When I hit the kitchen to do some cooking, I always start by sorting things out, organizing and tidying. Otherwise, I get out of sorts.
The last few months have definitely felt unsorted. We began our new council term and dove right into budget-making, the best orientation (or refresher) any councillor could get.
So we didn’t manage to get ourselves sorted. But now we’ve each got our committee appointments, grouped into portfolios. So we know where we’re supposed to be, and when and why!
As well as being the alternate to Mayor Dooley at the regional district board of directors, my focuses are on culture, affordable housing, and community energy and emissions.
I’ve moved from the Touchstones board to the Capitol Theatre, and continue to be a trustee of the Nelson Public Library. I plan to run for a provincial-level board position at the library conference in May. Libraries are experiencing big changes, and I want to ensure they are valued and supported as they move forward.
I will remain on the Cultural Development Commission, which is busy being a catalyst for our cultural sector, whether through artistic input on public works projects or through policy development (like, how to get a mural or other public art approved). The Housing Forum also continues to be a lively and hardworking group.
I’m on the new Community Energy Committee, and our first big initiative is the EcoSave retrofits program. I am so excited about that. Home/business retrofits are a key way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and energy use, and increase savings!
The role of Nelson Hydro in this innovative, user-friendly program is crucial, and gives us one more reason to be eternally grateful for its existence.
The other major source of energy/emissions is transportation, and our work on that continues. Council will meet with BC Transit planners in a couple weeks to discuss the review of the Nelson transit system. We’ve had great input from the Nelson transit-user community and I anticipate an exciting outcome to this process.
Right now, council’s priority is finishing our budget. We’ve had good discussions and for the most part avoided line-by-line micro-management. Instead we focused on the broader policy level (service level options, new revenues, long-term goals, etc.).
Every year we face a structural deficit — the additional money we need to cover cost and wage increases, while providing the same services as last year.
Every year, we want to keep tax increases modest and somehow find that money. And every year, it gets harder and harder. So staff are currently developing a true long-term financial plan (as opposed to just adding an annual inflation factor to the current year’s budget). With a solid plan in place, as we have for our water and sewer utilities, we can manage our future better.
Next week is your turn. Our 2012 budget open house will be at the library on Wednesday, April 4. Do come, even for a little while. Learn what we’re doing with your tax dollars and let us know what you think.
Three last things.
I have a lot less clutter to sort, now that council has gone paperless! We had our first almost paper-free council meeting on March 19. We all managed to tap, swipe and squeeze (our iPads!) right through the agenda!
Second, a shout-out to the skateboard community. A Huge Hooray. I’m so happy the grant application was successful.
Finally, the Civic Theatre is much on my mind. We have big choices. Maintain and build on our heritage and arts/culture winning formula, and find a way to keep the Civic as a film and/or live event venue? To succeed at this, champions are needed (lovers of heritage, film, and/or theatre, willing to invest). Are you out there?
Or, do we give up on that, and consider carefully the rather interesting proposal by the Downtown Athletic Club?
Always lots to sort out in this little city.
Donna Macdonald is a Nelson city councillor who shares this Wednesday space with her colleagues around the table