They say things happen in threes – sneezes, mishaps, coincidences. Well, three years ago I was thinking about a couple of threes — another three-year term on council and three particular issues I had in mind.
With voters’ support (thank you!) I was elected and went to work on those three initiatives.
One was affordable housing. During the previous three years (oh, dear, this could get tedious), I’d served on the board of one of our non-profits who provide social housing. I noticed there was little opportunity for communication among all the housing providers, and in fact a degree of competition (a result of the shrinking pie syndrome).
So I invited all the relevant agencies and some partners to begin meeting as the Nelson Housing Forum. For most of the last three years, we’ve gathered monthly and it’s been quite wonderful to see the knowledge, trust and co-operation building. So now, for example, we have Habitat for Humanity partnering with Community First Health Co-op in a proposed housing project.
The non-profit housing world is all about partnerships these days — involving local government, non-profits, the private sector and if you can pull that together, you might get some provincial funding too. So the forum has provided the platform for partnership, and I hope that council will support its work by formalizing it as a council committee.
The second of the three was the Cultural Development Commission (CDC). I had worked toward this in previous council terms and really wanted it to get rolling. And it sure has. We have great community members on the commission and a part-time cultural development officer.
What is the CDC’s biggest challenge? Too much to do. From the first public art project (the railing at Gyro Park) to the new bridge railings over Cottonwood Creek, from the Cultural Ambassador program to the public art policy — creative opportunities just keep appearing. Watch those new electrical utility boxes for something beautiful soon.
Some may say the CDC’s work is fluffy, not responsive to real community needs. Yes, it’s about cultural enhancement, for the pleasure and edification of our residents, enhancing our quality of life. But it’s also about development of the cultural sector – i.e., economic development.
On an individual basis, the CDC’s work supports artists to build their careers by providing recognition and public commissions. More broadly, the goal is to strategically make Nelson a great little arts town. We know visitors come here for the cultural ambience and activity, and we want to grow that. Cultural and heritage tourism is big business.
The third of the three was climate change. I’m with the 99 per cent of scientists who believe it’s happening. We better do something — both to slow it and to prepare for it. Within the city’s operations, we’re already taking steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption. We started with the easy ones, where the payback time is relatively short, and savings begin thereafter. But there’s more to do.
On the community side, council will soon receive the Low Carbon Path to 2040: Community Energy and Emissions Action Plan. Not surprisingly, the community’s energy and emissions mainly come from transportation and heating/cooling our buildings. We have some exciting implementation ideas ready to go once the plan is adopted.
Of course, council has addressed many, many other issues. We also did a lot of planning (thanks to government grant funding), and the next three years (and more) will be about implementation.
So, is there another three in my future? As you’re reading this, council is at the annual UBCM convention, and I’ll be looking for three signs to show me the answer!
Donna Macdonald is a Nelson city councillor who shares this Wednesday space with her colleagues around the table