By GARY HOLMAN
SSI CRD DIRECTOR
A recent increase in vandalism and civil disorder in Ganges village prompted a series of meetings organized by the Chamber of Commerce, United Church and others. As a result of these meetings and discussions with agencies like the RCMP, Community Services, PARC, the library and Copper Kettle, I’ve supported small grants in aid and requisition increases to fund some additional supports for the disadvantaged in our community and CRD-related staffing.
There are gaps in existing security and support services, primarily the responsibility of senior governments. The local RCMP have been unable to acquire additional officers (an issue raised in our recent incorporation debate). Outreach and support services for the homeless and those with mental health and addiction challenges are also limited. Other communities (e.g., Cowichan Regional District) are helping address these gaps with targeted local funding. We can do the same here by establishing a new CRD service. Affordable housing is also a crucial issue that non-profits, the CRD and Islands Trust are already working on diligently.
Any new CRD service requires voter approval of an “establishment bylaw” defining its purpose and maximum tax requisition. Based on community and stakeholder meetings over recent months, I’ve worked with CRD staff to develop a bylaw that allows modest funding to “assist, administer, promote, organize, implement and monitor community safety initiatives and programs on Salt Spring.” This bylaw, now on the CRD website, will be given third reading by the CRD Board this week and referred to the province for review, after which formal public notification for two weeks (e.g., in the Driftwood) is required. An alternate approval process (a so-called “counter petition,” costing much less than a referendum and used to approve our public transit service) will give voters 30 days, likely from early November to early December, to register their opposition. There will be at least one public meeting in October, so voters will have plenty of time to make an informed decision.
Possible Activities Funded by the Service
The proposed bylaw allows a range of possible activities that could be funded in 2020. I propose an initial requisition of about half of the maximum allowed (i.e., about 40 cents per average assessed residential property per month) to gain experience with, and refine priorities for the service. As with any CRD service, the CRD director, based on advice from stakeholders and the public, recommends budgets to the CRD Board for final approval. Any security initiatives (e.g., support for a volunteer Citizens on Patrol or other crime-prevention activities) would be administered by the RCMP. The service could also fund additional RCMP officers (their auxiliary program is being reviewed), although I believe other community-based measures would be more cost-effective.
The outreach component of the service would involve advice from and funding partnerships with local organizations that provide supports for the most vulnerable in our community. The Chamber of Commerce and local businesses will provide advice on Ganges village issues, but the service is funded and applies island-wide. A committee that evolved out of community and stakeholder meetings already involves the RCMP and other service groups, and could provide ongoing advice on funding priorities.
Without this new service, the CRD can only provide very marginal support for organizations primarily responsible for the safety and wellbeing of all members of our community. Voters will ultimately decide and will have ample time and information to make an informed choice. As always, if you have questions about this proposed new service, or any other CRD issues, contact me at 250-538-4307 or firstname.lastname@example.org.