Finding balance at City Hall

It’s amazing how fast the end of summer creeps up on you. There I was recharging my batteries by camping in one of our local provincial parks and I realized my column for after the September long weekend was due!

Locally grown fruit can be part of Nelson’s four-pillar strategy.

It’s amazing how fast the end of summer creeps up on you. There I was recharging my batteries by camping in one of our local provincial parks and I realized my column for after the September long weekend was due! Luckily I had also got hikes to Jumbo Pass and Kokanee Glacier in over the summer, as well as going on the Great Chicken Adventure — babysitting a friend’s 65 chickens overnight! Great fun! The summer was a nice balance of fun, family and staying in touch with community.

Now it’s back to balancing the needs of our wide variety of citizens, all within the budget framework of the city. Our annual municipal report will be presented at the council meeting on September 19 at 7 p.m. Come check it out. The city will also be hosting a public open house on the proposed Nelson Landing development. Find out what’s been happening and come ask questions at City Hall on September 14 from 5 to 8 p.m. Oh yeah, and stay tuned for the municipal election in November and watch out for unbalanced election promises!

The city has defined balance using the four-pillar approach: considering the impact of decisions on social, cultural, economic and environmental sectors. Focusing only on creating jobs isn’t a balanced approach, nor would be only looking at how a decision impacts one sector of the population, or only how it impacts the environment.   Perhaps we are most familiar with how balance works in a marriage or family — everyone’s interests must be considered and basic needs met.  In business the owner must balance paying good salaries to keep good staff with making some kind of profit that makes the risk worthwhile. Young entrepreneurs must balance doing what they love with what needs to happen for their business to be successful. In government where we put money in a budget is a reflection of trying to balance priorities.

Balancing priorities doesn’t mean keeping things the same everywhere. The idea of leadership requires that we facilitate change where it is clear that we need to be going in a different direction. Over the last year the city, with your help and input, has developed policy and strategies to balance needs, but still forge a clear path into an uncertain future.

We know we can’t continue to raise taxes and civic spending beyond the capacity of citizens. We also know we cannot continue to use the Earth’s resources at the same levels we have for the last 50 years. North American habits of consumption and production need to change. That means each one of us needs to think “what can I NOT buy today,” as well as “how can I buy what I really need locally?” But how do we balance reducing consumption with encouraging folks to buy local in order to support our local economies? One way would be to encourage our local entrepreneurs to focus on producing products that people need in their everyday lives. For example this area used to support a thriving cannery, as well as exporting fruit. We could encourage not only increased local production of fresh food, but also secondary food processing of produce, meat, and dairy products.  What if we had a textile mill that local wool or hemp producers could sell their fiber to? We could have more local producers of building supplies — like the Harrop-Procter community forest.

What if, on a larger scale, our provincial and federal governments made it easier to take all the energy and capital that currently goes into production and consumption of products we don’t really need and instead focused that capital on solving problems like how to get clean water or affordable transportation to everyone that needs it? Or creating affordable, renewable energy sources? Those endeavors would still produce jobs, and contribute to the economy. It would be a balancing act that takes into consideration neighbours both local and global, and our own future generations.

Kim Charlesworth is a Nelson city councillor who shares this Wednesday space with her colleagues around the table


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