Years ago, long before NIKE adopted the slogan, I read a book where a six year old girl looked often at the adults in her life and declared ‘Just do it’. And I often think of my step-son as a toddler interrupting my explanation of why I was or was not giving him permission with “yes, or no, or yes or no, or yes”. There have been many times when I struggled to make a decision when the cost/benefit or value attached to either didn’t have a clear outcome. I learned from all of these scenarios that decision-making is both an art and an action.
I make decisions firstly through the lens of my core values for social and environmental justice – equity, inclusion and diversity. I seek data and facts from as wide an array of individuals and organizations as possible within the time frames available. I seek common ground, beliefs and values from which to move forward and I try to determine and take into account the possible unintended consequences, the internal and external pressures that may derail the intended outcomes. Then I make a plan to review progress, to adjust the plans and actions and to be prepared to incorporate new knowledge.
I have been reviewing many of the reports and documents at the City’s web site and see many instances where there has been little or no long-term thinking about the decisions that have been made for the last decade. The most concerning to me is how council has traditionally viewed the main source of income – property taxes. It appears that the current model seeks to keep the rate of taxation below comparable municipalities and certainly below provincial averages and council have weighed their decisions based on only the current year’s budget. I was happy to see staff has recommended to review the parameters of rates and to look at at least a five-year projection of finances when making those decisions. I have seen many instances of property owners bemoaning what they perceive as an ever increasing property tax bill but want to remind folks that this is primarily a result of the increasing value of your property – not the taxation rate. Yes, the city has benefited too, but if we want to get the housing crisis under control (a 20 year horizon), we have to factor those external pressures along with the desire to at least keep current levels of services to existing and new residents into our deliberations. Staff have also recommended a review of fees for service – which surprisingly hasn’t been systematically reviewed to date.
There are several excellent reports and recommendations ‘sitting on the shelves’ that we must urgently re-visit in light of climate chaos, increasing inequity and the global economy. Did you know Campbell River had committed to being ‘carbon neutral’ by 2012? Did you know we have a great Urban Agriculture plan? Did you know there are millions of dollars available from provincial and federal funding sources to address resilience in the face of climate breakdown, energy systems, local food security, infrastructure deficits an more?
When I get on council, I will work with the team and residents to determine the actions we need to address overlapping crises and then make decisions to best serve the community. I will keep the longer horizon in mind and I recognize that we will never please everyone, but we can make decisions people can live with until they see how the city is benefiting.
I will speak more about specific areas of concern and the possibilities to improve our city and lives that already exist in my next blogs.