Last week I was doing a radio interview; the host introduced me as “perhaps Nelson’s greenest councillor” and I joked back, “in more ways than one!”
As a rookie there is a lot to learn about how things are done at City Hall: the powers that a city council has (and does not have), how those powers are exercised through bylaw and regulation, and how council conducts its business. As someone who has largely worked with consensus process all my adult life, I am getting re-acquainted with Roberts Rules of Order!
Of course we also dive right into budget deliberations. We have received detailed presentations from Nelson Hydro and from the City operations manager regarding water, sewer and resource recovery (aka garbage and recycling). These utilities have self-contained budgets, and the annual rates are set early in the year: by the time you read this, those rate bylaws will have had their first three readings (adoption is scheduled for February 6). Then we’ll focus on the city’s operating budget and five-year financial plan. Most meetings are open to the public and there is a calendar on the city’s website. Please note the evening open house, March 1 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Councillors are also assigned portfolios and committees. In 2012 I am sharing the arts and culture portfolio with councillor Donna Macdonald. This includes the Cultural Development Commission, Community Heritage Commission, and the boards of the Nelson Public Library, Touchstones Nelson, and the Capitol Theatre. Portfolios are still a work in progress, and I expect to take on additional responsibilities, including on the environmental topics that are my particular field of interest.
Thus far I have attended meetings of the boards of Touchstones Nelson and the Nelson Public Library. I am so grateful to the people who support institutions and community groups as board members. With so many groups in Nelson, finding good board members can be challenging. I encourage you to consider what you may have to offer. Qualities of a good board member start with passion for the mission of the organization. It helps to be a team player, capable of seeing the big picture, and to truly have the available time in your life. Other useful competencies include accounting and finance, marketing, communications, legal, business, management, governance, previous board experience, strategic planning, and specific competencies related to the work of the organization. In the case of Touchstones Nelson, some knowledge about maintaining 110-year-old buildings is helpful too!
I also attended the Kootenay Literary Competition awards ceremony earlier this month. Thanks to everyone who worked on this wonderful event, and particularly to the authors for getting out of their pajamas and reading from their works. Browsing the dozens and dozens of books by Kootenay authors available for sale, I am impressed again by the wealth of our talent.
Like any councillor I have my own to-do list for this mandate. My platform included food security and localization, composting, transit, strengthening neighbourhoods, promoting healthy ecosystems, and improving communications between citizens and City Hall. During the election campaign I met with many people who are active on these issues, and I’m continuing to meet more folks and learn about issues and potential actions. I’m looking forward to developing project plans in the months to come.
Star readers will have read about my successful motion for the city to develop a made-in-Nelson wood purchasing policy that rewards more sustainable local wood businesses. And of the course the city’s sustainability plans now need to be acted on, too.
As part of my commitment to open government, I have renamed my election website to councilorbatycki.org, and will be maintaining a blog and calendar there, as well as my existing platform. Please come by! I plan to blog weekly, and look forward to your comments and suggestions, and to conversations to come. Meanwhile, please get out and enjoy the snow! It’s the antidote to the winter blues.
Councillor Batycki shares this Wednesday space with her colleagues around the table