Donna Macdonald: Bio
I discovered Nelson in 1972, and moved here as quickly as I could, drawn by the natural and built beauty, and the warm people.
Since then, I’ve worked in many jobs — labourer, forest technician, volunteer coordinator, office assistant, newspaper editor, freelance writer and technical editor. I’ve also been involved with several non-profit organizations, ranging from the Women’s Centre and the Rotary Club to Nelson CARES Society and Kootenay Co-op Radio.
All of this work and volunteer experience has given me a broad knowledge of our community, although I am always learning more. There’s a lot going on in this little city.
Currently my husband and I operate a home-based consulting business. We have two adult daughters — one in Campbell River and one in Germany. No grandkids though!
In 1988, after returning from two years doing forestry work as a volunteer in southern Africa, I successfully ran for Nelson city council. Since then I’ve been re-elected five times and served more than 15 years.
Why do I keep running? Because, I’ve learned that local government is so important — the decisions made around the council table are felt very directly and often very immediately. It’s an honour to have a role in building our community, and I take the work seriously.
I’ve learned a lot about city issues and the community, about making good decisions and how to get things done. I’m keen to learn more, because this community is full of surprises and passion, and I love it dearly.
Top 3 issues
1. Housing affordability. This issue affects so many people — the homeless, entry level workers, young families, and seniors. It affects local businesses that need employees who can find a decent and affordable place to live.
We need a variety of solutions to meet a variety of needs for safe, attainable housing. And it’s often not enough just to house someone — they may require ongoing support to be successful, and funding that is another challenge.
The reality is that there are no longer big bags of money coming from the federal and provincial governments to build and operate housing projects. It’s all about partnerships — involving both the public and private sector. And that makes projects incredibly complicated and time-consuming to develop.
That’s why the Nelson Housing Forum, which I currently chair, is an important step. It brings most of the key players to the table, for learning and for finding opportunities to collaborate.
2. Transit. We’re going to be talking transit a lot in the coming years.
Like most cities, we’re struggling with the cost of transit and how to deliver the very best service we can. Council made some changes recently that reduced costs (e.g., discontinuing poorly-used runs). I think discontinuing Sunday service was a mistake and that is now being reviewed to see if we can find a community-based alternative.
Coming down the road in 2012 is a new regional transit plan that should create efficiencies and flexibility. For example, a regional bus, instead of sitting for a couple hours, could be re-deployed on runs in the city.
Also coming in 2012 is a review of Nelson’s system. We have some ideas from BC Transit about a new approach. I’m counting on lots of input from transit users (and potential users) as we try to make the system effective and affordable for everyone.
3. The Future. Over the past term, we completed several projects in support of a sustainable future. Within city operations we made investments in energy efficiency that are already saving us money, and reducing our GHG emissions.
We also did a lot of planning. Now we must integrate all the recommendations and thoughtfully plan the implementation. No plans on shelves if we want to purposefully create a secure future.
We’re progressing well with our long-term infrastructure upgrades, ensuring they’re properly designed to adapt to climate changes, such as the projected increase in flood events. In fact, everything we do should be seen through a climate change lens.
And we need to think carefully about our economy. Many places are counting on tourism; that’s a part of the solution but it’s a fickle one as we saw this summer. The green economy, that helps to build a more resilient, energy-efficient community, needs our concerted attention.