I get questions all the time. Here are five recent ones from citizens and merchants:
1. “Could the city have prevented the Kerr building from going down? Was it a conspiracy to be rid of low-rent housing?”
I can’t believe the question assumed a conspiracy! Absolutely no conspiracy, for sure. It breaks my heart to see the beautiful old stone building go and to lose the rental housing. We heard chagrined appeals from several people and the heritage folks. The assessment job was managed by insurers, fire inspectors and engineers, and we all really hoped the outcome would be better than demolition. I hope the front door and cornerstone may be saved for the next incarnation on Victoria Street, if the property owner wishes to incorporate them.
2. “What can the City do about guano-encrusted awnings on Baker Street?”
We do have an encroachment bylaw that we can resort to, but currently we are informing all building owners about the recent Downtown and Waterfront Sustainability plan, which speaks to the upkeep of the Baker Street area. Some merchants were worried that owners would pass the cost of removing or replacing awnings on to their tenants, but the fact is that many businesses are unattractive above their front doors, and both owners and merchants will benefit from any improvement. The public is also asked not to feed the pigeons — there’s a littering bylaw for that; food droppings are gobbled by mice too, another species out-of-control here, according to a health officer. It’s a soft start, but we hope building owners will rise to do the right thing, and the public will stop feeding the birds and littering any food, either downtown or at the mall.
3. “Why can’t I vote in the civic election if I own property through a company and pay taxes in the city, even if I’m not a resident?”
It’s provincially regulated, but the premise is local residence. For example, what if a company from another province or country owned a lot of buildings in Nelson, was able to vote with each property, and control the destiny of the city from afar? Those who actually live here would have proportionally less say in their own direction. The reality is that many of the company owners are from our regional district, and would not jeopardize Nelson’s future in any way. Again, however, it’s provincial legislation.
4. “Why was the city even considering disc golf in the cemetery?”
Right away, let’s get rid of the notion that the proposal was anywhere near the cemetery proper, but rather, on lands we would never, ever consider as burial sites (steep slopes) and there was no jumping over tombstones involved! This big misperception has to be cleared up before anybody approaches us for use of those lands, and there have, in fact, been other suggestions for the property’s use in the past.
5. “How come the transit fares went up and some routes and schedules are going to disappear in September?”
Longer answer to this one. The buses cost too much, other costs rose, and the debt load choked us at budget time. We have an unwieldy system; by provincial standards, we over-accommodate students and neighbourhoods, and unlike anybody else in the region, we carry folks on Sundays. Our complicated routes take too long to get anywhere, and we need to work with regional routes to simplify the current loops and redesign the system. We asked BC Transit to address this — pronto. And they did. They checked the ridership, arranged for some buses to be replaced soon by smaller ones, made a draft review for the future, with short, medium and long term fixes, and they are doing this with the regional district too. While BC Transit planned the streamlining, council raised the prices to ride and park — which hasn’t taken care of the cost over-run yet.
What you may find in the future planning, if you ride the bus, is that you have to walk another block or two to catch it — but you’ll arrive where you are going faster; on the North Shore we always expected the bus to be caught on the highway, not go up Six Mile Road, for example.
So in the short term (August and September), there won’t be Sunday service, we will not be accommodating the peak flood of students at 3:30 all at once; they can take the later regular buses if they want to do after school activities. We will lose special school service runs outside the city limits, unless the regional district coordinates those routes with the city.
For the medium and long-term planning, there is going to be plenty of opportunity for public review. It isn’t a perfect draft plan, in my view, but it’s a good start. And it’s all about improving public transit and leaving the cars at home, right?
I’ve got dozens more of these questions for future articles!