Looking at the year ahead
Happy 2013 everyone! May your pleasures be many and your troubles few in this coming year, and may you be inspired to realize your resolutions, for yourself, your loved ones, and our world.
Down at City Hall, January turns our minds to budgeting. We look at the city’s books from 2012, and our long-term forecasting, and go over it all line by line, in consultation with the city’s managers and department heads. We hear from the organizations that receive city support. We look at our infrastructure, buildings and equipment, and our long-term plans for managing them. We set utility rates, based on the cost of delivering water, sewer and electricity, and picking up waste and recycling. Some time in early March, we finish putting dollar amounts beside each line item. Then, we take it all out to the community for feedback.
Public participation: It can be as simple as writing or emailing council asking us to engage in an issue, take a specific position, or undertake an action. It can mean deeper involvement in setting direction, as many of you did by helping develop our strategic plans over the last few years. It can mean coming to the city’s budget meetings, which are open to everyone, and include the opportunity to address council at the beginning. These full-day meetings, scheduled for January 23 and February 13 and 25, start at 9 a.m.
Frankly, few people attend budget meetings. The days are long and the content complex. So in early March, once the draft budget is ready, we’ll have an open house at the library. It is easy to criticize this approach, since it can feel like decisions have already been made and citizen comments don’t have an influence. But in reviewing the summary of comments from last year’s budget open house, I saw that council had discussed all your concerns, and taken action on many of them.
For example, you asked us to address taxation of former gas stations: while in Victoria for the Union of BC Municipalities convention we lobbied the premier and the environment and finance ministers to change the way these properties are assessed, and we’ll continue to follow this file. You expressed concern about water meters (pro and con). We opened up the conversation, and it will continue. You asked for more councillors to attend the open house in the afternoon, and we’ll do our best this year.
But generally, you’re happy. At least that’s the conclusion of our Ipsos Reid citizen satisfaction survey, conducted in May. Fully 96 per cent of respondents said the quality of life here is good or very good; 80 per cent were satisfied or very satisfied with municipal government and administration, and 88 per cent were satisfied or very satisfied with city services. There’s always room for improvement, but these results were nice to receive. Maybe they help explain why one only person (thank you!) has so far responded to my on-line survey (still happily taking anonymous comments at councilorbatycki.org).
Happily, one thing that lone respondent mentioned is going to finally happen. At the year’s final council meeting, we voted to support the skate park being built in Rosemont Park. Thanks to everyone who worked so hard to find a solution.
My wishes for the community in 2013 include getting that skate park built, movies in the Civic Theatre, and a revitalized Ward Street Place. I hope for more people riding our improved transit system, and walking on better sidewalks and footpaths.
I want clear plans for the transfer station lands, for dealing with invasive weeds, and for permanently housing of community archives: 402 Anderson Street, in its current condition, isn’t a long-term solution. I hope for good things to come from the housing committee. Affordable housing was by far the top-of-mind issue in the citizen survey.
I look forward to another year of all the issues that cross our desks, and to hearing from you about how we can keep Nelson vibrant, affordable, fun, safe and forward thinking. See you at the budget meetings! (And watch for budget tweets #NelsonBC).
Nelson city councillor Candace Batycki shares this space with her colleagues around the table.