Opinion: Getting Salt Spring’s new Local Community Commission off to a strong start

Salt Spring residents will have a new experience on May 27: electing four commissioners to service on our Local Community Commissioner. There are two big questions you might want to consider as you think about how (or even if) you are going to vote.

Why Does It Matter?

Even if you voted last October to create the LCC, you might be wondering how much it really matters who we elect. I often hear cynical Salt Springers say that things really don’t change no matter what we do.

I’d like to suggest that it does matter and that things really can change. We just haven’t had the tools to bring about positive change until now. Our community has seen plenty of debate over how we should govern ourselves, but a lot less action to actually improve things.

Enter the LCC.

It isn’t going to be a super-charged fix-all for our community, but it is going to give us tools to respond better to the challenges we face. Whether you’re mostly concerned about the lack of affordable housing options for working people or the risks of climate change, the vibrancy and health of downtown Ganges or the need for improved transportation options – whatever your top concern, the LCC has at least some role to play.

Can we do more about housing? You bet we can. Can we make available more locally-grown and/or produced food? Yep. Make smart choices about the future of our local parks? That, too. Better coordinate the island’s drinking water systems? It can be done.

For all these things to happen, we need a Local Community Commission that’s focused on addressing our community’s priorities and one that really wants to take action on services that matter to people. Not one that just wants to argue endlessly about governance.

What Should We Be Looking for In Candidates?

As a candidate in the May 27 LCC election, I am obviously biased. I think the number one qualification for earning your vote is strong motivation to make the LCC work. Can a candidate who actively campaigned against creating the LCC do a good job as a commissioner? I don’t know. But I do know our new LCC will only succeed if the people we elect truly want it to succeed.

The second most important qualification, in my view, is experience and knowledge of how our unique local government system works. If we’re going to do something about important issues like housing and transportation, we can’t have an LCC full of people who don’t have a clue about the 14 services it’s responsible for, or its potential to take on additional responsibilities. I want to elect folks who can hit the ground running and start taking positive action right away.

Third is a commitment to openness and representation of our whole community. The LCC must be accessible. That means open public meetings that Salt Springers can attend. It means not just tolerating but actually encouraging community members to speak at these meetings. It means minimizing the use of closed meetings. It means walking the talk about involving the community in decision-making.

My Candidacy

If you’ve reviewed the lengthy list of candidates, you will see the names of people who have run for office before. I’m not one of them. As a full-time farmer and small business owner, I don’t have the time or the inclination to jump into every election campaign that comes along. But I’m in this one because it is too important to ignore.

It’s been a long time since Salt Spring has had a chance to really improve how we do local government. The LCC gives us that chance. I worked hard as a volunteer to get this opportunity for our community and I’m willing to invest three and a half years of work as a commissioner to try to help make it a success.

I bring seven years of experience as a PARC commissioner, service as a board member of several Salt Spring non-profits and professional experience helping communicate the importance of local governments getting value for every tax dollar they spend. I’m willing to bring my experience, knowledge, energy and values to help the LCC succeed. I hope you will vote for me to help make sure we accomplish just that.