Bike Riding on Salt Spring Pro Tip: Lateral Bike Safety Flag

Could this $14 piece of plastic save your life riding a bike on Salt Spring roads? Remember the adage of what to do when you see a bear? You make yourself bigger! Why? So the bear thinks twice about chasing you down knowing it might not work out well. So imagine for a moment, that the bears here on the roads of Salt Spring are cars and trucks. More often than not they are driven by considerate and aware drivers, but often enough also by folks who drive as if their car and themselves are all that matter in the world. You're the one the bear driver has their eye on (or doesn't in some cases) while you're riding your bike. How do you make yourself just a little bit bigger when you're riding a bike? Well one simple answer has been around since the 70s. It just isn't used nearly enough from what I can tell. When we moved to Salt Spring 10 years ago, one of the biggest laments was the challenge of safely riding a bike on our narrow, hilly, winding roads. Since the island was…
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The Top 10 Island Life Faux Pas

Do not be deceived by idyllic appearances. There is stuff that you must not do when living on a piece of land surrounded by water with 10,000 other people, who all shop at the same grocery stores, visit the same doctors, dentists, restaurants and post offices as you. The following are rules to live by. Sneaking ahead of your turn on the ferry line. You are not unnoticed, especially by your neighbours, and most definitely by the ferry staff. Moving someone’s jacket, bag, or other item signifying that the seat is reserved at your local theater. I almost incited a lynch mob the last time I was at the Fritz and someone moved my scarf – luckily the situation deescalated before anyone could get through the popcorn line. Because, priorities! Never gossip about anyone, ever. Gossip is a lesser name for character assassination. You know that the cashier or person behind/in front of you in line at the grocer is most likely related to your object of discussion in some way. Alwa…
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Let Us Harness Our Anger and Our Fear

Thank you to Nomi Lyonns, Kim Tebbutt and Sharyn Carroll for organizing the rally and march on Saturday. Thank you to Christopher Roy for recognizing the significance of the event and recording every moment. I don't shed tears often, but at that gathering, my eyes kept leaking. My heart and mind were touched, as I felt my hope for what we commonly hold precious for All: safety, nourishment, connection, mutual support and respect.... Through music, speech, poetry, and walking together in silence; we were met with the theme “Let us claim and live what we value-- what we value about ourselves, about being human, and about all life on planet Earth.” We were affirmed around our ache and our hope: that what we value, we desire for our decedents as well. And if we can know how to make that happen, we will do all we can. For many of us who live on Salt Spring, and as evidenced by hundreds of rallies and marches in response to Trump's inauguration, the truth is: We care. And,…
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Government Paradigm Shift Needed For Addiction & Mental Illness

I am a Salt Spring Island based mother of one of the over 622 people who have died from (primarily) Fentanyl overdoses in 2016 in our province alone. I also am the mother of an adult son struggling with a mental health disorder. Both my children had the benefit of a loving, supportive and economically-secure home with parents willing to spend whatever it took to get them help. The problem is that Canada simply does not have effective mechanisms in place to provide the kind of assistance that the most vulnerable among us desperately need. What we need is a complete paradigm shift when it comes to helping Canadians with addictions and mental illnesses. Please let me share with you why I have come to believe that this is absolutely critical. On July 6, 2016 I found my beloved daughter, Kate, splayed over the side of her bed cold, hard and with a bluish/blackish mottled face. She had been dead for several hours. The on-site coroner and attending RCMP officer concurred that…
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Incorporation: Clarifying the Tax Numbers

There have been some questions posed in the last week regarding the property tax impacts of incorporation. To clarify the numbers, Urban Systems is making changes to the Final Report and will re-issue an updated version after the Final Report is approved at the last Incorporation Study Committee meeting, on November 21. This final version of the Study Report will replace the October 26 version currently posted on the website and in the Salt Spring Public Library, CRD office and Islands Trust office. In the interim, a description of the changes to be made has been posted to the website. As well, the 2-page infographic summary has been updated. Print copies of both of these documents will be available at the final Open House event. Urban Systems has issued the following communication below to explain the changes: Clarifying the tax numbers By Urban Systems As the consultants working on the Salt Spring Island Incorporation Study, our goal is to provide the commun…
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Should the Salt Spring Island Fire Protection District Be Dissolved?

I was elected eighteen months ago by ratepayers of the Fire District to further their interests. Nearly 2000 hours of unpaid work later, I felt I could no longer do so. Ratepayers know they are getting a raw deal. Ratepayers should know there is nothing the trustees can do about it. The fire department is staffed by capable, motivated, and well trained men and women who do what is at times a difficult and dangerous job. Unfortunately, their skills and dedication aren’t enough. A detailed explanation of the District's morass can be found below. If you can't read it all through, I'll summarize in one sentence. The District is no longer of net benefit to ratepayers; they should be given an opportunity to dissolve it. Why did you quit, Norbert? There was a straw that broke the camel’s back. It happened behind closed doors and I will not discuss it. Why this story? There are things that SSIFPD ratepayers should understand. Distilled down, the issues aren’t that har…
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Fire Department Misinformation Doesn't Help Us

One has to wonder why there is so much misinformation in the community regarding the fire department. Probably a lot of it comes down to former trustees who hadn't been willing to recognize their own limitations, some of it was arrogance, some an unwillingness to discuss issues in front of the public and some was just, plain misinformation by the Board . The Province admits that Improvement Districts have problems with professionalism and accountability. This seems to have been a self-fulfilling prophesy. Without the guidance or involvement of qualified administrative staff, we've had trustees claim: that the public has no right to question the budget; that releasing information about employee compensation violates the employee's right to privacy; that recording public meetings is improper; that Improvement Districts are prohibited from establishing Renewal Reserve Funds when, in fact, they're required; that it's okay to purge bylaws from the record books. A c…
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Shop Locally Please

Fellow Salt Springers. Wake up and SMELL THE COFFEE. If you are not spending HALF your Good and Services money, here on Salt Spring, YOU ARE DAMAGING OUR COMMUNITY. We have just lost STITCHES, that great little “Mom and Pop” sewing and quilting shop, BECAUSE IT DID NOT GET ENOUGH LOCAL BUSINESS. STITCHES did not get fed enough. Locals voted it OFF THE ISLAND, by voting with their money for Sprawl Mart and Lostco. It is your choice to vote for the future you wish to create. I find it hard to understand, how people can knowingly harm our community, if they understand the value of locally recycling money, so I felt obliged to point out these facts. If you call the Big Box stores with a sewing problem, are they going to be as helpful as Stiches was. Not likely. The small picture, is that BC Ferries purchased our last ferries in Poland, because they were cheaper. Yes they were cheaper, if you only look at that page 1. If you look at the bigger picture, we did not get any of t…
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Straight Talk on the Fire Trustee Election

I am Maxine Leichter, an independent candidate for fire trustee, running against a group running together who, if elected, will form a majority of the Board. Every member of the Board should have an equal voice. It may be that a majority of trustees are like-minded. But to have a block that does not need to consult with other trustees is not democracy. My husband is a paid-on-call support member of the Fire Department who performs communications, safety and logistics duties. That is how I became informed and concerned about our fire department. There is more to being a fire trustee than implementing the changes recommended in the Walker Report independent review. It is about setting the direction of an essential public service in an open, thoughtful and business-like way without reducing essential service levels, without diminishing community safety and without drastically increasing our homeowners’ fire insurance rates. It requires giving our firefighters the …
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Course Correction Needed on Fire Board

The recently delivered Walker and Firewise reports on the governance and operations of the fire district have been an eye opener for Salt Springers. Add to that the release of 2013 compensation figures for full time members of staff, and comments like, “The fire district seems to be adrift,” and “Who is running the show here?” and “It's time for some common sense,” are flying. We agree. It's time for a course correction. There is no need for panic or wild accusations: the Walker report concludes that fire service performance is on par or better than in other BC communities. However, twenty recommendations were made re necessary improvements in governance, and at least half a dozen more operational recommendations that suggest lapses in board oversight. The reports – for which we paid $40,000 – set ambitious timelines for resolving these open issues. Of the twenty Walker recommendations, seven have 45 day deadlines, indicating urgency. Despite this, the current board decided …
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Message from Your Fire Fighter Team

Firefighters at Salt Spring Island Fire Rescue (SSIFR), both career and on-call, are one united team. We train and work together to serve Salt Spring Island. Our team only functions as well as each and every component. We rely on each other in hostile and dangerous environments. With friendships forged through adversity, we have grown to consider each other “brothers” and “sisters.” We provide professional responses, with a combination of on-call and career firefighters. The main reason we do what we do is because of our community. We want to protect our community, and we desire to be a strong diverse team that is there for the needs of Salt Spring. The firefighting team constantly strives to perfect our craftsmanship. We are responsive to community needs and we value your feedback. Misinformation and confrontational attitudes about SSIFR politics when shared in public can be damaging to our mission, morale and team cohesion. We urge the community to learn about how SS…
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Fire Services - Seeking Solutions

No doubt there are quite a few people in our community who disagree with disclosing compensation for members of the fire department. However discomforting the information may be, we can't deal with a problem that we don't know exists or aren't allowed to understand. The Board of Trustees has resisted sharing information with the public, creating obstacles at every step of the way. As mentioned by others, it should never have required a Freedom of Information request to obtain this data. Hiring full-time fire fighters more than a decade ago was an attempt to fix something which wasn't broken to begin with… the community had been well served by a body of committed, well trained volunteers. That initial "fix" and the subsequent Union contract have restricted the involvement of the volunteers and, regardless of their training and competence, renders them "second class citizens". The result has limited the community's choices while upping the ante on the cost. It has fostered an …
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Salt Spring Fire - The System is Broken

In response to the Driftwood article dated December 24, 2014, regarding our fire department quotes Union president Jamie Holmes as saying "The system must be somewhat broken…".  Although our reasons differ, I couldn't agree with him more. The fire department's 2015 budget is $2,529,000 (plus a few hundred thousand for debt servicing on outstanding loans). This is almost four times what it was less than ten years ago, yet the call volume is down. Across the pond, in the municipality of N. Cowichan, the 2014 budget for its fire department came in at half of ours: $1,254,000. Their population is about three times that of Salt Spring; the land mass is the same; the hazards are significantly greater (the Trans Canada Hwy., industry, etc.). There are four fire halls, each with its own Chief, and approximately 130 fire fighters….all of whom (including the fire chiefs) operate on a Paid-on-Call (POC) basis. "Captain" Holmes (he is now Asst. Chief, effective Jan. 1, 2015) asser…
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Transportation Referendum, It's About Time!

It is about time somebody did something about this, That is the first comment I hear when I speak to anyone on Salt Spring about the active transportation referendum to be held this Saturday for Rainbow Road and Lower Ganges Road. The actual question will request the authority to raise The Transportation annual allocation bylaw from $146,250 per year up to $396,250 for each of the next four years. Effectively a $250,000 increase per year until it expires the end of 2018. We then return to $146,250 base funding. The increase amounts to $37.80 per year for the average Salt Spring household according to a formula developed by the BC Assessment Authority. The Salt Spring Island Transportation Commission (SSITC) is required to go to referendum to raise additional funds. We have timed our request to be in conjunction with the local elections since this method dramatically saves on referendum administrative costs. This is why we ask your permission for a four year allocation …
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Transportation Issues on Salt Spring Island

Since 2007, we have had a volunteer commission on Salt Spring Island called the SSITC. The purpose in creating the SSITC was to bring bus service here. The bylaw created to establish the bus service also gave the volunteer SSITC jurisdiction over all sidewalks and roadside paths and parking once the land is signed over by the Ministry of Transportation (MOT) if it is in the right of way (ROW). A certain amount of roadside land is privately owned and other land particularly around the schools is owned by school district #64. In order to have paths built, land is transferred over to local jurisdiction (SSITC). When this happens, informal areas that are presently 'the side of the road' become formalized and 'illegal' nose-in parking is eliminated and replaced by 'legal' parallel parking. In terms of Ganges, most parking is 'illegal' and 'informal'. Yet, as it is a small town bound by ocean and hills, we have no choice. On November 15, 2014 there will be a tax requisition for s…
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Transportation Referendum: the Facts

Ken Marr makes valid points in his opinion piece on the transportation referendum. But the credibility of these points is undermined by omissions and errors of fact. Fact #1: The SSI Transportation Commission (SSITC) referendum is not solely related to a sidewalk on Rainbow; funding will advance progress on multiple safety-driven projects: a sidewalk in the school zone on Rainbow to the pool sidewalk and bike lanes on Lower Ganges from Rainbow/Mahon Hall to the Upper Ganges intersection the Ganges Village Pathway Network plus Ganges Hill. Fact #2: The recent Commission vote on the Rainbow sidewalk marks the fourth time Commissioners and the CRD Director have voted to endorse the project going back to October 2010. Fact #3: A paved sidewalk proposed by CRD consultants was estimated to cost $1.5m. So the School Board and Island Pathways volunteers joined transportation commissioners to craft a new design to reduce the estimated cost by 70%. The design specifies…
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Transportation Referendum an Important Decision

Salt Spring voters face an important decision on November 15. A transportation referendum is on the ballot. Arlene Dashwood's letter to the SSI Transportation Commission pointed out that the transportation sector has been long neglected on this island: "I think we have a big catch-up to deal with as there has not been much done other than upkeep for quite awhile." Transportation infrastructure does not get built for free and it is not cheap. There is no free lunch. Safety and security are the driving factors behind the current SSITC project priorities. The best/worst example is what CRD Director Wayne McIntyre rightly calls a "no brainer" and that is the lack of a sidewalk in the school district. Enhancing transportation infrastructure also contributes directly to both quality of life and economic development on SSI. The SSITC revisited the original consultants' design for Rainbow Road. The reason it did so is that CRD SSI estimated it would cost $1.5m to build …
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Rainbow Road Pathway Referendum

On November 15, Islanders are being asked to approve a bylaw for an additional $1,000,000 in tax for capital projects proposed by the Transportation Committee. This request is unrelated to our bus system and will not affect this program if it is defeated. The committee voted 4-1 to pursue the authority to tax islanders for a gravel pathway unsuitable for road bikes and mobility scooters from Lower Ganges road to the Rainbow Road Pool, estimated to cost about $550,000 or about $250 per foot. The last public presentation on this project was made in the spring of 2010. The proposed project has changed considerably since 2010 and the “drawings are no longer valid,” according to the Senior CRD Manager of the SSI Electoral area. The vote was not very convincing. One member left just before the vote and came back immediately thereafter. Due to two other engagements, the only elected representative to the committee (our CRD Director) could not attend. One member voiced s…
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Salt Spring Island Local Governance

Salt Spring Island[1] (SSI) has an unusual form of local governance, unique in the world to it and 11 other island communities in the southern Gulf Islands[2], an archipelago of 450+ islands in British Columbia[3]. The land zoning and community planning services of these 12 islands are delivered through[4]Islands Trust, created in 1974 by the British Columbia government through the Islands Trust Act[5], to separate land use and planning from delivery of other local government services.[6] The impetus was to curb unbridled development, under way and in planning, at odds with rare, fragile, beautiful ecosystems (notably, coastal Douglas-fir[7] and Garry oak[8]) valued by all British Columbians. The constant press to expand the local tax base would doubtless sacrifice natural landscapes and biodiversity. The mandate of Islands Trust is to "preserve and protect"[9] the environment in balance with broad human needs. The result is a distinctly different local governance system fro…
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Water Treatment Plant Can Be Less Than $6 Million

A lot has happened since the NSSWD ratepayers voted “no” via the “alternate approval process” (AAP) to the borrowing of $10.4 million for the water plant. Since then, we (ad-hoc group of concerned ratepayers) arranged for a large construction company and an extremely experienced consulting company that has been involved in 1500 water and wastewater plants, to meet with the NSSWD trustees. The consultants have issued the following report to me (in quotes): “As discussed, I believe that there are significant savings if the Water Board would pursue ASD (Alternative Service Delivery) options (DB or CM@Risk). Historical data shows that saving of 20-35% compared to traditional Design-Bid-Build procurement are realized. These savings can be achieved without sacrificing performance or quality. For this project, our review indicates that significant savings could be achieved. Specifically, the level of redundancy of installed equipment and storage in the proposed predesign exce…
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Opinion: North Salt Spring Water Works - Inappropriate Use of the ‘Alternative Approval Process’

I am not qualified to argue the merits of the current 10.4 Million dollar proposal by North Salt Spring Water Works but just as Doug Smith wrote in the Driftwood a few weeks ago, the use of the "Alternative Approval Process" instead of a genuine ratepayer's referendum on this important issue is highly inappropriate for a project of this size. With it's huge impact on property taxes in perpetuity we both argue for voting NO on this purely on democratic principles to discourage other groups and improvement districts from attempting this highly suspect tactic to slide through on a mega projects. A lot of people argued about a mere $50/yr tax increase for the recent FireHall which was defeated by fair referendum and I say kudos to the Fire Department for having the temerity to put it out there openly for all ratepayers to decide. Not so with North Salt Spring Waterworks looking for a $300 to $400/yr tax increase! Other groups like the Transportation Committee who dutifully place…
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