Salmo is one of several places that give residents a direct say over how Columbia Basin Trust monies are divided.

Bring on the dotmocracy

Does any community do a worse job of apportioning its Columbia Basin Trust funding than Nelson? If so, I’d like to see it.

Does any community do a worse job of apportioning its Columbia Basin Trust funding than Nelson? If so, I’d like to see it. On second thought, no I wouldn’t.

It’s not the outcome, but the process that stinks.

Contrast the scene Monday night in council chambers — where councillors struggled for over two hours to divide $126,400 among 50 groups and projects — with Salmo, where residents played a direct role in the decision-making and the whole thing was done in an hour.

Due to heavy oversubscription, there were bound to be winners and losers in Nelson, but at the end of the night, the sheer arbitrariness of the process and amount of horse-trading left me with a bad taste.

While councillors came armed with a matrix indicating their favourite projects, ultimately it only winnowed the applications with little or no chance of succeeding, and did nothing to resolve the thornier problem of who gets how much.

The decision-making process is messy, time consuming, and prone to last-minute wrangling. Council was more likely to fully fund projects discussed early in the evening while they were feeling generous than those that came up later as the well began to run dry. (Your opinion of the outcome will likely be influenced by whether your favourite group got what it asked for.)

In a unique approach, Nelson sets aside 35 per cent of its funding for cultural projects and empanels a local jury to deliberate on those applications and bring forth recommendations, which council can accept or ignore. (Full disclosure: I was a juror last year.)

However, only councillor Donna Macdonald appeared to have read the jurors’ notes explaining why they felt certain projects should receive less funding than requested or none at all.

Which isn’t to denigrate the organizations that were successful. There isn’t a bad project among them, even if lots were left out.

But in Salmo, the process was over lickity split, with less room for recriminations.

It’s one of several places in the Columbia Basin (others include Winlaw, New Denver, Nakusp, and Area E of the Regional District of Central Kootenay) that get the community directly involved.

People arrive at a meeting, hear brief pitches from organizations seeking funding, and vote for the projects they want to support.

In the Salmo example, residents are issued a handful of dots, each with a dollar value determined by the total amount up for grabs and the number of people who show up.

Each person divides their dots among the projects as they see fit. More dots means more funding. No project receives more than it requests; any excess increases the value of all the other dots.

This dotmocracy, as it’s sometimes called, is not without drawbacks: an organization with more members is likely to receive more votes — although a larger membership is arguably an indicator of greater community support. I also think groups that get the vote out should be entitled to the benefit of their enterprise.

For a city council, trying to divide money amongst community groups is in many ways unenviable and thankless. They are bound to be second guessed no matter what they decide.

But it’s harder to argue with the collective wisdom of several hundred people — which is why Nelson should switch to a direct participation method.

With a larger population than other communities that presently employ it, it may be more difficult to administer here, but it would still be better than what happened Monday night. Agonized decision-making doesn’t necessarily result in better decisions.





Just Posted

Playmor Junction daycare expansion faces opposition

Neighbours upset with rezoning application, citing traffic, noise and concerns about future uses

Foster care is ‘superhighway to homelessness,’ youth advocate tells Nelson audience

Katherine McParland grew up in foster care and lived on the streets

VIDEO: This is what buying legal pot in B.C. looks like

Take a look inside B.C.’s first and only legal pot shop located in Kamloops

Pacific Insight to lay off part of workforce

The company says it is transferring automotive production to its Mexico facility

Black belt tests on this week at Kootenay Martial Arts

Grandmaster Brenda Sell returns to assist in testing

VIDEO: Candidates at Nelson election forum

Mayoral candidates joined 18 council candidates for an evening of very short answers

Two B.C. cannabis dispensaries raided on legalization day

Port Alberni dispensaries ticketed for “unlawful sale” of cannabis

Canada not sending anyone to Saudi business summit

Sources insist Ottawa never intended to dispatch a delegation this time around

Earthquake early-warning sensors installed off coast of B.C.

The first-of-its kind warning sensors are developed by Ocean Networks Canada

VPD ordered to co-operate with B.C. police watchdog probe

According to the IIO, a court is ordering Vancouver police to co-operate with an investigation into a fatal shooting

B.C. woman looks to reduce stigma surrounding weed-smoking moms

Shannon Chiarenza, a Vancouver mom of two, started to act as a guide for newcomers to legal cannabis, specifically mothers

B.C. teen gives away tickets to Ellen Degeneres show, plans O Canada welcome

The Grade 9 student wanted to give away tickets in the spirit of inclusivity

Canada’s top general takes aim at new reports of military sexual assault

Gen. Jonathan Vance is unhappy some troops continue to ignore his order to cease all sexual misconduct

Most Read