COLUMN: Public input important to city decision-making process

From city councillor Anna Purcell...

You elected council to make decisions on the city’s behalf and to do our best and we do. Sometimes we agonize over the choices before us and sometimes the best path is clear. Sometimes, it’s really, really important to have public input to help us in our deliberations.

As a city, we can decide to plan for the future, or we can do nothing, which (make no mistake) is also a decision: a decision to let things unfold, unguided. To just get what we get. This could sound pretty appealing more freedom, less restrictions. But it can end up with the loudest voices or the people with the most resources determining how things go for everyone else, no matter what their blind spots or biases are. We need a healthy community lens that includes all perspectives and ideas to guide some of the policy we have to create. This is where you come in.

A good example of this is the survey that Friends of Kootenay Lake has put out to map our cultural values around our lake. The survey asks questions about things like foreshore rights, boating, fishing, pollutants, camp sites, fish habitat things many of us have opinions and strong feelings about. The information from it will be added to environmental and archaeological data to create a document that will help guide development on the lake in the future. We could allow people to do whatever they want on and around Kootenay lake and we’d see lots more houses, boats and jet-skis, and the almost-certain degradation of eco systems and destruction of important archaeological sites. Or we can ask ourselves what we value about our lake, and work together to enhance it including things like responsible building to protect what we love about where we live.

This survey is only open until July 15, two more days from today’s paper. Stop reading right now, and go fill it out. Don’t put it off. Go to friendsofkootenaylake.ca and follow the links. I’ll wait here for you.

Still waiting…

Did you do it?

Ok, it’s the same with our downtown. Our beautiful heritage buildings, thriving businesses and bustling sidewalks are a core part of what makes Nelson an exceptionally beautiful and liveable place. The city is currently undertaking a process to come up with a downtown urban design strategy. There have been two public workshops to gather ideas and values, and the city has hired a student to gather more information throughout the summer. Look for her on Baker St., and check out the city’s website, Nelson.ca, for more information on this process.

The city’s website also has information on our short-term rental (AirBnB) project, and be sure to check out Nelsonrailtown.com for more information on the Railtown planning process that is also underway. (The surveys on short-term rentals and Railtown are now closed, but no final decisions have been made and you can still get in touch to voice your thoughts.)

Completing the surveys and participating in the workshops is actually fun. I learn about Nelson every time, and I learn about myself. Adding my voice makes me feel connected to my community in a meaningful way, and I feel like I’ve done worthwhile work. It doesn’t mean I’ll always get my way of course. It does mean that my values and perspective will be taken into consideration and used to develop a rich understanding of who we are.

This is what the best policy documents do they reflect our best selves back to us. For this to work, we need everyone to step in front of the mirror.

Councillor Anna Purcell shares this weekly column with her Nelson city council colleagues.

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