Reminder - Grant-In-Aid funding application deadline is April 10th. See my previous post for details and the application form.
It has been over 7 years now that I have had the honour or representing Cortes Island on the boards of the Strathcona Regional District, Comox Strathcona Waste Management, and the Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital District. Over the last many, I have focused my efforts on facilitating community conversations; finding the topics that needed our attention, connecting people and groups to take on new initiatives and hosting forums. In the last year, I have been turning my attention more outward into our region through my participation on regional committees and boards. Although there are always great new Cortes ideas that will need my attention, it seems that so much has been initiated recently that needs time to get off the ground. So I start below with this spring's news about a few Cortes specific issues (funds, parks, treaty and taxation) and then share with you some of how I have been representing our interests at a broader regional level (multi-regional government, health network, library board and first nations committee). Thanks for reading!Whaletown Community Club gets Gas Tax $$
The Whaletown Community Club has been awarded $42,720 from the Strathcona Regional District (SRD) Cortes Gas Tax fund for energy retrofits to the Gorge Hall. The first Cortes Gas Tax grant was awarded to the Southern Cortes Community Association for a similar project and the Gorge Hall has now followed suit. This project is to install an air-source heat pump which will get the hall off propane heat and provide a more stable, efficient, cost-effective and green heating source. The funds will also be used to install thermo pane windows and improve insulation. After having given up on hosting winter meetings in the Gorge Hall due to the frigid temperatures, I hope to be able to return to using it for smaller gatherings that don't generate the body heat of dances! I continue to extend my gratitude to my excellent gas tax committee consisting of Frances Guthrie, Rod Lee and Carries Saxifrage. They provide excellent feedback and continue to hone the evaluation criteria to get the very best out of applications. If you have a community capital infrastructure project that needs funding and that fits in the following categories, please contact me. (active transportation infrastructure, short-sea shipping, broadband connectivity, public transit, drinking water, wastewater, solid waste, community energy systems — generation or efficiency, sport, recreational and cultural infrastructure, tourism infrastructure and disaster mitigation)
Cortes Parks Naming
I am pleased to announce the names of the island's two newest parks. It comes as no surprise that the Whaletown Commons Park has been named just that. Community input was unanimous on this name and so it will be. The wee park by the ferry was not as obvious. We had been using the working names 'Ferry Park' given that it is right next to the ferry and 'Byers Road Park' which is the name of the undeveloped road where we have made a trail to the beach. A few community members and groups offered names, some of which referred to the settler history of the bay and others referred to the whales... We chose 'Whale's Rest Park' offering a less than horrific nod to the many whales that were indeed laid to their final 'rest' on that beach in the late 1800s. Thank-you to everyone who offered name suggestions. We did reach out to the Klahoose First Nation soliciting their input and will always remain open to changing or adding to the names of any Cortes parks if names are offered. See the following links for full details: http://srdws.strathconard.ca/Agenda_minutes/SRDBoard/BRD/10-Feb-16/20160201-BOARD-Byers-Road-Ferry-Park_1.PDF
and http://srdws.strathconard.ca/Agenda_minutes/SRDBoard/BRD/10-Feb-16/20160126-BOARD-Bylaw-242-Whaletown-Commons_COMBINED.pdf Cortes Parks Workplan
This year, while we are still paying off the debt from the purchase of the Whaletown Commons Park, we are focusing our parks attention on investigatory and planning matters given that we have just about no funds beyond our bare bones staffing and parks maintenance contracts. In addition to signing the commonly used beach accesses and developing another couple this year, we will continue to work with the Cortes Community Forest, the Klahoose First Nation and other private land owners to secure a network of trails that connect Cortes from shore to shore to shore. We also want to continue the investigation with, Klahoose , the Community Forest and the Province around securing the long-term community use of two key pieces of unallocated 'Crown' lands - the south tip of Cortes and the piece immediately adjacent to the Whaletown Commons Park. We will also be looking into the use or potential sale of one small piece of inactive parkland on Sutil Point Road. For more information on the parks and planning work plans for all areas see: http://srdws.strathconard.ca/Agenda_minutes/SRDBoard/BRD/24-Mar-16/20160318-BOARD-2016-2017-Work-Plan_1.PDFTla'amin First Nation Treaty Land Removed from the SRD
The Province of B.C. has revised the boundaries of the Strathcona Regional District to exclude the Tla'amin (Sliammon) First Nation's former reserve 'Paukeanum' on the south west side of Cortes Island. This land, at least for the time being, will not be in any regional district. The Tla'amin First Nation have a Final Agreement through the BC Treaty Process and this land on Cortes is now Treaty Land. I extend my very best wishes to the Tla'amin regarding their future chosen use of this land, and all their other treaty lands. Settling a treaty is a huge piece of work and I commend their efforts. See more at http://srdws.strathconard.ca/Agenda_minutes/SRDBoard/BRD/24-Mar-16/20160317-BOARD-Revise-LP-for-SRD_1.PDF2016 Budget... and therefore Taxation
Taxes are going up this year. I have done everything within reason to keep taxes very stable for the last seven years. The grand sum tax increase, as best as I can calculate, between all the Regional District services, including Hospital and Solid Waste, will be about $45 per average household. The Strathcona Regional District property taxes for Cortes will go up by $16 for the average property, that is $704 this year up from $688 last year. The core SRD tax rate (which excludes Fire Protection, Refuse Disposal and Library tax) has increased this year by $6 per $100,000 assessed residential property value from $101 to $107 per $100,000. This is due to two main factors. The first is a modest increase in most of the main departments including parks, planning, refuse disposal, emergency preparedness, and administration. The second is an increase in overall Cortes property assessments when other parts of the region saw stable numbers or even a decline, which leaves Cortes paying a slightly greater share of regional costs that are apportioned based on assessment.
The Cortes fire department's budget has also gone up a little this year, and that was after anticipating a decrease. As it turns out, they have been falling short on core training and equipment requirements, and will now catch up. They are also choosing to offer a stipend to their firefighters who provide relief to the fire chief when he is off duty. Two external local government boards that dictate their budgets two us, namely your 911 service and your library system, have also both modestly increased their budgets this year.
For more information on the Strathcona Regional District budget see: http://srdws.strathconard.ca/Agenda_minutes/SRDBoard/BRD/28-Jan-16/20160121-Yates-2016-2020-Financial-Plan-Regional-Services-COMBINED.pdf
, and http://srdws.strathconard.ca/Agenda_minutes/SRDBoard/BRD/24-Mar-16/Final-Budget-Binder-Package-Mar-18-2016.pdf
You may have noticed a new tax category on your tax bill in the last couple years - and that is for solid waste. Our plan at the Comox Strathcona Waste Management board is to increase this amount over the next few years to help pay for our increasing costs, mostly associated with the price of burying garbage - to be blunt! Cortes has paid for its share of solid waste through the SRD 'Refuse Disposal' tax noted in the attached table. This costs the average Cortes home about $15 per year. In addition to this, the Comox Strathcona Waste Management board has implemented an increase in taxation to $9.68 per $100,000 in 2016 and increasing to a stable $29.05 per $100,000 for 2018 and beyond. This plan demonstrates significant long-term benefits. Long term debt requirements are reduced by over $14.7 million. For the full budget document visit http://agendaminutes.comoxvalleyrd.ca/Agenda_minutes/CSWMBoard/RSW/10-Mar-16/c_20160302_Oakman_FP_2016_2020_for_adoption.pdf
And finally, the tax rate for the Comox Strathcona Hospital Board is stable at $81.45 per $100,000 assessed residential property value for a regional average of $241 per household. For the full Hospital budget see http://agendaminutes.comoxvalleyrd.ca/Agenda_minutes/HospitalBoard/RHD/11-Feb-16/e_20160205_Oakman_SR_2016_recommended_budget.pdfAVICC Executive - Convention with First Nation Emphasis
I am an elected executive member of our regional local government association (Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities) where I have offered a clear voice about the need to educate ourselves as local elected politicians about our shared history with First Nations as well as our current responsibilities for engagement. This year, I am very proud to say that our convention has a strong First Nations focus with Chief Robert Joseph as our keynote speaker, an 'Understanding the Village' workshop (as was led by Kathi Camilleri here on Cortes a few years ago at Klahoose), and a legal workshop on the relationship between Local Government and First Nations. For more information about the AVICC and our upcoming convention, please see www.avicc.ca
Chief Dr. Robert Joseph, O.B.C. is a true peacebuilder whose life and work are examples of his personal commitment. A Hereditary Chief of the Gwawaenuk First Nation, Robert has dedicated his life to bridging the differences brought about by intolerance, lack of understanding and racism at home and abroad. To learn more about Chief Robert Joseph visit: www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6LkNAR44mI
The 'Understanding the Village Workshop' is an experiential workshop that takes participants through the process of creating a pre-contact village before introducing the rationale, actions and effects of colonization. It then looks at how to integrate this knowledge into our work, families, community and how we move forward from a place of deeper understanding. Interviews with former participants can be viewed here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vCQC-9DRLc
and here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3s29Bu9S0Qs
SRD First Nations Relations Committee
Over the past 3 years, I have been advocating at the Strathcona Regional District board that we learn more about our shared past with aboriginal people of this place as well as our modern day responsibilities as government and community leaders, both legal and moral. I have put before the board reports from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and suggested ways in which we could advance this interest, as summarized in my report to the board found here http://srdws.strathconard.ca/Agenda_minutes/SRDBoard/BRD/13-Jan-16/Director-Anderson-_TRC-2016_COMBINED.pdf
I am cautiously optimistic to share with you that we have, at my recommendation, established a First Nations Relations Committee of the SRD board to which I have been elected chair. The purpose and mandate of the Committee is to investigate the matter of First Nations relations within the Strathcona Regional District and to advise the Board of its findings including: to undertake research into the methods being used within the Regional District and elsewhere for improving relations with First Nations and to make recommendations to the Board with respect to improving or strengthening relationships with First Nations.Strathcona Community Health Network
Community health care continues to be one of my top focuses, and to that end I remain very involved in the formation and early growth of the Strathcona Community Health Network on the regional governance committee. The community health network brings together people from wide-ranging backgrounds, roles and perspectives to take action on issues that impact health and well-being in our communities. We intend to focus on complex issues, up-stream issues that will be better addressed by a collaborative and multi-disciplinary approach. For more information, visit http://www.strathconard.ca/community-health-network
and watch our first video at https://vimeo.com/mmsislandhealth/review/140374240/c82100fe18VIRL Executive Committee
The Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) system is governed and paid for through a federation of all the local governments on Vancouver Island (with the exception of the Victoria area), Central Coast and Haida Gwaii. Each local government elects a member to sit on the VIRL board, and this year it is my turn. http://virl.bc.ca/about-us/library-board
I immediately joined the Executive Committee which is a subset of the board that meets more regularly to review issues more in-depth and to make time-sensitive decisions. If you have thoughts, suggestions or concerns about our regional library system or the Cortes library please let me know.
Well, that's a wrap for the end of March, 2016. If you have read to the end, I commend you!
Please don't hesitate to contact me about anything you have read here or anything else on your mind that is relevant to my position.
I wish you all the very best for the spring.
Regional Director - Cortes Island