Tribal Canoe Journey visits K’omoks First Nations

Tribal Canoe Journey visits K’omoks First Nations

The Tribal Canoe Journeys landed at the point of Comox Spit today. Members of the K’omoks First Nations welcomed several dozen canoes carrying about 100 families from the Northwest Coast. They are enroute to Campbell River later this week where the ceremonial gathering will culminate. (Click any photo to start the slideshow.)

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Pieter Vorster takes on TideChange community website

Pieter Vorster takes on TideChange community website

A Comox Valley website regularly used by more than 300 community service groups has changed ownership.

Pieter Vorster, the founder of Pod Creative, has assumed responsibility for TideChange.ca, from the nonprofit World Community, and plans to expand its reach to a variety of secondary audiences.

This third iteration of TideChange will continue to fill an important need for nonprofit organizations.

A lack of consistent attention from the news media has always been the bane of community service organizations. The ability to publicize news and events beyond their devoted membership affects how successfully they find volunteers, raise funds and create community action … and avoid getting in each other’s way.

But small-town newspapers and broadcast outlets don’t have the space or time to publish everything that every community group is doing.

Chris Hillar, a former Department of Fisheries and Oceans employee, now retired, recognized back in the mid-2000s that Comox Valley non-governmental organizations needed an information hub. So he started a weekly email newsletter with information about the nonprofits he knew.

Nine years ago, the World Community Development Education Society picked up the idea and created TideChange as an online outlet for local groups to post their news and events. They employed a part-time editor, Angela Burns, to manage the site.

In just the last few years, Comox Valley groups have posted more than 4,000 articles on the website.

But this year, Burns retired from TideChange and World Community decided it had grown the website to the point where it could become self-sustaining.

On June 1, Vorster, also a volunteer with World Community, took on full ownership and management of the website. Now that the Comox Valley has only one news gathering organization and the demise of another local publication, InFocus, Vorster sees “a real need for alternative news.”

Vorster says TideChange will continue its original mission of publishing the news and information from community groups, and providing a community calendar of their events. While the community-at-large uses the calendar, the groups themselves also use it to avoid scheduling overlapping events.

But he also believes that it’s time to grow the website’s audience.

“With 3500+ regular monthly visitors, who tend to visit between 3 and 4 pages on our site, we have secured our target audience,” he said. “We believe that it is time now to grow our reach and include a variety of secondary audiences, who might even produce citizen journalists looking for an outlet for their media contributions

“Over the next few months we might expand … including a more comprehensive list of news posts and/or calendar entries from the community, in the aim of extending our reach and therefore the value of the service we provide. That having been said, we have every intention of stubbornly persisting with the underlying values of TideChange, keeping it close to the vision I helped build over these past years.”

Vorster said TideChange will “continue to function as a community connecting resource. Our community calendar features feeds from a variety of active local orgs, and remains a popular draw – for those planning their social activities and those producing/presenting those activities.”

Vorster became involved with TideChange through World Community, which he voluntarily assisted in their own website development.

Vorter has degrees in communications and dramatic arts from the University of the Orange Free State and a diploma in Creative Writing from the AAA School of Advertising (Cape Town, South Africa). He cut his teeth as a professional copywriter for three years at Saatchi & Saatchi.

Vorster became Managing Editor of FYI South – a bilingual city guide in Taiwan focusing on the southern region of the island. He moved to the Comox Valley with his wife, Caila and his daughters Juniper and Wren, in late 2008, and launched his home-based business (now Pod Creative).

Author’s note: I have served on the TideChange Advisory Committee for the past six months during this period of transition.

 

Shocker for homeowners: no protection for private wells

Shocker for homeowners: no protection for private wells

If you get drinking water from a private well British Columbia, the provincial government provides no protection from any activities that might foul your water quality.

Sylvia Burrosa, the regional hydrologist for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO), delivered that piece of bad news for thousands of Comox Valley residents at a June 6 meeting with Beech Street residents.

Beech Street residents fear that construction and operation of a sewage pump station in the rural neighborhood poses a high risk to their mostly shallow wells. And a hydrology analysis by GW Solutions commissioned by the residents supports that concern.

Several of the residents recently met with representatives of FLNRO, the Vancouver Island Health Authority and Kris LaRose, the Comox Valley Regional District’s senior manager of water/wastewater services, at the health department’s Courtenay office.

Burrosa said there are no protections for individual wells under the B.C. Drinking Water Protection Act (DWPA). It only addresses threats to drinking water that affect two or more households connected to the same system.

In other words, someone or some entity, such as a regional district, can pollute or dry up your water supply, and you’ll get no help from the province’s water protection law.

That should concern everyone with a private well. But it especially concerns Beech Street residents because LaRose admitted the construction will impact residents’ water supplies.

LaRose said the degree of impact on the wells will be determined by the method of construction of the pump station that will move sewage from Courtenay and Comox households to the treatment plant at a higher elevation.

If they dewater the site to place the pumps below ground there’s a high risk it will dry out neighborhood wells during the entire 18 months of construction.

If they use a pile driving method, rather than dewater, there is an unknown risk of having a permanent object in the aquifers from which the wells draw water. The piles could cause groundwater flows to change direction, making the wells useless.

Given the failed history of regional district engineers to predict outcomes of previous sewage planning (Willemar Bluff erosion, treatment plant odors), and the subsequent successful lawsuits, the Beech Street residents have good reason to worry.

Burrosa also noted that provincial regulations require pipelines carrying sewage to be no closer than 30 metres of wells. Rural residents know that their wells must be 30 metres from their septic fields.

LaRose said the CVRD had to double-wrap the new sewage pipe from HMCS Quadra for this reason. This appears to mean the CVRD would have to do the same for the pipes in the Beech Street neighborhood, which would significantly add to the cost of construction.

None of the health authority or FLNRO representatives could answer questions about the legality of a sewage facility within 30 metres of wells, or whether the forcemain must stay 30 metres from wells along the four (4) kilometres route from Beech Street to the Brent Road treatment plant.

Engineers for the Courtenay/Comox Sewage Commission are waiting for results from an assessment of the forcemain sewer pipe and a new hydrogeology report before they can estimate the cost of constructing the new pump station. Any of those items could raise red flags that derail the project.

But given the risks during construction and the promise of no noise, vibration or odor from the pump station, another lawsuit over Courtenay/Comox sewage planning seems likely.

 

The abstract expressionism of painter Angel Matamoros

The abstract expressionism of painter Angel Matamoros

(Editor’s note: I worked with Angel “Fred” Matamoros at The News Tribune and The Olympian in Washington state, and he designed the Decafnation logo. I follow his work, both in graphic design and painting, and asked Tony Martin for a short review of Fred’s latest series of paintings.)

By TONY MARTIN

The first thing I should mention is a quote by British artist and Turner Prize winner Grayson Perry: “artists should never be compared to other artists in a review”, something like that.

But I can’t help comparing the latest paintings by Angel Matamoros to the late Richard Diebenkorn, West Coast’s most revered artist.

In his day job, Matamoros is an award-winning graphic designer who has worked for major newspapers and design houses. Away from work, he’s an abstract expressionist painter represented by galleries in Louisiana and Texas.

Although I have never seen his actual paintings — only his portfolio online — his excellent sense of design and colour comes through. I too am a former graphic designer turned painter, so I recognize where Matamoros is coming from.

My reference to Diebenkorn is to offer an opportunity to check him out online. He is a perfect example of what abstract expressionism is all about and it’s a North American phenomenon. Abstract Expressionism is a post-World War ll art movement in American painting, developed in New York in the 1940s.

It was the first specifically American movement to achieve international influence and put New York City at the centre of the western art world, a role formerly filled by Paris.

While Diebenkorn and Paul Klee, among others, have influenced his work, Matamoros is inspired by artists from his native Costa Rica, such as Rafael Angel Garcia and Francisco Zuniga.

The abstracts by Matamoros take snippets of text from poems that he loves, and combines them with heavy, textural colors and forms.

Metamoros has left print media to work as the principal graphic designer at Hazen and Sawyer in San Diego, a group of environmental engineers and scientists.

About his painting, he says: “I am drawn to surfaces, the power of colour, texture and energetic gestures. My work disassembles and re-arranges images inspired by places I have a special connection with, poems, books I’ve read as well as nature. While I give the paintings titles, it’s my hope that people will connect with the art in reflection of their own story.”

You may view his paintings at www.angelmatamoros.com or check out Saatchi Gallery’s web site.

Tony Martin is the former Director/Curator of the Comox Valley Art Gallery. He currently lives and works in Nanaimo. You can see his own work here.

 

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Here’s a novel idea: politicians working together

Here’s a novel idea: politicians working together

I’m amused and somewhat disappointed at all the hand-wringing about the imminent British Columbia minority government.

Since the May 9 election that gave no single party a majority of seats in the B.C. Legislature, political pundits, former elected officials and newspaper editorials have quickly pointed out that recent minority governments have failed to last.

That’s historically true. The last B.C. minority government to last more than a year was a Liberal government that lasted 1,406 days, or 3.85 years, back in 1924-1928.

But the argument that every minority government will fail relies on a modern phenomena: minority governments require too much compromise and negotiation.

Too much compromise and negotiation?

Are British Columbians so used to absolutely NO compromise and negotiation from dictatorial majority provincial governments that the idea our MLAs might have to talk seriously with each other is abhorrent?

Don’t you find the notion slightly insulting that Canadian elected officials cannot cooperate and collaborate for the common good?

A recent Globe and Mail editorial said, “… it requires a leap of quasi-religious faith to believe that this (NDP and Green Party) coalition can hold for anything close to four years … It also means parties having to compromise with their partners.”

As if that’s something Canadians can’t or won’t do. Why not?

Where did this notion come from that says every piece of legislation proposed in the B.C. Legislature must pass? And if one doesn’t, then convention dictates that the government must resign and British Columbians must go back to the polls and elect a government that can do whatever it wants.

It’s a convention that perpetuates block voting and absolute loyalty to party leadership. But it discourages honest debate and the ability to amend and improve legislation. A poorly written bill should fail.

Fortunately, the current iteration of a B.C. minority government includes the Green Party, which allows its members to vote their conscience. This introduces the possibility that not every NDP proposal will pass and that the Legislature can continue without calling another election. It also suggests that MLAs might have to collaborate to make policy.
This type of collaborative government works well in other stable and leading countries — like Germany and New Zealand — and made the norm by the electoral system of proportional representation.

If the NDP and Greens can show British Columbians that our elected officials are capable of working together for good governance, despite their disagreements, then we will all benefit.

 

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