d like to ask question to those running for chair”
I still remember the packed board room bursting into rumbles at that point but now look… it’s done every year.
- Fake fiscal roll over
I lived in the finance department for the first part of my term to learn if there was “fat” to cut or “efficiencies” to be found but what I found was something more worrisome.
In an effort to keep taxes artificially low, politicians of past requested staff to “roll over” any surplus funds in budgets into the next year. This meant that there was little to no money in the reserves for when equipment broke or unforeseen circumstances happened. This is why some people would see huge spikes in their taxes some years.
I pushed to stop this irresponsible behavior and was successful in changing the CVRD policy. This will help reduce tax spikes and in conjunction with our asset management plan will ensure we have the long term in mind.