BY BRIAN WEBSTER
For many of us, it seems like last year’s local community commission (LCC) referendum was a long, long time ago. It’s been more than four months since the referendum, yet the establishment of the LCC still seems off in the distant future.
Yet it actually is not that far off, with the election scheduled for late May and a lot to be done before then. First and foremost, the community needs to elect four commissioners to sit with our electoral area director on the commission and get down to work.
In case you missed it or have forgotten, this new commission will be a locally elected body with authority over 14 of our current local government services. It will replace four existing unelected Capital Regional District (CRD) advisory commissions and will have full administrative powers over 11 of those services. That means the power to make all decisions up to — but not including — final approval of bylaws.
For these services — everything from parks and transportation to economic development, recreation and more — the Salt Spring LCC will set priorities and policies. It will also establish the annual budget, which will then get sent on to the CRD board for its sign-off.
In my view, for the LCC to succeed, five things need to happen in short order.
First, we need to elect capable people who are motivated to make the commission a success. There may be candidates who are more interested in sabotaging the LCC in hopes of convincing the community to move in a different direction; I hope nobody with that motivation gets elected.
Second, we need the LCC to get right down to work, so it will be useful if at least some of those elected are already familiar with our local government system, as they will likely be launched right into budget discussions from their very first meeting. Hitting the ground running and all of that.
Third on the agenda will be working toward bringing more of our current CRD local services under the authority of the LCC. While the authority initially delegated to the LCC is significant, the CRD drafters of the bylaws left important services out. Until all local Salt Spring Island CRD services are under the purview of the LCC, we will continue to have a more scattered local government system than we should and too much authority will continue to rest with our electoral area director, the CRD board and staff.
Fourth, I hope, will be a start to discussions with Salt Spring’s two large improvement districts about the potential to streamline local government services by bringing governance of these services under the LCC umbrella. There are plenty of complications involved and a lot of history to put behind us if we are to accomplish this, but the time to start talking about it is fast approaching.
Fifth, the establishment of the LCC will be an opportunity to talk about whether our community needs any additional local government services. For example, there is a lot of talk about housing on Salt Spring; is it maybe time to consider taking bold action at a local level? Let’s have that discussion.
This is a lot to have on the Day One agenda of our new LCC — especially since it’s possible some in our community might have unrealistic expectations of what can be accomplished by an LCC made up of our electoral area director and four minimally compensated part-timers.
But let’s get on it. I don’t think our community was looking for just more of the same when we voted to establish the LCC.
Brian Webster is a Salt Spring resident, orchardist and business owner who participated in efforts to establish a local community commission.
I endorse your suggestion of priorities for the new Commission; it would be nice if a straw poll could be offered, say by the Driftwood, to get more public sentiment on your proposals. I particularly have supported and would like to see more moves to increase local government-resident control of our destiny. Decentralized, consolidated and simplified government is always better for democracy, accountability and action. I assume that I am with the majority here in hoping that the new Commission can make it a priority to undertake substantive efforts to encourage development of adequate, affordable and, of course, environmentally sensible housing for all, particularly young, working people.