Opinion: Why vote for Gayle Baker?

Who is that behind the smile and curly silver hair?

  • Most of all, I love my adventurous husband, Howard, my adult children, almost-10-year old granddaughter, and amazing Portuguese Water Dog pup, Abby. They ground me, tell me when I am wrong - even pup Abby! - and fill my life with love.
  • I am quirky, celebrating thrift shop treasures with glee, loving stealth camping in our VW Camper, and relishing an odd pleasure from being status-conscious Santa Barbara’s first live aboard Dean.
  • I am tenacious, married for 53 years, and still counting, even though it has been to two different husbands 🙂
  • I have stamina with humour, living in a tent for five months and then a 200-square foot cottage for seven years while building our Salt Spring home.
  • I am hardworking, to a fault, just ask anyone who knows me. . . .

I also bring that beneficial ability to think out of the box to come up with unique solutions.

Given the daunting challenges of becoming one of the first four Local Commissioners for Salt Spring, why would I be interested?

I have been thinking about how to better address serious CRD service delivery concerns for a very long time. . . since the Community Alliance broached this discussion just before the incorporation referendum in 2017 and, more intensely, while facilitating the hardworking Governance Working Group in 2018. As a Local Community Commission (LCC) emerged as a promising option, I also recently served as chair of the LCC Advisory Group, as well being as an enthusiastic campaigner leading up to the referendum .

Will the LCC fulfill its promise? I believe that depends upon who is elected. I am willing to be one of the team of Local Commissioners, working very hard to ensure that it achieves that potential.

Why do I think I could be an effective Local Commissioner?

I am a fairly rare combination of patience, tenacity, and hard work with a core commitment to creating a respectful environment for all.

My craziest example of hard work and tenacity is getting my doctorate while also raising three very young children. Probably the hardest thing I have ever done, especially when my 8-year old son was hospitalized with kidney failure during an 18-unit semester. I refused to quit. Instead, I figured out that I could survive if I cared for my children all day, worked on my dissertation from 10-3 and slept from 3-6. Could I do that again? Would I do that again? A resounding No! But, it does illustrate the hard work and a tenacity that I bring to everything to which I commit.

This tenacity served me well as Dean of Santa Barbara City College, resulting in the development of over 48 programs, while also supervising nearly 600, managing a $6 million budget, and writing - and being awarded - over $13 million in competitive grants.

It also fueled me to write and publish 10 books; serve on Islands Trust Advisory Planning Committee; boards of Islands Pathways, Transition Salt Spring, Community Alliance, and the Chamber; and also work as a Commissioner for both PARC (2008-2013) and Transportation (2019-2023).

And, I work tirelessly each week with ASK Salt Spring.

Will I work hard as a courageous, energetic, and patient Local Community Commissioner? You bet!


1) Prioritization Rather than Bottlenecks?

A key role of the LCC will be to prioritize the many CRD projects. The long delay getting HarbourWalk designs is a perfect example of community frustration with prioritization practices. We can do better. . . .

As the LCC prioritizes projects, I suggest fast-tracking engineering projects for priority initiatives. Engineering projects completed by consultants require markedly less staff time than those managed by staff and should be fast-tracked rather than languishing for three years like the HarbourWalk proposal.

Why do we need projects done by paid consultants? While I believe we have enough studies to last a lifetime, certain projects require engineering designs. Without these shovel-ready designs for sidewalks, pathways, and the long-delayed HarbourWalk, we cannot apply for the lucrative infrastructure grants, potentially losing hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.

We also have amazing volunteers and nonprofits who would love to partner to cost-effectively and efficiently complete projects. In a logical world, CRD could give these energetic volunteer groups some simple guidelines and cheer them on to do what they love. Unfortunately, CRD requirements for these volunteers have become more and more complex, frustrating volunteers until they give up. We need a hard look at these increasingly-bureaucratic requirements so that we can again benefit from volunteer involvement.

We must do better ensuring important projects do not languish in the CRD bottleneck!

2) Budget Transparency, not Mysteries

Even though I aptly managed a $6 million budget at Santa Barbara City College, I am often totally confused by the CRD budget. While some of this may be my fault, I am convinced that the budget details are needlessly confusing. If elected, I would demand the budget transparency needed to actually track all expenditures.

Who is tracking the results of our expenditures? Hasn’t anyone heard of Performance Objectives? We should have clearly-defined, measurable objectives for every CRD allocation. We must evaluate this performance every year before allocating more money.

We must do better understanding where our money is spent and ensuring that it is tied to performance.

3) Evaluation

How will we know if we are succeeding? Once all budget allocations are tied to Performance Objectives, evaluating success achieving them is so much easier. While I would expect Local Commissioners to evaluate expenditures based on these objectives every year before allocating more money, this is not enough. . . .

During the October referendum, some asked how we will know if the LCC is successful. If elected, I will also use the feedback of community volunteers to annually evaluate the success of the Local Community Commission. I will ensure that everyone who reaches out to the LCC - thorough a delegation, contact with a Local Commissioner, letters. . .however they reach out - will have the opportunity to evaluate the performance of the LCC each year.

  • Evaluation a new idea? Absolutely not!
  • Regularly done in many communities? A resounding Yes!
  • Something done routinely by CRD to assess its effectiveness?

Not in my 18 years here. Is it time? I say YES!

We must do better ensuring that we evaluate our success. How will we ever know when we get where we are going?

Prioritizing, understanding the CRD budget, linking allocations to performance, and evaluating success are high priorities for me.

I hope they are for you as well. . . .

Vote Gayle Baker for LCC May 27th

Learn more at gayleforlcc.com