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Your City Hall

Mayor's Minute


2019-10-03

Summerland Council joined local governments and regional districts throughout B.C. in Vancouver last week at the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) convention. This Mayor’s Minute will be the first of two on the 2019 UBCM Convention.

UBCM is an engaging and bustling four-and-one-half days of educational and professional development sessions; meetings with provincial Ministers and staff; voting on resolutions; and networking with colleagues.

The theme of the 2019 Convention was ‘Resiliency and Change’. I think the sub-theme of all elected official conventions of this nature (at least the ten—five each of UBCM and Southern Interior Local Government Association (SILGA)—that I have attended over the years), could be ‘Connectedness Through Relationships’.

Delegates had numerous opportunities throughout the week to share challenges, accomplishments and best practises with colleagues in other communities. Additionally, the two-day concurrent trade show allowed one-on-one engagement with representatives from companies and funders about the services and grants they offer to local governments. Frankly, I find it difficult to attend everything I would like to take part in, but kudos to the UBCM Executive for ensuring there are options for all delegates regardless of community location, size, or challenges.

As one would expect, the attainable housing and opioid crises were highlighted issues, but this year there were two other topics that were addressed at considerable length: reconciliation and climate change.

Given that last month Council made a commitment to strengthen our relationship with the Penticton Indian Band (through educational, political, cultural and operational activities), the timing could not have been better to begin learning, as a team, how to undertake  this long-term commitment.

Councillor Holmes and I attended the full day pre-conference session on financing reconciliation; the entire Council (Councillor Erin Trainer was unable to attend UBCM) and Chief Administrative Officer Anthony Haddad attended a half-day session on Tuesday that included a panel discussion and examples of B.C. communities that have partnered on a variety of projects with their Indigenous neighbours.

As a table officer of SILGA, I was invited to a meeting with Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation and his staff. In February 2019 the B.C. Government committed to tabling legislation to implement the framework for reconciliation set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP). If the legislation passes, British Columbia will be the first province in Canada to legislate its endorsement of the Declaration.

Minister Fraser advised that the proposed legislation closely follows federal Bill C-262. It was developed by the Province in consultation with the First Nations Leadership Council, the B.C. Assembly of First Nations, the B.C. Union of Indian Chiefs, and the Indigenous Relations Committee of the UBCM Executive. Minister Fraser assured the SILGA executive and the four SILGA-area students who attended UBCM that an action plan and communication materials will facilitate the anticipated roll-out to local government.

Climate change was also at the forefront during the last week of September,  and was the topic of sessions and of several resolutions, many related to climate mitigation and adaptation.

Typically, a vote at UBCM is the third time a resolution is voted on by elected officials. The municipality or regional district where it originates votes at a Council or Board meeting; the local government association delegates vote at their annual spring convention; and UBCM delegates vote at their annual fall convention.

Delegates overwhelmingly passed a resolution “that UBCM call on the Provincial government to end all subsidies to fossil fuel companies and to invest the money instead in climate change mitigation and adaptation activities being undertaken by local governments in a predictable and regularized funding formula”. The resolution also included the call by UBCM, through FCM (Federation of Canadian Municipalities), to call on the Federal government to do the same.

Time will tell whether this resolution sees affirmation action by the Provincial and/or the Federal governments.

Friday morning, I was invited by Global BC to do a short live segment at their studios in Burnaby about how climate change has impacted Summerland. This was a good start to ClimateStrike 2019 that saw an estimated 100,000 people in Vancouver alone demanding action be taken to address climate change.

The next Mayor’s Minute will continue Summerland Council’s UBCM 2019 week, including my thoughts on Minister and staff meetings and other interesting discussions in and around UBCM.

2019-08-29

This past Sunday I returned to Summerland after visiting Toyokoro, Japan, the District of Summerland’s Sister City. The District has had this relationship with Toyokoro for 23 years.

According to Sister City International’s website, a Sister City relationship is “a broad-based, long-term partnership between two cities in two countries”. Sister City organizations “pursue activities and thematic areas that are important to their community including municipal, business, trade, educational, and cultural exchanges and projects” (sistercity.org).

Personally, I was skeptical about the value of our Sister City relationship with Toyokoro (population approximately 3,000), specifically in the areas of business and trade. As it happens, these doubts were realized. Although Toyokoro is similar to Summerland in that agriculture contributes substantially to their economy (even more so than here, in fact), business and trade opportunities between the two communities do not exist.

Toyokoro is located on the island of Hokkaido, the northernmost and second largest island in Japan. It is separated from Honshu, the main island, by Tsugaru Strait; the two islands are connected by an undersea railway. The largest city on Hokkaido is Sapporo, the capital, with a population of almost two million. The Summerland delegation, which included 2019/20 Royalty, spent several days in Sapporo before going to Toyokoro.

The best part of the trip for me was the three-and-a-half days we spent in Toyokoro. The three Royalty stayed with host families, and joined the rest of the delegation (eleven in total) for parts of the tours and events. Among other things, we toured city hall, a seniors’ home; nursery, elementary and junior high schools; attended the Welcome and Sayonara dinners; had a calligraphy lesson; participated in a Japanese tea ceremony; had a bus tour of Tokachi, the region in which Toyokoro is located; and some of us had a kimono-wearing experience.

I particularly enjoyed discussions about how their local government operates and about the substantial solar array installed a few minutes from City Hall.

Japanese society is considered collectivist, meaning that, generally, the Japanese people “place a great deal of importance on extended families and group loyalty” and “may employ less direct communication and more avoidance-style conflict resolution” (Martin & Nakayama, Intercultural Communication in Contexts, 2018, p. 100). These aspects of Japanese culture were, to some degree, evident during the ten days we spent in Japan, particularly the strength of familial relationships and the tendency to avoid eye contact.

I found many aspects of Japanese culture enlightening and refreshing, although not all. So, after a couple of days getting to know Mayor Miyaguchi’s interpreter, I talked to her about my observations and received these responses: “Yes”, Japan is still a very patriarchal society; “Yes”, matters like substance abuse, mental health, and gender orientation are not discussed; and “Yes”, ethnic discrimination, including against the Ainu (indigenous) people, exists; and “Yes” fair-coloured skin plays a role in social standing.

I feel that Canadians, including those in leadership roles, still have varying levels of growth to do in these matters as well. However, I was so pleased, especially as a woman of colour, to be the Mayor representing the people of Summerland.

As I wrote earlier in this Minute, I did not see how  local business or trade benefits from our relationship with Toyokoro, but I do see value in a cultural exchange program for our youth. Mayor Miyaguchi, members of the Sister City Committee and I had a good discussion about how we can strengthen this aspect of the relationship between our communities. We all agree that the last twenty years have done much to build a strong bond between our two communities. We also believe that evolving the program into a cultural exchange for youth (much like Toyokoro has done), would further strengthen the alliance and should be explored. Summerland Council will be discussing this matter further.

Thank you Council, Leanne Sieben (Chair) and the Sister City Committee, and Summerland for the opportunity to travel to Japan. Thanks, too, to previous Councils for your commitment to establish and grow a Sister City relationship with Toyokoro.

I look forward to welcoming the student delegation to Summerland in 2020. We may not be able to “out-gift” the Japanese, but I’m confident Summerland can “out-experience” our guests!

2019-08-07

In 2009, the District of Summerland Council hired a Planner responsible for assisting the District in meeting the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction targets of Bill 27 enacted by the Province in 2008: 33% less than 2007 levels by 2020 and 80% less by 2050. To further illustrate our commitment to take action on the changing climate, the District added these targets to our Official Community Plan (OCP) and signed the BC Climate Action Charter, a voluntary agreement between the Province, Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) and local governments to take action on climate change.

The Planner and nine other staff members, with community members who sat on the Climate Action Advisory Group, completed the Community Climate Action Plan (CCAP) in 2011. The Action Plan incorporated public input from workshops and open houses and was a roadmap for achieving the GHG emissions reduction targets set out in the OCP. An update to the CCAP is being worked on now and is expected to come to Council for adoption later this year.

The 2011 Community Climate Action Plan includes seven climate action goals, two of which are to “promote energy conservation and dissemination of renewable energy technologies” and to “demonstrate municipal leadership”. The first goal includes two initiatives: “encourage energy conservation in buildings” and “support the development and utilization of renewable energy sources.” The second goal outlines six initiatives including: “Support Summerland’s Climate Action Fund and improve energy efficiency of municipally owned and operated buildings”.

Although there are other goals in the CCAP, this Mayor’s Minute focuses on initiatives related to energy use in Summerland. Here are just a few:

  • Each year Council allocates specific funds to offset Climate Action operations.Any surplus funds at the end of each year are transferred into the District’s Climate Action Reserve Account, which can only be used to reduce GHG emissions in Summerland. This amount comes from three sources: CARIP (see below), 0.001% of the District’s annual operating budget, and the Sustainability Coordinator’s wage is paid for 50/50 from general taxation and the electrical utility fund.
  • Currently, all energy sold in Summerland is purchased from FortisBC, then distributed by the Summerland Electrical Utility. To advance opportunities to benefit from local renewable energy projects, in 2016 the District hired a Sustainability/Alternative Energy Coordinator; in 2018 the General Manager, Electrical Utility position was added to District staff. There are many benefits to owning our electrical utility, including be able to generate energy locally and keep money (that currently goes to FortisBC) in the local economy.
  • Early last year, Summerland was conditionally awarded $6 million in federal grant funding for a Solar+Storage project, an initiative that will see an array of approximately 3200 solar panels and battery storage added to the electrical utility’s assets. A proposed site has been selected, but a final decision will not be made by council until further testing confirms this site is suitable for the project.
  • The District reports annually on emission reductions to the Climate Action Revenue Incentive Program (CARIP). In 2018, the District received $32,883 from this program.
  • Summerland has three Level 2 electric vehicle charging stations installed and has applied for funding to add two Level 3 stations. On August 12, Council is discussing an application for funding to install additional stations throughout the District. (An empty battery takes approximately 4 hours to fully charge at a Level 2 station; 30 minutes to charge to 80% full at a Level 3 station.)
  • A switch to LED streetlights completed in 2018/2019 is expected to save the community over $72,000 each year in operating costs.
  • In 2015 the District implemented its Distributed Generation (Net Metering) Program. This program allows residents with their own energy generation systems, such as rooftop solar, to connect to the Summerland electrical grid and receive a credit for any excess energy produced.
  • The District’s net metering program has recently been updated and will be re-launched at an open-house style event on August 27 from 3 to 6 pm at the Arena Banquet Room.

Please note that Mayor’s Minute will not be in the August 22 edition of the Herald; the column will resume August 29.

2019-07-25

“In this world, nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes.” — Benjamin Franklin

Summerland residents can breathe a sigh of relief that the 2019 tax season is over: they have claimed the suitable Homeowner’s Grant (if eligible) and submitted their payment. Summerlanders can be assured that services will continue for another year; that infrastructure will be maintained, repaired, and/or replaced; and that public facilities and amenities will continue to be operated safely.

But what does this mean? Where do our tax dollars go?

Here is a short list to give you an idea of how the District of Summerland puts your tax dollars to work for you. Starred items (*) are related to Summerland’s share of regional district services.

  • Okanagan Regional Library, Summerland branch
  • Debt financing, both municipal and Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS)*
  • Regional transit, including the new route to Kelowna beginning in September*
  • 911 emergency service (improvements only)*
  • Emergency management, including the Emergency Operations Centre*
  • Penticton Regional Hospital, including the David E. Kampe Tower*
  • Schools
  • South Okanagan Conservation Plan*
  • Mosquito control*
  • Heritage*
  • Illegal dumping*
  • Invasive species*
  • Regional economic development (Okanagan Film Commission)*
  • Regional Growth Strategy*
  • Solid Waste Management Plan*
  • Okanagan Basin Water Board*
  • Regional trails (KVR Trail, for example)*
  • RCMP (Summerland detachment and special investigation)
  • Summerland Fire Department
  • Recreational facilities, including the Aquatic Centre, Arena and Skatepark
  • Trails, including Giant’s Head, Conkle Mountain, Centennial and others
  • Parks, sports fields, and beaches
  • Summerland Campground and Rodeo Grounds
  • Roads (not including Highway 97)
  • Summerland Museum and Summerland Arts and Cultural Centre
  • Summerland Chamber of Commerce
  • Festival of Lights
  • Grants to non-profit groups such as the Summerland Food Bank and Resources, Ryga Arts Festival, Summerland Fall Fair, and others
  • Fleet vehicles and equipment, including fire trucks
  • Capital projects: plans and designs; upgrades, repairs and maintenance; replacement and new
  • Signage
  • Downtown Beautification including banners and hanging baskets
  • Landscaping and maintenance
  • Garbage and recycling collection and landfill management
  • Cemetery services
  • Operation of municipal hall

 

The salaries and wages for District staff (operations) and the stipend for the Council (governance) are also funded through taxpayer dollars.  Expenditures, including wages, that are related to utilities (water, sewer and electrical) are funded by monthly utility charges.

The front counter finance staff who receive your property tax payment collects it on behalf of the District of Summerland, the RDOS, and others. Timely payment of property taxes, including claiming the Homeowners Grant, is every property owners’ responsibility. If you are late making your payment and facing a penalty, take ownership for your decision. Be civil to District staff.

It is easy to grumble about paying taxes—I’ve done it too—but if those who benefit from the services don’t pay for them … who should?