Viewpoint: Let’s work together on community priorities
By GARY HOLMAN
For 30 years, as a community activist, CRD Director, and MLA, I’m proud to have joined with many islanders to preserve and protect this special place. I’m honoured to have played a role in many of this community’s successes, like building affordable housing at Murakami Gardens; establishing BC’s most successful rural transit system; constructing our pool, library, water treatment plants, and kilometres of pathways; and protecting thousands of hectares of land. I know what our community can accomplish when we work together.
I did not support incorporation, but during the debate acknowledged my responsibility to help find other ways to improve governance on Salt Spring. I’ve been working with community groups on options like formalizing coordination and strategic planning among various agencies, and holding public town hall and budget meetings. I believe that CRD must respect and fully utilize the remarkable skills of commission volunteers and community groups. However, rather than reinforcing the “silo” nature of our service delivery, I will advocate for voter approval of a CRD Local Community Commission (LCC) to broaden local CRD representation and take on more operational authority from the CRD through an elected “council” representing the public interest.
Improving governance must not take the focus away from issues like affordable housing, Salt Spring’s top priority. The good news is that there are at least seven affordable housing projects (with land already secured), and that senior governments are providing unprecedented levels of funding, with over $6 million already committed to the Croftonbrook project. My top priority as CRD Director will be to support completion of all of these projects, including the CRD’s own housing proposal on Drake Road, together representing a total of over 250 units. I’ve worked on affordable housing for years on Salt Spring, as an elected official and proponent. I know CRD can play a stronger role, for example on related water issues and by better supporting our existing housing council.
Other longstanding issues have been stalled and require greater focus. Despite voter approved funding in 2008, we still haven’t found an on-island solution for our liquid waste, costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands every year, trucking 95 per cent water off-island. Similarly, the North Ganges pedestrian and cycling plan remains unfinished, despite funding approval in 2014. Voters expect completion of this project before supporting similar improvements on the increasingly busy and dangerous Ganges Hill.
We need to build an earthquake proof fire hall that can house our emergency operations centre and search and rescue (both receiving CRD funding), and perhaps local government offices. The fire district has secured land for a new fire hall, a significant accomplishment. I will advocate for voter approval of a sound business plan for a new building and retaining community ownership of the Ganges fire hall site. Progress is being made on the Ganges Harbour Walk, but we must be prepared to secure the marine right-of-way from the province, separate from controversial upland zoning. BC Transit funding will help expand our community bus system, already the most successful of its kind in BC.
I will renew the cost-effective partnerships between the CRD Transportation Commission (which I established), Partners Creating Pathways and Island Bus Shelters. I will also work with other community groups on issues like climate action; a plan for Ganges village; completing The Root food processing centre; health and seniors facilities; a public laundromat; and community radio station.
The writer is a candidate for CRD Director on Salt Spring.