It’s a long and lonely road to the top. George Le Masurier photo
The week in review: new councils make their own first meeting statements
BY GEORGE LE MASURIER
Voters meted out the biggest changes to local government this fall in Courtenay and Comox with a sharp shift toward younger and more progressive councillors. But it’s still the Cumberland Village Council that, so far, has delivered on the progressive agenda.
Mayor Leslie Baird’s crew needed just a couple of meetings to approve two marijuana dispensaries, agree to a prohibition on water bottling and start the ball rolling on a village-wide plastic bag ban.
Of course, Cumberland already had the most functionally progressive council in the Valley, and had only one change after the election — Vickey Brown for Roger Kishi. Courtenay has three new councillors and Comox has four.
— Kudos to Comox Councillor Patrick McKenna for casting the lone vote against awarding council members what many will see as a pay increase. It’s not, of course. The increase merely covers the loss of tax-exempt status on council expenses. And the remuneration for elected officials wasn’t overly generous to begin with.
But the optics were bad. Whoever decided to put that decision on the table at the new councils’ first meeting, did the disservice of putting them all in a bad position.
— No one ever doubted that funding for the $125 million water-filtering plant would materialize. It’s being built as a result of government (Island Health) mandated standards and, environmental cynics would say, because of provincial policies that allowed logging practices in the Comox Lake watershed that caused most of the turbidity problems in the first place.
Still, the $63.9 million for the project announced this week was comforting. The feds threw in $34.3 and the province gave $28.6 million, $7.5 million of which goes to the K’omoks First Nations. Comox Valley taxpayers will buck up the balance of $54.9.
And for that $125 million about half of Comox Valley residents get no more boil-water advisories. The other half will continue to drink from their wells and other water sources.
— What a difference a year or so makes. The Mack Laing Heritage Society asked Comox Council to put a tarp on the roof of Shakesides, the famous naturalists last home on Comox Bay back in April of of 2017 and never got a formal reply. The issue was never even brought to council for a vote.
But the new council (four new, three incumbents) discussed and approved the request at its very first meeting. What changed? Did the three who served on the previous council suddenly get religion? Or, did they and certain staff members just realize the majority of four new council members had no interest in playing the “I can’t hear you game” with Shakesides supporters?
Whatever the reason, the council did the right thing. Until the court rules on the town’s petition to alter a generous man’s gift to his community or some other way forward is adopted, the building in Mack Laing Park must be protected.
— Who doesn’t want to live in a community where the City Council bikes to its meetings? Well maybe the Comox Valley Taxpayer’s Alliance. But many of us do.
Yeah, we know, it was nothing more than a PR stunt hastily arranged when Courtenay council members gathered at a downtown bike shop and rode together to their first council meeting. And, yet, it meant something important. It represented an attitude and a vision for how this council will address transportation and related issues.
City councillors aren’t all going to bike to every council meeting. They just took an opportunity to make a simple, positive statement. Now they need to back up that message with policy.
— Overheard at the Comox public input session regarding the Comox Valley Sewer System redesign, which primarily serves Courtenay and Comox residents …
“Know why Courtenay should pay the full cost of odour control measures at the treatment plant? Because in Comox, our s–t doesn’t stink.”