Governing through dialogue

I’ve been thinking a lot about conversations lately, especially in light of the heated council meeting

I’ve been thinking a lot about conversations lately, especially in light of the heated council meeting that received so much media attention a few weeks ago. Mostly I’ve been thinking about how we share ideas and interact with each other to effect change and grow as community.

The conversations I’ve had over the last few weeks have taken place in coffee shops, in board rooms, on the road, in people’s homes and in the park. They have been diverse and full of energy and passion about the different facets of our community.

I joined the Nelson Business Association for early morning coffee. Amidst the talk about dogs on Baker Street there was a deep concern about how local business is weathering this new economy. People are worried about the increased exemptions at the border, increased online shopping and taxation rates. Some owners have seen a decrease and are looking for ways to improve business activity. The conversation then shifted to plans on how the downtown and waterfront area will be renewed and transformed over the next few years.

The Kootenay Co-op Store has big plans for the property they’ve purchased, lighting and awnings will be improved in the downtown and there was also talk of reviving some type of festival. The City is moving forward with the Downtown and Waterfront Master Plan and is actively engaged with business owners to make this happen.

When I left that morning, I did my homework on taxation rates. Nelson’s business rate for 2012 is 2.358 per cent, down from 2.5 per cent the previous year, perhaps not as much as people would like to see, but improvement nonetheless. Conversation to be continued…

Later that same day council met with Andrew Creighton to learn about the launch of a local currency later this month. It’s a concept that has been around for a long time and has been successful in other communities. So far 150 business owners have signed on to accept this money as local tender. Money has been printed at the Canadian mint and is set to go. Now it just needs spenders and receivers. This strategy just might be a part of the solution for keeping our dollars local. Interesting how this conversation connected with my earlier meeting.

I then travelled to Golden for a regional meeting where the topic highest on everyone’s list was flooding throughout the Columbia Basin. The conversation between Canada and the US over the control of the Libby Dam release was successful in the cooperative way water releases are being managed. Property owners on both sides of the border are experiencing flooding, but there is awareness and cooperation on how to control the extent of damage. The larger conversation here is how the changing climate will impact the future management of the dams and how our citizens will have their say at the international level regarding the Columbia River Treaty.

My next conversations will be much closer to home as I travel to visit my parents and we discuss the next transition in their lives later this month. What I do know is that success is achieved with mutual respect, understanding and most of all, listening.

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