Saturday, December 3, 2022
December 3, 2022

Local Community Commission idea for Salt spring up for discussion

By GARY HOLMAN

SALT SPRING CRD DIRECTOR

As I indicated in a “year ahead” article in the Jan. 5 Driftwood, public consultation on establishing a local community commission (LCC) will begin later this spring.

I’m proposing an LCC of four, elected-at-large members. Working with the CRD director, an LCC would broaden our community’s elected representation and oversight of local CRD services (e.g., budgets, bylaws, policies, grants) and could lead to consolidation of some island-wide commissions.

LCC commissioners would have the same mandate from voters as the CRD director. This means that all CRD decisions, recommendations and advocacy for our community of almost 12,000 — now effectively the responsibility of a single electoral area director — would be by majority vote on a five-member “council” in regularly scheduled public meetings.

While the Local Government Act allows a regional district to establish an LCC, voter approval is necessary. Depending on the public consultation, a referendum would be held at the next local government elections Oct. 15, 2022. This would minimize the incremental cost of the referendum and if voters approve, LCC commissioners would be elected in 2023.

Establishing an LCC is a relatively simple governance change compared to incorporation, with far fewer financial impacts. Roads and policing would remain a provincial responsibility, while land use continues with the Trust. Taking over our poorly maintained 265-km road system (a liability that will increase with climate change impacts) and potential weakening of the Trust mandate were key voter concerns in past incorporation referenda. Establishment of an LCC could provide some governance advantages of incorporation without its possible downsides.

The potential benefits of an LCC have already been reviewed by Positively Forward and also the Community Alliance Governance Working Group, both formed to consider governance improvements after another vote against incorporation in 2017. At my request, a subcommittee of the Governance Working Group is preparing a more detailed discussion paper with options and recommendations regarding issues such as commissioner remuneration, consolidation of CRD commissions, degree of delegated authority from CRD and procedural guidelines. CRD and provincial government staff will review this discussion paper to ensure it is technically sound.

Similar to the incorporation referendum process, an advisory committee will be established to review the discussion paper and help coordinate public information sessions, perhaps with the help of a consultant. The advisory committee will make its own recommendations for implementation, based on public input. I propose to include representation on the advisory committee from CRD commissions, other key local government agencies and some members at large.

The mandate, responsibilities and maximum cost of an LCC would be defined in CRD establishment bylaws that would form the basis for the referendum question in October. An LCC may require some local taxpayer cost, primarily for modest stipends for commissioners who would be overseeing all local CRD services. However, some cost savings could also result from consolidation of commissions. The community commission would continue to be supported by CRD staff.

One of my 2018 election platform commitments was to improve governance and pursue an LCC. I’ve participated in monthly town halls with the local Trust committee and the Community Alliance ASK Salt Spring group; made public presentations of each annual CRD budget; submitted dozens of director reports and columns; and worked to improve CRD cooperation with other agencies and community groups. An LCC would be a more fundamental change on which voters will pass judgment.

Please join the ASK Salt Spring Zoom conversation about an LCC this Friday, Feb. 25, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. (ask@asksaltspring.com). If you have an interest in serving on an LCC advisory committee, or have questions and comments, please contact me at: directorssi@crd.bc.ca or 250-538-4307.

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