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Your City Hall

Mayor's Minute

April 16, 2020

Communication—“a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs or behaviour”—is an integral part of the business of local government (merriam-webster.com).

These unsettling and uncertain times call for an elevated level of clear, consistent and factual communication.

The District of Summerland communication strategy during this public health emergency consists of two separate, but connected, segments: 1) collaboration with other local governments and the Province, and 2) Summerland-centric.

Crossing both segments is the range of media used to deliver and receive communication. This includes legacy media (television, newspaper and radio) and online media platforms, for example online news, websites and social media.

From the announcement of the first cases of the coronavirus in British Columbia by provincial authorities (and American Sign Language interpreter Nigel Howard), District staff have regularly liaised with their colleagues at the Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS)and with Emergency Management B.C. (EMBC) to discuss matters related to the pandemic.

Region-wide communication creates efficiencies and capacity. This collaborative approach is best practice for a number of reasons including providing:

  • harmonized actions across the regional district (for example, closing recreational facilities and assets or allowing passive use of parks and beaches to continue);
  • a single, direct channel for information to flow between local and provincial government senior management;
  • coordinated planning and preparing for seasonal or emergent events (for example freshet and wildland fires);
  • a secure environment to raise challenges and discuss the merits or faults of solutions;
  • a forum to recognize successes and discuss the worthiness or weaknesses of new ideas.

Collaboration is also occurring regularly between the chair, the six municipal mayors and the seven chief administrative officers in the RDOS. Additionally, we have weekly calls with the provincial ministries, usually Minister Robinson, Municipal Affairs and Housing, Parliamentary Secretary Jen Rice, EMBC and their respective senior staff. Again, this regular and consistent communication provides a way to exchange factual, real-time information and ask questions specific to concerns local government leaders see in their respective communities.

To date, I have heard nothing but professionalism and respect between levels of government, whether participants are elected officials or senior management. Partisanship has stepped aside for, in my opinion, the betterment of all British Columbians.  

The second segment of our communication strategy is centred on the residents of Summerland. This communication includes updates on the District of Summerland website (Summerland.ca), media releases, media interviews, this Mayor’s Minute column and social media posts (primarily Facebook).

Generally, its still business as usual, that is, our strategy has not changed under the provincial state of emergency. However, there is one addition to note. I am writing a daily Mayor’s Message post for the District’s Facebook page (facebook.com/SummerlandBC). Sometimes the message is an example of what I’m doing to combat stress, others are shout outs to local businesses and how they are adapting, still others are thanks to residents who are doing their part to flatten the curve or celebrating our frontline and essential workers. Occasionally it is a reminder, with links to appropriate agencies, to practise physical (social) distancing or other provincial directives when out and about.

As we have from the outset, the District will continue to follow the lead and adhere to the orders of the B.C. health experts, namely Minister of Health Adrian Dix and Public Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. Especially in the early days, information about the spread of the coronavirus and how the Province was addressing it changed rapidly. Thankfully, a constant in the provincial briefings has been the calm yet empathic delivery of difficult very sad and difficult news.

The overwhelming majority of British Columbians have never been through a public health emergency: This is new ground for us all. We are all this together and I’d like to close with the assurance that we can all share the same goal—get through the first round of this pandemic and focus on getting back to “normal”, whatever that might look and whenever that might be.

Be safe and continued health.

March 26, 2020 

We can all agree that these are unusual and unsettling times.

On February 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced a name for the new coronavirus disease: COVID-19.

More recently, we (humanity) have heard a number of other terms related to COVID-19 including, and perhaps most importantly, self-isolation and social distancing.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control website (BCCDC.ca) carries up-to-date information on the coronavirus. According to the BCCDC, self-isolation is defined as “staying home and not going to work or school and monitoring for symptoms for 14 days”.

Limiting close contact with others is the best way to slow the spread of the virus. Again from BCCDC.ca: “There are many way to practice social distancing:

  • Limit activities outside your home.
  • Use virtual options to connect with others.
  • If you are out in public, try to keep two metres between yourself and others.
  • Keep your hands at your side when possible.
  • Stay at home when you are sick.
  • Cough into your elbow or sleeve.
  • Avoid social activities in large gatherings.”

During the flooding and wildland fires in 2017 and 2018, local and provincial governments gained some valuable learnings in terms of emergency management. Two of the many lessons that are now considered best practice are: collaboration with other local governments, regional health authority and the Province; and consistency in communications and messaging.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a unique situation and one that is changing very rapidly, but this is how the team approach to address the public health emergency looks for the District of Summerland.

Senior management (which includes emergency and public safety staff) meet daily, as do (by virtual means) the Chief Administrative Officers (CAOs) and emergency management staff of the District, City of Penticton and Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen. This latter group also has a daily conference call with Emergency Management B.C. (EMBC) to hear the Province’s latest recommendations or directives. The situation is rapidly changing

All of the decisions made by emergency management staff are made after careful consideration of the latest information coming from provincial and federal public/medical health officers. This includes closure plans such as municipal facilities that provide essential services (fire hall, water and sewage treatment plants, city hall, for example) or recreational facilities.

Working in collaboration with partners provides the opportunity to not only make informed decisions, but also allows coordinated responses and consistent communications. In other words, although local government partners issue their own media releases, the responses to COVID-19 and messaging aligns between them.

Returning now to social distancing. It is up to every single one of us to change our daily routines and behaviours. We are not living in routine times and normal behaviours are not acceptable. We know what we must do.

Social distancing also applies to businesses and has been particularly hard on small and medium-sized businesses and those that are relatively new. Restaurants, wineries, coffee shops, pubs, gyms, retail stores, those that offer personal hands-on services such as nail and hair salons, have either closed indefinitely or dramatically changed how they do business with their customers.

Business owners may be feeling a double hit from COVID-19: The worry over business and household financial issues plus the distress of having to close lay-off their employees.

Where possible, and if you are able, please support our local businesses. If take-out or delivery is available from your restaurant—use it. Some businesses offer gift cards that you can purchase now for use at a later time.

Having had five forums/symposiums/conventions and countless events either cancelled or postponed, I am suddenly finding a lot of unexpected free time. I am taking our dog for long walks in Conkle Mountain Park; preparing the ornamental and food gardens for another season; relearning how to knit; spending more time playing the piano; baking bread again and generally slowing down and appreciating being a Canadian. Best of all, I am hearing from my sons (in Victoria and near Toronto) more often than usual.

I realize that although life feels surreal, I have it easy; that—for any number of reasons—COVID-19 is very difficult for some in our community. The most vulnerable populations suffer the most in times of sudden change, whether it be extreme weather events, civil unrest, economic collapse or, like now, a global pandemic. For some, COVID-19 is more than unusual and unsettling: It is a living nightmare.

For these folks in particular, I hope there is comfort in the fact that we are all in this together.

Know that a single story of greed or selfishness is overwhelmed by hundreds of examples of compassion and kindness.

It may be that we will all have a defined split in our lived experience: Pre-Pandemic and Post-Pandemic. May the Post-Pandemic period, whatever that looks like, be a time of continued compassion, caring and connecting.

Stay safe. Stay healthy.

Let’s all lean into our humanity.” —Charles Marohn, Founder and President of Strong Towns

March 12, 2020 

On Monday morning I attended an announcement by MLA Ravi Kahlon, Parliamentary Secretary for Forest, Lands and Natural Resources Operations and Rural Development (FLINRORD). MLA Kahlon announced that almost $8.7 million is available province-wide through the Community Resiliency Investment Program (CRIP). Eighty-nine local governments and First Nations in B.C. are receiving the grant funding for community wildfire protection, including $140,000 to the Regional District Okanagan Similkameen (RDOS) and $150,000 to the Penticton Indian Band (PIB).

Initially, the Community Resiliency Investment Program required grant applicants to put forward a percentage of funds, but the program is now funded 100% through the provincial government.

You may have noticed that this grant funding announcement did not include the District of Summerland. However, the grants allocated to both the RDOS and the PIB indirectly provide benefits to Summerland.

While Summerland sits on the unceded territory of the Syilx Okanagan People that they share with us, a portion of Penticton Indian Band Reserve lands border the District of Summerland. As Chief Chad Eneas stated at the announcement, “Fuel management supports us to protect the cultural and heritage value of our forests, as well as ensure they can contribute to a sustainable economy for many generations.” Wildland fires know no boundaries: The work the PIB undertakes will also protect the outer reaches of the District of Summerland.

The same applies to the upcoming work of the RDOS, although the activities for which they have received funding include education, development, cross-training and FireSmart activities for private land. The District of Summerland is part of the RDOS and, more specifically, Area F—which includes Faulder and Meadow Valley west of Summerland—have been impacted by wildland fire in the last three years.

The District of Summerland has not been left out of CRIP funding. In the fall of 2019, our Fire Department applied for and received a $100,000 grant from the program. This funding was allocated for fuel mitigation (in the Deer Ridge subdivision located in an interface area); an update of our 2011 Community Wildfire Protection Plan; and working with three Summerland neighbourhoods to reach FireSmart Community status, a certification program of FireSmart Canada.

One other use of the funding was a community FireSmart Wildfire Preparedness session, held last Thursday, March 5, at Centre Stage. The session was well-attended with a robust Q&A session following presentations by host Frontline Operations Group, Summerland Fire Chief Glenn Noble, local ecologist Don Gayton, fire scientist Dr. Kerry Anderson and Brandy Mazlowski, a consultant working with Frontline Operations.

The presentations included the history of fire management and fire ecology. Traditional fuel management “supports us to protect the cultural and heritage value of our forests,” said Chief Eneas at Monday’s announcement, “as well as ensures they (forests) can contribute to a sustainable economy for many generations.” This is in stark contrast to the fire suppression or fire exclusion policies of recent practise although these policies are now being adapted to the current reality of unprecedented wildland fires.

Fire behaviour;, the fuel management work recently completed by the Summerland Fire Departmen;, and how to FireSmart your property was also presented at the Preparedness event. One Summerland neighbourhood has received FireSmart certification and two more have been selected—all three neighbourhoods are in interface areas, that is, residences and private properties border or are within a forested area.

Session participants received the FireSmart Begins at Home Manual which provides information on how to reduce the potential impacts of a wildland fire on private property. The manual includes a FireSmart Assessment to help homeowners determine the level of risk from wildland fires as well as a Last-Minute Checklist on protecting your home and property should you be evacuated. We also received a copy of the FireSmart Guide to Landscaping that outlines the three FireSmart Priority Zones and how to choose appropriate plants (low water requirements and fire resistant) and surface covers (inorganic mulches, for the most part).

I feel it is important to state that community preparedness for wildland fire (or any potential emergency) requires community participation. Both the education and the FireSmart components of the Community Resiliency Investment Program funding granted to the RDOS and (earlier) the District of Summerland funding are geared to assisting with that participation. I encourage you to participate in an education session when the opportunity arises.

February 27, 2020

The recent release of Climate Projections for the Okanagan Region (2020) has been reported in Valley media over the last couple of weeks. The published work is a collaboration between the three Okanagan Regional Districts and Pinna Sustainability, in partnership with Natural Resources Canada and the Okanagan Basin Water Board, and with participation from almost 90 stakeholders in the region.

The report examines a number of possible future scenarios based on historic and projected greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to predict climate change in the 2050s and 2080s. In short, we can expect warmer temperatures year-round, with summers getting considerably hotter. We can also expect increased precipitation throughout the year, except in summer, and rain events will be more severe.

Further, the growing season will increase from about 5.5 months to almost 7 months by the 2050s, and almost 8 months by the 2080s. This longer growing season is likely to bring some challenges, particularly in terms of water over the drier summer months.

It is important to note that, as always, weather will vary annually and seasonally: Some years will have more days above 30°C than others—some years will record much more rainfall. The report provides climate projections, meaning trends over a 30-year period. There will continue to be variability in weather aspects (temperature, precipitation, wind, cloud cover, for example), that will bring “unusual weather and more extreme weather events” (p. 7).

Climate action can be defined as actively reducing GHG emissions and strengthening resilience and adaptive capacity to the impacts of a changing climate. In other words, reducing the level of carbon dioxide (roughly 75% of GHGs) in our atmosphere, and making our community better able to withstand and adapt to events resulting from a changing climate.

What we do now in the way of climate action has long-term effects.

In terms of temperature rise (in BC), this is illustrated in the Climate Projections report in Figure 1: Future Temperatures by Emissions Scenario for BC. The Figure includes three scenarios over the next two decades: 1) minor reductions in GHG emissions (that is, the status quo); 2) reducing emissions by approximately one-half; and 3) reducing emissions substantially and sustaining those reductions (p. 6).

The graphed scenarios show that until 2050, the resulting change in temperature and precipitation regardless of the GHG concentrations in the atmosphere are relatively similar - moderate; however, and this cannot be stressed enough, by the 2080s the change is very dramatic with temperatures rising to near 6°C above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century, which would have extremely negative consequences for human health and wellbeing. In other words, we need to up our game.

As noted in Climate Projections, the overall intent of the project is “to support a local understanding of how climate across the Okanagan is projected to change, and inform regional planning on how to prepare for future climate events. This work is critical to maintaining wellbeing, including robust ecosystems, a thriving community, and a vibrant economy” (p.3).

Planners here (and elsewhere) must design not just to historic climate parameters, but to future climate scenarios. The Canadian engineering industry and the bodies that regulate them are working on establishing new standards to ensure that their approach is proactive and adaptive, rather than reactive. It is much more cost effective to design and construct to long-term scenarios than to merely react to climate shocks and stresses over time.

The District of Summerland’s infrastructure asset management strategy includes considerations regarding the changing climate, as do numerous Master Plans and, of course, the updated Summerland Community Energy and Emissions Reduction Plan, adopted by Council on February 24, 2020. Staff across departments—recreation, development services, finance, works and utilities, corporate services—have been directed by Council to consider climate impacts in their annual workplans and long-range planning, and Council must continue to adopt policies and priorities that reflect climate considerations.

In my opinion, climate action is more than a problem for levels of government. Action must include a significant improvement in raising the awareness of everyone through education. After all, climate change is affecting us all (those in marginalized communities disproportionately) and will affect today’s youth and future generations even more radically: health-wise, financially and environmentally.

Each of us needs to play a role. As Wangari Maathai said in dirt!: The Movie we can all be hummingbirds. (If you don’t know what that means, search “Wangari Maathai: I will be a hummingbird”.)

Climate Projections for the Okanagan Region can be accessed on the Regional District Okanagan Similkameen (RDOS) website (rdos.bc.ca).

February 12, 2020

I attended the BC Natural Resources Forum held in Prince George the last few days of January. This year, the Forum’s key theme was Strengthening BC's Competitive Advantage.

You may be wondering: Why would the mayor of Summerland attend a Forum primarily focused forestry, mining and oil and gas? It’s true that our economy does not rely heavily on these resource industries. However, agricultural land is also a natural resource and our community not only has a rich agricultural history, this sector remains economically important to Summerland.

In late 2019 an invitation to attend the Forum included a tentative agenda that showed the Honourable Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture as a presenter. While I am interested in both mining/mining exploration and forestry—both are occurring on Crown land/Okanagan unceded territory within our community watersheds—I was particularly interested in learning the Province’s thoughts on how BC can strengthen its competitiveness in the agriculture sector.

Unfortunately, Minister Popham was not in attendance. However, Premier John Horgan spoke about B.C.’s agricultural resources in his keynote address, stating: “We all need food. The more we can produce here (in B.C.) the better off we are all going to be. Not just in terms of transportation costs and the impact on climate, but in creating a place where we can count on food that is locally grown and where we are not just feeding ourselves but feeding the local economy on the land in rural British Columbia. Food production and food security is critically important to our wellbeing.”

The Premier also spoke about the importance of agritech (the use of technology and technological innovation in agriculture) and the (now) released Food Security Task Force report The Future of B.C.’s Food System. This 80-page report provides four key recommendations on how B.C. “has an opportunity to build on its position as a leader in protecting the environment and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions”.

Aside from the learning opportunities at this type of event, there is much value in the networking opportunities. For example, at an event for local and provincial elected officials I had the opportunity to speak to three of the five northwest B.C. mayors who, with the Resource Works Society, formed the Resource Municipalities Coalition in 2016.

Admittedly, when I first approached Fort St. John Mayor Lori Ackerman, I expected that our conversation would be solely about the City’s challenges related to oil and gas extraction. While we initially talked about that (one of her concerns is losing local workers to projects in the hope of temporarily securing better pay and opportunities), when I stated my views on agriculture also being a natural resource, she wholeheartedly agreed. In fact, she stated that more than 80% of B.C. grain is grown in the area surrounding Fort St. John.

I found the conversations with Mayor Ackerman and FSJ planning staff, the Mayor of Tumbler Ridge (Keith Bertrand) and the executive directors of the Coalition and the Resource Works Society encouraging. They hope to develop a good relationship with both Indigenous and regional governments in Northern B.C. to strengthen their collective voice.

This is a collaboration that seems to be working. After preliminary discussions with some area elected officials, I reached out to the Resource Municipalities Coalition to ask them to consider exploring a similar Coalition in Southern B.C. (outside of the Lower Mainland).

While we do not have much oil and gas extraction in our region, there are area residents who work in this sector as well as in mining and forestry. Further, this region is rich in agricultural history.  In partnership with our Indigenous neighbours, local governments could provide an informed perspective on a sustainable Southern B.C. food system that provides both social and economic benefits while protecting natural assets and ecosystems. 

Becoming a world leader in sustainable agriculture through agri-tech and emerging technologies is an ambitious goal but one that, I think, is achievable. I look forward to a day when Canadians can enjoy food security and the social, economic, and environmental benefits of a sustainable food future are enjoyed by Canadians first, that is, before the broader export market.

I look forward to a day when local food systems are a priority and thrive in British Columbia, and when we all enjoy food security and the social, economic, and environmental benefits a sustainable food system provides.

January 31, 2020

In my last Mayor’ Minute (January 16, 2020) I spoke about the budget process getting underway at the District of Summerland, and presented these facts:

  • 87% of taxes are from residential ratepayers compared to 0.5% from agriculture;
  • 65% of our land base is zoned agriculture; 15% is zoned recreational;
  • a 1% mill rate increase = $87,093 in tax revenue;
  • the District maintains 150 km of paved roads;
  • maintaining current service levels does not mean a 0% mill rate because there are several factors over which Council has no control.

One of these factors is property assessments. Early in January the B.C. Assessment Authority (B.C.A.A.) released general values throughout areas of the province. Although Summerland has received an average market value assessment increase of 2% as of July 1, 2019, that does not automatically mean a 2% increase in property assessment for all Summerland property owners—it is an average. According to B.C.A.A., the average cost for a single detached home in Summerland is $526,000 (up 2% over 2018 assessed values).

As announced last week, the District of Summerland is proposing a 4% property tax increase for 2020. This amount represents 3.12% in operational increases and .88% to be allocated to our Infrastructure Reserve.

Operational increases are for a number of initiatives Council and District staff are proposing this year. Each of the initiatives being brought forward is aligned with Council’s Strategic Priorities. Among other things, the District is:

  • hosting an Affordable Housing Forum early in 2020 that will bring together BC Housing, non-profit and market housing developers, local organizations and housing providers. This initiative will build on the findings and recommendations in the 2017 Affordable Summerland Report as well as on Council discussions at UBCM in September 2019. Council has also partnered with the RDOS for grant funding to complete a Housing Needs Assessment.
    How will this help? Affordable/attainable housing options in Summerland will provide an opportunity for those not yet in the housing market to become homeowners, thus expanding the range of housing types in the community and increasing the number of residents paying property taxes. While this will not lower the District’s percentage of revenue from residential taxes, it may increase workforce housing and assist young families in getting into market housing.
  • continuing to amend and adopt bylaws that densify areas with existing services, particularly in the downtown core (through multi-use zoning) and the immediate surrounding areas (carriage houses, secondary suites, and 2- or 3-lot subdivisions).
    How will this help? Multi-use zoning (allowing for a combination of commercial/retail and residential buildings) and zoning for carriage houses, secondary suites and small subdivisions increase the number of people living in the main Summerland area without increasing future operational and capital costs on new infrastructure to accommodate these new builds. Again, this will not lower the District’s percentage of residential tax revenue, but sustainable growth increases the number of contributing property owners.
  • developing a Downtown Neighbourhood Plan—with input from residents, business owners and local organizations— that will ensure downtown Summerland meets our population’s current and future needs.
    How will this help? Any undertaking, regardless of size, is more likely to succeed when guided by a plan. There are several reasons for this, including that a comprehensive plan lays out clearly defined objectives and opportunities, budget, funding options and phasing timelines. Increasing residential density in the downtown core is good for the area’s businesses and a vibrant downtown is attractive to visitors and fosters business expansion.
  • seeking funding from other governments or organizations, whenever possible. The District is also striving to collaborate or partner on initiatives, including grant applications. (For example, the District is Summerland is partnering with the RDOS and some municipal governments on provincial grant applications for regional Housing Needs and Child Care Needs Assessments.) Grants from senior levels of government and others alleviate pressure for revenue from taxes.
    How will this help? Council and staff are always looking for ways to address priorities while remaining fiscally responsible. Multi-agency partnerships, such as the proposed Summerland Community Health and Recreation Centre, not only shares the financial costs between organizations, but also satisfies a number of community needs. Again, grants and funding from outside the District alleviate pressure for revenue from taxes.
  • working with potential partners on a Summerland Community Health and Wellness Centre.
    How will this help? This proposed project, being brought forward to the community in February, will provide benefits for the entire community in the areas of child care, recreation and health services. Working collaboratively enhances funding opportunities with senior levels of government, increases livability by filling gaps outside of local government purview, and creates social cohesion and a healthier community.
  • pursuing the potential for a Food Innovation and Processing Hub in Summerland.
    How will this help? Value-added agriculture (processing, manufacturing, or marketing a raw agricultural value to create a product of increased value) has increasingly be identified as a considerable opportunity in B.C. Establishing a regional (primarily South Okanagan-Similkameen) Hub in Summerland provides significant opportunities for agri-business entrepreneurs and innovators, raises the profile of the community to, potentially, attract outside investment, provides a space for agricultural innovation, and creates good-paying, skilled employment.

Each of these initiatives contributes, in one or many ways, to making Summerland an even better place to live. Budget details and more information on many of the District’s 2020+ projects will be available at the Open House scheduled from 4 pm to 7 pm on Wednesday, February 12. A formal presentation will be made at 5:30pm. The Open house is being held in the banquet hall located on the second floor of the Summerland Arena (8820 Jubilee Road East).

Mayor’s Minute – January 16, 2020

General fund budget discussions began this week at the District of Summerland. Unlike the utility budgets, that are solely concerned with the water, sanitary sewer, and electrical utilities, these discussions cover both operational and capital requirements and requests throughout the organization.

For Council and most of senior staff, the budget sessions culminate with the adoption of both the five-year financial plan bylaw and the annual mill rate. (The mill rate is used with the property assessment to determine the amount each residential property owner pays in property taxes.) Unlike senior levels of government, the budget that the Director of Finance submits to the province must be balanced: Local government budgets cannot show a deficit.

During general fund discussions, Council hears the operational and capital project funding requirements from the various departments—those that are required to reduce risk and those that reflect Council priorities. As one can imagine, there is a healthy level of compromise and negotiation between department managers, the director of finance, and the chief administrative officer well before any proposal comes to Council.

Council, too, must balance the initiatives stemming from strategic priorities with those identified by department heads. As much as we might like to move ahead on any number of projects, sometimes an emergent project may postpone getting them underway.

The District of Summerland has an interesting tax base, one that, while not unique in the province, certainly poses some challenges. Consider these facts:

  • 87% of taxes are from residential ratepayers compared to 0.5% from agriculture;
  • 65% of our land base is zoned agriculture; 15% is zoned recreational;
  • a 1% mill rate increase = $87,093 in tax revenue;
  • the District maintains 150 km of paved roads;
  • maintaining current service levels does not mean a 0% mill rate (see next paragraph).

Additionally, while adopting the mill rate is ultimately the responsibility of Council, there are several factors that play into the decision over which Council has no control. Examples include the rate of inflation, assessed property values and the aging of District roads and facilities. Local governments are also subject to legislative and contractual financial allocations.

Like all regular meetings of Council, budget discussions are open to the public. While not everyone is able to attend these meetings, the District offers many other ways to stay informed about proposed rates: The District’s newsletter, website (summerland.ca) and Facebook page and through media releases. A schedule of upcoming budget sessions, including those during regular Council meetings (which are recorded) can also be found on the website. Proposed utility rates and the mill rate should not come as a “surprise” to the community. Council and staff feel we are fulfilling our duty to keep you informed on discussions that lead to establishing these rates. Should you feel otherwise (provided you feel you are doing your part to stay up to date), please contact the District with thoughts on how we might improve our communications. 

I hope this Mayor’s Minute has not caused you to throw your hands up in despair. Although it may seem like all doom and gloom, I’ve run over the word count (again!) and must split it into two Parts. You should find Part 2 more uplifting as I cover what District of Summerland Council and staff are doing to help keep the mill rate stable.

Mayor’s Minute – December 12, 2019

On Monday, at our last regular meeting of the year, the District of Summerland Council passed first, second and third readings on proposed increases to our water, sewer, and electrical utility rates. The proposal includes five-year annual increases for the water (5%) and sewer (3.5%) utility rates. Council also proposed harmonizing the existing two-tier electrical rate, resulting in an averaged 4.4% rate increase for 2020.

The proposed rates align with three of Council’s 2019-2022 strategic priorities: Good Governance, Community Resilience, and Infrastructure Investment.

Discussions about utilities infrastructure do not, generally, spark a lot of interest or excitement by community members. But why is this so? After all, infrastructure provides the services we expect to receive today and into the future.

These systems deliver clean water to our taps and electricity at the flick of a switch; give us roads to drive on and playground equipment for our children to play on. They take care of our waste—from our toilets, sinks, and showers and garbage and yard waste sent to the landfill—and provide kilometres of trails, bike lanes, and sidewalks for recreation and active transportation.

Admittedly, infrastructure—neither the state of District assets nor the costs of maintenance, upgrades, and replacement, let alone how to pay for them—was not something that was top of my mind either.

At least not until 2015 when, as a member of Council, I started to gain a much fuller understanding of how important infrastructure is to building a safe, healthy, and resilient community. I now have a clear understanding of the state of our infrastructure (yes, it is owned by the community) and how critical frank and objective staff recommendations are to Council’s decision-making.

During two public meetings in November, Council heard from staff about proposed capital projects in 2020 as well as anticipated upgrades or replacements noted in the asset management plan (AMP) for the next five years. Using Council’s strategic priorities as guidance, management identifies projects that are important for delivery of their department services. Part of their work in identifying these projects is referring to documents such as Master Plans and the Asset Management Plan (AMP).

Developing strong and reliable AMPs is a systematic and ongoing process. The District of Summerland started this work in 2017 by creating an inventory of all the infrastructure the District owns, operates and maintains, including all components of the water sewer, and electrical systems. The inventory also includes data on association performance, risks and expenditures over the lifecycle of each components.

Following the creation of a robust inventory, the District formalized the asset management process by adopting an AM Policy and developing an AM Strategy. These key foundational documents with the information and quality data in the AM inventory, guide decision-making by better aligning Council objectives and organizational priorities.

These asset management work completed over the past two years also shows that the District’s estimated infrastructure deficit—for the three utilities alone—is over $85 million. This means that, even though the systems are still in operation, approximately 24% of the infrastructure in these utilities has exceeded its anticipated service life.

While the proposed utility rate increases do not include any operating budget increases, there are many major utility capital projects scheduled for 2020. Further, while efforts have been made over the last five years to increase utility reserves, continued investments are required in order to support existing service levels for the community.

Continued annual reserve increases allows the District to sustainably finance assets into the future. This, in turn, creates community resilience and ensures that the people who live here can continue to expect safe and reliable services without incurring a sharp or unexpected increase in utility rates.

Council will continue infrastructure investment: It’s just Good Governance.

2019-11-27

In 2011, the District of Summerland adopted a Community Climate Action Plan. Since then, the District has implemented many climate action initiatives to work towards reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, a significant contributor to the global rise in temperature and extreme weather events becoming more commonplace.

In the last two years alone, the District has successfully lobbied for increased public transit and expanded our active transportation infrastructure (trails and bike lanes); promoted energy efficiency rebates and begun consulting on the BC Energy Step Code; and, through a number of initiatives, is reducing the volume of organic waste going to the landfill. In renewable energy, Summerland is a pioneering community in BC, developing a 1 MW solar PV farm with battery storage, and modernizing our net metering policies to encourage residents to install solar.

Ongoing and innovative investment in community resilience and alternative energy continue to be highlighted in Council’s Strategic Priorities in 2019-2022.

On November 25, after many months of work with the Community Energy Association including a full-day stakeholder workshop and open house, District staff presented a draft update of the Plan to Council. Participants at the February workshop included community members and representatives from many groups, including the Community Climate Action Advisory Committee; Interior Health; BC Transit; FortisBC; Summerland Chamber of Commerce; RDOS; Summerland Environmental Science Group; First Things First Okanagan; Summerland Secondary School; District staff and members of Summerland Council, among others.

Because the Plan focuses primarily on climate mitigation (emissions reduction), to better reflect content its title has been changed to the (Summerland) Community Energy and Emissions Reduction Plan (CEERP). It is one piece of an in-progress low carbon resiliency (LCR) strategy for the District, which will include measures to adapt to climate change while also reducing GHG emissions.

Feedback on suggested key priority climate actions and GHG emissions reduction targets was collected through a public open house. Residents were also invited to share their ideas on where the District should take a leadership role and how citizens can support climate action in the community. This last statement is critical: the most effective way to reduce GHG emissions is through conservation, that is, use less energy.

Of the possible actions presented at the open house, the highest level of public support was given to:

  • Supporting active and assisted transportation
  • Expanding organics diversion (from the landfill)
  • Increasing urban trees
  • Encouraging electric vehicles
  • Encouraging solar installations in the community
  • Marketing a retrofit program to address energy use in buildings
  • Using infrastructure lifecycle costing for new developments (the projected long-term financial impact for maintaining and replacing infrastructure).

Using community and stakeholder feedback and engagement, climate data, best practises, and municipal staff consultation, 26 priority items were identified and are presented in the CEERP. Details, such as timeline, actionable steps, outcome (effort, costs, GHG reductions), the District department responsible for the item, and possible partners or founders are also included in the draft Plan.

The discourse on climate change has almost exclusively been around the environmental impacts of extreme weather events such as floods, landslides, storms, and wildland fires; however, the discussion must include how these events impact human health and wellbeing.

This message was reiterated many times at the 8th annual Livable Cities Forum that staff and I attended in late October. The Forum brought together who are working, through resilience projects, on building better communities.

Climate change strategies also improve physical and mental health. For example, walkable or bikeable communities can reduce obesity and improve mental health. Protecting local agriculture increases access to healthy, local food and reducing air pollutants and improving air quality helps to decrease respiratory illness. Something as simple as planting more trees in urban areas can provide protection from extreme heat, lessening its impact on those with cardiovascular illnesses. Transportation and housing costs are the two largest expenditures for most residents, so creating compact communities with access to public transit—and increasing housing options and density in amenity-rich areas—is key to creating affordability.

The District is hosting an Open House to discuss the draft Community Energy and Emissions Reduction Plan on Wednesday, December 4 from 3 pm to 7 pm. Formal presentations are at 4:30 pm and 6:00 pm. All are welcome to attend, and we look forward to receiving your important feedback.

2019-11-19

It’s that time again. Budget season.

I’m very pleased to be able to say that Council started our lengthy budget deliberations in early November this year. (In the five years I’ve been on Council with the District of Summerland, this is the first time we’ve begun deliberations before the New Year.)

Of course, when Council begins talking about the 2020 budget, it is only following months of work undertaken by the Director of Finance and the entire senior management team.

Using Council’s strategic priorities as guidance, management identifies projects that are important for delivery of their department services.

For example, Works and Utilities will consider a number of factors as they determine which projects to bring forward to Council during budget discussions. In order to determine priority projects, the management team will first refer to the District’s Asset Management Plan and their Master Plans—Water, Sidewalk, Road, etc.

These guiding documents, particularly the Asset Management Plan, provide reliable information on which components of the District’s $536 million of infrastructure is nearing end of life or requires maintenance or replacement. (As a reminder, infrastructure includes electrical, water and sewer systems; municipal-owned buildings including recreational facilities; roads; parks, sports fields and beaches, etc.)

In determining priorities, departments also have to assess the project’s level of risk; the availability of Human Resources; where the project is in the Five-Year Financial Plan, and so on.

The Parks and Recreation department provides a second example. The Parks and Recreation Master Plan, completed in June 2018, identified the need for a condition assessment of the aquatic centre. The assessment confirmed the 40+-year-old building was at the end of its lifecycle. Seeing this as a community priority, during our strategic planning sessions in January 2019, Council highlighted the replacement of the aquatic centre as a priority.

Since the completion of the condition assessment, there has been discussion on expanding the facility to fulfill what Council perceives as a number of community needs. Before the project can move beyond the concept phase, however, an undertaking of this magnitude requires significant and comprehensive community engagement. So, while community conversations about the aquatic centre was already part of the Parks and Recreation work plan, the project has the potential to be much larger, depending on what the District and potential partners hear from Summerland residents.

Once departments have determined their priorities—both capital and operational—and before they come before Council, they discuss their draft budgets with the Director of Finance. These sessions are very important to the budget process, as the finance director knows the District’s overall financial picture. Department heads present their business cases for their proposed priorities and then, if necessary, will work with the Director of Finance to rework their priorities.

All this preparatory work is done before Council begins our role in the budget process (which began November 5).

Before Council adopts the 2020 Tax Rates Bylaw at the end of April, fourteen more discussions are scheduled in the Financial Plan Timeline. Many of these sessions run three or more hours and are in addition to Regular Council Meetings. All meetings are open to the public.

Two public open houses are being held in addition to the noted discussions: one to introduce the utility budgets and proposed utility rate increases (Tuesday, November 26); and one to present the general fund budgets (i.e., parks, roads, bylaw, etc.) as well introducing the 2020-2024 Financial Plan Bylaw (Wednesday, February 12).

When Council is making decisions on which projects will be included in the Financial Plan—and where in the 2020-2024 timeframe they will scheduled—in addition to the operational aspects of the decision (business case and risk assessment), we must consider two more political aspects: the level of service expected of our citizens, and their willingness to pay.

Unfortunately, the two do not always align. Sometimes citizens are not willing (or not able) to pay for an expected level of service. It is a careful balancing act and Council is required to make the decisions that will benefit the most people in our community.

In the last few weeks I have heard from people in Summerland who are willing to pay more taxes. While I thank you for offering, the District must collect taxes equally (not necessarily, equitably): Tax rates must be consistent for each citizen. (Should you feel very passionate about a particular project, our Director of Finance would welcome a discussion about making a community contribution!)

Budget season. And so it begins...

2019-10-17


The Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys are blessed with natural landscapes and features that both residents and visitors from afar. Some of these splendours have been enhanced or have become parks to protect habitat from encroaching development.  

Summerland is home to several unique geologic features including one that is virtually downtown: Giant’s Head. According to Okanagan Geology South (2011), the mountain is a composite volcanic dome that has been molded several times by glacial ice. In addition to the profile, (best seen from the southern side of the mountain from which it gets its name), Giant’s Head boasts another special bedrock feature: the perfectly formed columnar dacite at the southern base.

A climb to the top of Giant’s Head is rewarded with an astounding 360⁰ view, including Crater Mountain and Summerland’s own Great Wall of China. The Great Wall is “a linear structure of massive vertical spires of volcanic rock” (p. 126).

Like elsewhere in the South Okanagan, Giant’s Head’s climatic conditions, soil type and sloped exposures make much of the mountain favourable to grasslands. This ecosystem provides habitat for a biodiverse biological community, some of which are species at risk.

Healthy grasslands on Giant’s Head also provide socio-economic values including low-impact forms of recreation such as hiking and wildlife observation, a fact well-known by the thousands of annual visitors and locals. (In fact, according to tripadvisor.ca, Giant’s Head Mountain Park is in the top five of Things to Do in Summerland.)

Sadly, grassland areas are sensitive and vulnerable to a number of human-related disturbances, and over the years recreational activities have created some negative environmental impacts on Giant’s Head.

This is one of the main reasons why Council, in partnership with the Summerland Rotary Club, elected to undertake the Giant’s Head Mountain Trails Redevelopment Project in 2017.

Following several months of environmental assessment, a contract was awarded to design the redevelopment in a manner that would best promote rehabilitation of the mountain’s ecosystems; address the needs of various trail users, including Giant’s Head Grind participants; and update the existing amenities.

The associated costs for the four phases necessitated splitting the project into two periods of redevelopment. Phases 1 and 2 included trail improvements, trail decommissioning for erosion control and to restore environmentally sensitive areas, improved guard rails at the top of the mountain, a new trail on the east side, and park entrance improvements. Additional works (finalized at the October 15 Council meeting) include a guard rail along the new retaining wall in the lower parking area; additional fencing on East Trail, removal of a hazard tree, tie down posts for the gate at the entrance to the Park, half of the project signage, and reinstallation of the viewing tubes. (The metal, non-magnifying tubes, direct viewers on the mountaintop to viewpoints of interest. Low-tech to be sure, but fun and popular, nevertheless.)

The budget for these two phases, now nearing completion, was $725,000. The District was successful in a grant application for $435,000 to the (now curtailed) BC Rural Dividend Fund. The Summerland Rotary Club contributed $100,000 and the District allocated $190,000 from Gas Tax Community Works funding. The additional works noted above added $37,000 to the costs and is being funded from the Recreation, Parks and Trails Reserve Account.

The District will look for future funding opportunities, such as grants and partnerships, to complete the final two phases of the Trails Redevelopment Project. This includes the upper portion of the Grind route, remaining signage work, paving the circulation road and pedestrian trails at the upper parking lot, upgrading the washroom at the upper parking lot, and installing a washroom at the entrance to the park.

Although there appears to be some misunderstanding about why certain trails have been decommissioned and some are choosing to ignore or remove barriers, one can already see areas that are successfully recovering from degradation and erosion. The District hopes that signage installation will reduce or eliminate this behaviour and that all Park users—both the species that live there and the human visitors—can enjoy continued safe and shared use of Giant’s Head Mountain Park.

Mayor Toni J. Boot

2019-10-08

This Mayor’s Minute is the second of two about the 2019 Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) Convention held in Vancouver the last week of September. The Convention provides opportunity for elected officials and senior staff to attend educational sessions and workshops on matters pertinent to local government. It also provides a chance to meet one-on-one with provincial ministers and staff on topics specific to Summerland, and to network with colleagues throughout the Province.

Summerland Council met with three provincial cabinet ministers (Education, Municipal Affairs and Housing, and State for Child Care) and the CEO of Interior Health about the Summerland Community Health and Wellness Centre proposal. Council requested the meetings to introduce the relevant Ministries to the concept and to gain support in principle for the collaboration.

Representatives from School District 67, Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen, South Okanagan-Similkameen Division of Family Practice, and M.L.A. Dan Ashton either attended the meetings or provided written support for the proposal.

The next steps are to undertake a robust community engagement process to establish how the proposed Centre can best meet community needs; determine the scope of the project; and explore financial considerations.

The District also met with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy regarding climate change adaption initiatives. We also requested that climate data be released more frequently to assist local governments with climate action planning.

The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO) met with Council about forming a pilot partnership to help streamline restoration work for private property owners along Eneas Creek. The initiative would see the municipality contracting with a qualified environmental professional (approved by the Province) to organize a coordinated flood mitigation and restoration effort.

At a meeting with staff from the Minister of Agriculture, Council spoke about their proposal to facilitate a regional South Okanagan Food Innovation Hub in Summerland and requested support for funding from the Province. This initiative is a Council priority. Although the District was invited by the Ministry to submit a proposal in early September, the decision was made to use the time before the next intake (early 2020) to solidify commitments from existing partners and seek potential new partnering opportunities.

Related to the Food Innovation Hub, while in Vancouver Chief Administrative Officer Anthony Haddad and I joined the District’s project manager for an on-site tour of a small food processing facility. It was valuable to have a firsthand look at what the food processing component of the Hub could look like and to hear how the equipment can be adapted to best suit the regional agri-food start-ups and businesses that will use the facility.

Both Councillor Holmes and I are part of the Climate Caucus, an initiative of FCM (Federation of Canadian Municipalities). During the week of UBCM we were each able to take in a Climate Caucus meeting. This ability to have a ‘tag team’ approach adds further value to Council’s time at the Convention. One could not possibly attend all the offerings, as many are run concurrently. Where possible, Council attended different sessions and will report back to the rest of Council with highlights and takeaways.

As mentioned earlier, there are many networking opportunities at the UBCM Convention: at delegate luncheons, evening receptions, the trade show, and even at coffee breaks during sessions. Very often it is these settings that provide helpful and interesting discussions. For example, although our meeting request with the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure was not accepted, I had the chance to speak briefly about Council’s topics with Minister Trevana at an evening reception.

A second example: Early in the week, Councillor Barkwill invited me to an impromptu discussion with developers and facilitators for affordable housing. Our almost two-hour chat has already led to further communication and a significant expression of interest by them to work with the District and other local non-profits.

Thirdly, at the trade show, I learned of new B.C. Healthy Communities Plan H funding that will assist the District in the public engagement component of the proposed Summerland Community Health and Wellness Centre. (Plan H, a Ministry of Health grants program, has also funded a series of presentations undertaken by the Summerland Healthy Living Initiative.)

Personally, the pace of UBCM is exhausting. Maintaining and strengthening new relationships; exploring best practises presented at sessions; and simply processing all the new information is hard work. Like many things, “you get out of it what you put into it” and, speaking on behalf of Council and CAO Haddad, UBCM 2019 was worth every 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.

2019-09-12

At our September 9 evening Council meeting, the District of Summerland Council ratified our commitment to deepen our relationship with the Penticton Indian Band. After a presentation by staff at the public Committee of the Whole meeting earlier in the day, Council discussed the matter in-depth before voting unanimously to direct staff to apply for Community to Community (C2C) funding to enable a forum between the Penticton Indian Band and the Summerland Council as well as to investigate a number of reconciliation activities (more on this below).

This work began in early January, when Council included First Nations relations as one of the guiding principles in the District’s 2019-2022 Strategic Priorities Plan. I had the opportunity to meeting with Chief Eneas and Band senior staff twice during the spring to begin the discussions and ensure that not only was there a mutual commitment to building a stronger relationship between the two governments, but that the District was approaching the initiative in a manner that was both respectful and appropriate.

In late spring, interim CAO Ron Mattiussi, tasked the District’s Community Development Coordinator with doing the necessary research and communication with the Band to develop the report that Council received on Monday.

Our evening meeting began with a delegation from one of the Summerland members of the Okanagan Circles for Reconciliation and the South Okanagan TRC (Truth and Reconciliation Commission) Study Group. Summerland Council was called on, as leaders of the community, to “examine the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, in particular those relating to municipal governments, and further, to adopt and implement relative and constructive strategies of acknowledgement and action”.

The delegation spoke specifically about the five (of 94) Calls to Action relevant to local government including #57 which calls on municipal government to provide education to public servants on the history of Indigenous people, including UNDRIP, Indigenous law and Indigenous-Crown relations. “This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism” (TRC of Canada: Calls to Action, 2012, p. 7).

As mentioned earlier, the ratified resolution also directed staff to research potential reconciliation activities. These actions fall into four categories: Education (for Council, Staff, and the Summerland Community); Cultural Activities (for Council, Staff, and the Leadership of Summerland Cultural Organizations); Political Activities (for District and Band Councils); and Operational Work (between District and Band Staff).

What is reconciliation? The TRC defines reconciliation as “an ongoing process of establishing and maintaining respectful relationships. A critical part of this process involves repairing damaged trust by making apologies, providing individual and collective reparations, and following through with concrete actions that demonstrate real societal change” (as cited in Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Volume One: Summary, 2015, p. 16). As discussed by Council, as we work on reconciliation it is important to recognize that the Penticton Indian Band is one of 198 bands in British Columbia: “They each have distinct languages, cultures, economies, capacity, challenges, stories, teachings and world views” (Dispelling Common Myths About Indigenous People’s, 2019, p. 7).

Fortunately, local governments do not have to go it alone on the important work of reconciliation.

The United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People’s (UNDRIP, 2007) provides a framework on how to establish and maintain mutually respectful relationships between local and Indigenous governments.

On Monday, September 23, Summerland Council be attending a full-day pre-UBCM conference session called “Financing Reconciliation: Supporting Inclusive Governance in BC”. This session will bring together representatives from First Nations, local government and academia to consider opportunities and next steps for advancing new approaches to financing reconciliation.

The District of Summerland’s next steps include a meeting between senior elected officials and staff of both governments. District staff will also bring a report to Council providing details on the four reconciliation areas, including operational and financial resource requirements, timeline, and draft policy recommendations.


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?