Engagement is a lot of work! That is something I have learned since becoming elected. It's work that needs consistency and that doesn't end with the click of a share button. It's also work that is difficult to stay on top of when juggling so many other important things. I have been inspired by Councillors and Mayors across the province at their ability to stay on top of active social media accounts- Ty Walsh, Waye Mason, Pam Mood, Heather Kelly, etc. Without a strong traditional media presence covering our Council meetings, it has to be incumbent upon Councillors to spread their message to their constituents in whatever way they can. I am working on it! To this end I have moved to a more official Instagram presence, as it's a medium I know is used by young people and one I particularly enjoy using. It's quick & easy (attributes that come with their own pitfalls), but a platform I'm hoping I can use to harness public opinion and proactively share Council business on. Please follow me at @emilykingscounty to see all the posts!
Our Council and staff have moved into our new building at 181 Coldbrook Village Park Drive by Exit 14 on the 101. Councillor Spicer is back in action after suffering some health challenges earlier in the year. We are not holding Council or (most) Committee meetings in August, but will wrap up any pressing business on July 31st for a Public Hearing and Special Council at 6:00. We have a strong staff complement of talented individuals, and are currently hiring for a Climate Change Coordinator, the job posting you can find here:
There is a Pride Proclamation and Flag Raising tomorrow morning at 10:00 at our new building, all are welcome to come celebrate!
July 23rd is the final opportunity for public feedback on our new Municipal Planning Strategy and Land Use By-law, in Council Chambers from 6:00pm - 9:00pm.
If you are dealing with pothole problems, the best thing to do is call the Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Operations Control Centre at : 1-(866)-696-7737. If you ask for a ticket number you can call in to check on the progress of the work and where it falls in the priority list of the department.
In terms of my calendar, the rest of July holds a Fire Services meeting, the annual general meeting for Landscape of Grand Pre Inc., Equal Voice Campaign School, and an informal group meeting on doctor recruitment in the valley. August will be a good break to help me reset and reorganize priorities as we head into the last year of this Council's mandate.
As always, if you have any suggestions or ideas about our community feel free to give me an email or a call. I would love to hear from you.
November 1 marked the two year point in our Council's term, and it has offered me some opportunity to reflect on what we have done and what we have yet to do. I am by no means an expert yet, but I think I have learned a great deal about what it means to be a leader, a consensus builder, and a team player. Politics is complex at every level, but especially the municipal level, where you don't answer to a party but to 3800-or-so residents that aren't likely to agree on everything, with no clear or defined set of values or goals. This can be hard when I look to navigate important decisions, as I balance my own knowledge and values with the information presented and attempt to make a choice. One thing I have been dedicated to remembering is that it comes down to community, and how I can do what I believe is best for Kings County. Often the issues we discuss are far from simple, and it can sometimes feel like there is no right answer. We spend public money, make very expensive choices around infrastructure and budget, and shape policy that will influence our region for years to come. It is a huge responsibility, and not a day goes by that I don't feel very grateful to be in my seat. I know there are many other qualified, ambitious, intelligent people that might also like the chance to be there too. I have learned a lot, and without presuming that anyone is wondering at great length about how I am enjoying it so far, I thought it might be nice to share this at least- that with each day I do this work, I've learned that it is done in a million small interactions that will hopefully add up to something meaningful. With each interaction I learn and appreciate more about my community, the people and relationships that form its most basic structure, and feel very grateful for the opportunity to represent them in government.
Into the nitty gritty business, the last few months have been busy and I should share some highlights. In early November I attended the annual NSFM (Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities) Conference with several other Councillors from Kings. It was well executed and I felt the biggest take away was a talk from Charles Marohn from Strong Towns (www.strongtowns.org) that offered a really interesting take on public investment in infrastructure for large commercial enterprises, like box stores and drive-thrus. The message was that overall return on investment for municipalities is very grim as infrastructure ages, and the assessed value of those properties consistently underwhelms compared to small, traditional "downtown cores" in comparing the same amount of acreage. It makes me think of how we as a County can do more to "fill in the gaps" between buildings and developments, and the importance of building on services and trying to maintain density and diversity of use. Resiliency is key, and far outweighs the immediate perceived economic benefits and conveniences of the way we have been doing things over the last 50 years.
An update on the status of the new draft Municipal Planning Strategy (Kings 2050) is that both the municipal planning strategy and it's companion, the land use by-law, have made it through the PAC (Planning Advisory Committee) and are undergoing final edits. The timeline set by Council has final approval scheduled for next fall. I can tell you the "in-between" stages of anticipating a final document have not been very comfortable or smooth, and many projects have dealt with unfortunate delay and complication due to this process. It's an enormous feat and I feel we do owe apology to those who have been caught up in the purgatory. I feel some relief that an end is in sight, as I never could have predicted the time or energy this would consume, however I do feel we have accomplished a document that is far superior and easy to use than the 1979 version, with it's multitude of edits. Stay tuned for first reading in the spring.
We had a very positive report to the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), which monitors lake water quality in lakes on the South Mountain. All lakes had great scores compared to last year's numbers. I would like to see more promotion and attention drawn to the results of this program, as it is applauded across the province, and I plan to work with staff on a better roll-out of the data and better recognition of our hardworking volunteers who samples the lakes each month. I am also a member of Diversity Kings County which was part of the roll out of a course called "Stepping Up: Non-Indigenous roles in Truth and Reconciliation". It was a partnership with Horizons Community Development and the Province of Nova Scotia and has been lauded by participants as being a very meaningful learning experience around Canada's historical relationship with indigenous people, the current situation, and how we might move forward together. The second and third offerings of the course recently wrapped up and the hope is to continue to offer it on an ongoing basis.
I currently chair the TAC and Diversity Kings County (DYC), although our committees are up for reappointment and I predict that there will be committees reassigned at the December Council meeting. I have been very pleased to be part of all the committees I've worked with but would also welcome a new and different set of discussions in the year to come. This has been a very brief snapshot of some of the highlights from this fall, but I always welcome a more in-depth conversation about the work I'm doing, and if this has raised any topics of conversation feel free to give me a call to discuss further. 902 300 1776.
I hope you are enjoying the early onset of winter, I'm wishing everyone the best as we move into the holiday season. Take care.
What a wonderfully warm summer! I hope everyone found time to visit some of our province and County's beautiful beaches. My children and I became regulars at Aylesford Lake Public Beach, including a lot of fun at our annual Canada Day celebrations with County recreation staff. We also made it to the Harbourville High Tide Festival for the best scallop skewers I've had in my life, I spent an evening as a ghost in the Halls Harbour Ghost Walk (in the role of Lucy Prudence), and we even squeezed in a night of camping at Blomodin. We had a great time at the Kentville Multicultural Festival on August 25th, and especially enjoyed the drummers and the flamenco dancers. Our Diversity Kings County committee had a booth and challenged people with a spinning wheel and trivia questions about equity, diversity and inclusion with lots of prizes. Our Diversity and Outreach Specialist Brittany was on hand and did a fantastic job engaging with the crowd and had some great conversations.
The end of August has brought some more official events, including the newly monikered "Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities" board meeting (formerly the UNSM) in Truro, the home municipality of the sitting President, Councillor Geoff Stewart from Colchester County. I have a two year term on this board and will not need to be re-elected in November at our AGM, but we will have a few seats up for grabs and will be welcoming a new president and executive to our talented team. I truly enjoy these meetings and the intricacies of working with the provincial government, as we push for solutions to the important issues facing municipalities- like the outdated and unfair capped assessment program (CAP), rural internet infrastructure, doctor recruitment, the condition of our province's roads, equalization payments, and more.
On behalf of Mayor Muttart I've been asked to attend a few announcements on August 28th, including one at Luckett Vineyards for the promotion of the Nova Scotia wine industry with Perennia and the Wine Association of Nova Scotia, and another at the Credit Union Complex (aka the Soccer Dome) to announce facility upgrades with the federal and provincial governments. I have a board governance session and regular meeting at Grand View Manor to complete that day-- and all with a baby strapped to my chest! I am blessed with a good natured little girl to accompany me to all my events until we are able to secure reliable infant care.
Some of my upcoming events include Berwick Gala Days Opening Ceremony and Dessert Contest on August 30th (and many other events over the length of the festival), Waterville Family Day on September 15th, and regular business meetings of Kings Youth Council, Diversity Kings County, Fire Services Advisory Committee, Western Kings Memorial Health Centre Planning and Development Committee, and of course, the multiple sessions of PAC we will have in order to try to complete our new MPS/LUB, plus our regular September Council and Committee of the Whole meetings. Not to mention it's peach and apple harvest on our farm and life becomes a tad hectic until November. To top it off at some point this month I need to find the time to turn 29- wish me luck!
My children and I at Harbourville High Tide Festival (ironically the tide was very low)
Canada Day with some of our Recreation Department staff at Aylesford Lake
Diversity Kings County member Violy with baby Azie at the Kentville Multicultural Fair
For those not aware, we welcomed a new baby girl into our family at the end of March! We have adjusted well and so has the infrastructure around us. Both the Province of Nova Scotia and Kings County have evolved legislation and policy to make life with a baby around the Council table a bit easier.
The reaction to this news has been mostly positive. I have tried to keep up with Council business from home and have been attending almost full time since the beginning of May. My infant has and will continue to accompany me to meetings until we can sort out a more permanent child care arrangement. My fellow Councillors have been extremely accepting and supportive as we change diapers and move in and out and around the room trying to encourage naps.
The biggest consumer of my energy the last few months has been the Planning Advisory Committee, which has been meeting almost weekly to deal with reviews of our draft Municipal Planning Strategy. The pace has been glacial but we have made it to the final section (Section 5) which we plan to review on the last day of July. August will be meeting free in order to give PAC members and staff a well deserved break.
Council will also be taking a break in August, with an extra meeting planned for July 26th at 6pm in order to wrap up some outstanding issues before we go. My plan is to be away the first 2 weeks in August to rest and recharge before things pick back up in the fall.
Happy Summer, all!
As we move into budget season, Council has been tackling several issues worthy of update.
Plastic Bags: After a resolution was passed by the Valley Waste Resource Management Board supporting a ban on plastic bags and other single use products, our Council passed a motion to also support exploring this issue. Personally, my 2018 resolution is to avoid disposable coffee cups and plastic bags at the grocery store. While I haven't been perfect, it is something I am very conscious of, and I am happy that our Council is taking a position on this problem and actively supporting looking for solutions.
For more information on the recycling situation in NS, read here: www.annapoliscountyspectator.ca/news/local/vwrm-supports-plastic-shopping-bag-ban-as-stockpiles-at-scotia-recycling-facility-grow-186875/
We are Hiring: After hiring a new CAO in September, we have done some juggling in the organization and recognize the need for added support to this position. The closing date to apply for Deputy Chief Administrative Officer is March 28th. We are also searching for someone to fill our Diversity and Communications role. For more information about either of these jobs contact firstname.lastname@example.org
New Website: At February COTW I asked staff where we are at in terms of a new website, something that has been discussed since I was elected in late 2016 but I have never seen any action on. Staff quickly responded and at March Council a demonstration of our new website was revealed. It is still being loaded with content, and should become live by late spring. I will be very happy to see the old website retired.
Budget: We are rather short staffed in the Finance Department and playing catch up with a few items from last year. Staff have expressed regret that things aren't moving as quickly as they should, however they are working overtime to bring things "to balance". New budget dates will be set at the March 19th Budget and Finance Committee, but for now there has been no public budget presentation, nor has there been a date set.
Kings Youth Council: The KYC is a body of 10 youth from Kings County (as well as Councillor Hodges and I) who were selected to advise Council of things youth-related in the County and ensure all of Council's decisions are considered from a youth perspective. We have had several meetings, including one at the axe-throwing facility in Kentville, and the rest of our Council was able to meet this group at the March Council meeting. They were formally introduced and watched part of our meeting, after which they retreated for their own business. They are a highly motivated group led by co-chairs Tom Dalmazzi and Hannah Dawson-Murphy, two excellent youth representatives in this County.
District 7: After planning a series of three Open Houses in February, my plans were thwarted by a terrible flu and I only was able to hold one public information session. It was held in Windermere on February 19th and the residents there very thoughtfully threw me a baby shower, for which I am incredibly grateful. While there was some fun and entertainment, we did get down to business as well and a very engaging discussion ensued about some of the issues facing communities. Roads (Hall Rd in particular) was a popular topic, as well as senior care and the doctor shortage in the province. There is a great deal of concern and worry that we are failing people in the later years of their life- from the lack of hospice services to downloading care responsibilities to spouses who are ill-equipped to fall into the role of nurse. Many of the issues discussed were not specific to municipal services, however it was a good opportunity for me to learn what is on the minds of citizens so I am able to relay these thoughts to my provincial counterparts. Thanks to all who attended.
Maternity: For those wondering, I am due to have my second child on March 18th, and will be taking a leave from some of my Council duties. For the months of April and May I plan only to attend Council and COTW meetings (perhaps budget, if possible), and the rest of my committee work is being covered by my colleagues on Council. I will still be available to constituents by phone and email but will be delegating responses to staff and other Councillors. I will be reassessing my workload in June. I am thankful for a supportive Council as we transition into a family of four!
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Despite thinking that January was going to be a slow month, with time to relax in the winter darkness, the opposite proved to be true and it became a busy and very productive month both for Council and myself.
We kicked off January by having a regular Council meeting on the 2nd, where we approved several new human resources policies, as well as our long-anticipated new Community Grants Policy. At the same meeting we approved a request from the Village of Kingston to conduct a feasibility study for a central water system in the community. Several constituent matters consumed the rest of my week as we tried to tie up loose ends from 2017. January 10th a Special Council meeting was held where we awarded the contract to Roscoe Construction for our new municipal complex, and decided to appeal a UARB decision regarding RV's on lake lots on Lake George.
The following week I spent preparing for and hosting two webinars on the parental accommodation recommendations that I have been working on as a board member of UNSM. I was appointed chair of the Parental Accommodations Committee last month, which has been putting together informed, research-based recommendations for the Minister of Municipal Affairs over the period of December and January. The idea is to balance the needs of citizens, representatives, and the municipality when an elected official becomes a new parent and may need time away from their duties to adjust. One of the biggest discussion points was the realization that many people who run for office recognize and respect it as a four-year, 24/7 democratic commitment, so the aim was to allow flexibility for recovery and adjustment while being protected from the attendance requirements and possible penalties or discrimination. I will be presenting the committee's recommendations January 30th to Minister Mombourquette and will update on the status of this when information becomes available. This work took up a large chunk of my time in January and while rewarding and incredibly interesting, I'm happy to have the work complete.
I attended my first Fire Service Advisory Committee meeting January 11th where we began to talk about budget preparation. January 12th we held a full-day Council workshop on our Strategic Plan and conducted a New Year "check-in" to ensure we are all on the same page as a Council. These workshops are helpful for us to understand each other's perspective and catch up on the work we are doing in our communities.
January 15th was spent in Budget and Finance meetings, followed by a very long day the 16th at Committee of the Whole followed by a budget development workshop and the Village of Cornwallis Square meeting that evening. Thursday of that week was spent with more strategic planning in the morning, followed by meeting with staff to prepare myself to take the chair at Planning Advisory Committee the following Monday (as the regular chair was away). That afternoon was the Lake Monitoring Technical Advisory Committee, on which I sit as Council representative and chair. The 19th brought a trip into Halifax with my friend and mentor Mayor Anna Allen to the NS Status of Women Office where we brainstormed the revival of a "Women in Local Government" initiative and looked at improving the experiences of women in local government.
PAC on the 22nd was smooth sailing thanks to some hard preparation, although almost 6 hours of deliberating staff recommendations on Growth Centres in the Kings 2050 MPS/LUB was exhausting! It feels very good to be pushing through many of these recommendations, all of which are answers to the public feedback we received in the fall on the documents and each time we wrap up I feel the completion date becoming more of a reality. One of the frustrating aspects of this process is that many people are waiting on the rules to change to proceed with projects, and it is often disheartening when I am unable to give them a projected date by which the new laws will be adopted, however people are generally very understanding. Thank you for your patience!
The 23rd was spent teleconferencing about parental accommodations after a morning at North Mountain Coffee getting a read on the pulse of Berwick, a town which never seems to slow down with their events and recreation activities (we have committed to taking our son to more events in the town to beat cabin fever- free Tumblebugs gymnastics on Saturday mornings!) It's amazing the things you pick up at beautiful, busy community public spaces (that serve amazing coffee). Wednesday and Thursday were spent at different event for the Nova Scotia Fruit Growers- something I attend for our personal farm interest but also to stay up-to-date with the agriculture community's issues and interests. I squeezed in a Kentville Joint Fire Services Committee meeting that afternoon (as an alternate for another Councillor), and enjoyed department budget discussions with the very organized staff and Chiefs. I reflected upon my first meeting with the group over a year ago and was amazed at how my level of understanding has ballooned about the nuances of fire service delivery in Kings County.
Friday I traveled into Halifax for a monthly UNSM board meeting, where we discussed re-branding (proposed new name: Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities, or NSFM), got an update on the MGA (Municipal Government Act) review/rewrite process, discussed the state of film plastics and solid waste organizations, set a date for a Code of Conduct workshop, among many other things. These meetings generally last 3-4 hours and we cover a lot of ground in our discussions. I enjoy them immensely, and find the level of discussion and debate challenging and interesting to participate in. My family and I spent the evening at Eagle Watch, an incredible event in Sheffield Mills organized by the Sheffield Mills Community Association and colleague Meg Hodges. We were able to listen to Mi'kmaq drummers from Glooscap (The Eastern Eagles), have delicious noodles from The Noodle Guy, and mingle with dozens of members of the Kings County community. It was a lovely evening.
This final half-week of January began by participating in a panel at Acadia University called "Mothers and Others: Parenthood and Politics" with Councillor Hodges and Professor Melanee Thomas from the University of Calgary. Once the panel finished I rushed to sign into an online board meeting with Engage NS, my first since being asked to join the board. I have a lot to learn but I am finding it very worthwhile to participate on a not-for-profit board (relatively) unrelated to municipal affairs, and see how such a professional and well-run organization operates behind the scenes. I traveled to Halifax that night where I am currently snowed in, awaiting my meeting with Minister Mombourquette to deliver parental accommodation recommendations. I will be staying in Halifax again this evening to participate in a "Municipal Modernization" session tomorrow with the Mayors, Wardens, CAO's and UNSM Board members for the full day tomorrow.
There you have it. January may have been exceptional in terms of the sheer amount of travelling and meetings that I attended, but it is certainly an accurate representation of the many different initiatives I'm involved with and committees on which I sit. Now to plan for February- three Councillor Community Open Houses (Windermere, South Alton and South Berwick), taking an assertive communication course to try to build personal and professional skills, Quality of Life workshop with Engage NS, among many other things. Cheers to a productive 2018 so far!
At a Special Council Meeting held January 10th, 2018, Kings County Council voted to award the contract to build our new administration building to Roscoe Construction for 5.3 million dollars. My very first action as a Councillor in November 2016 (before I was even knowledgeable about how make a motion) was to move to postpone a decision on the previous tender, as the process had been embroiled in very public controversy and I didn't feel prepared as a Councillor to support the project. When I later voted to support the withdrawing of the tender, and embark on a public consultation process and redesign of the building, it was both daunting and unpopular to many of my constituents. The tender we approved today is the third time the Municipality has attempted to approve construction, and the feeling I was left when the vote was passed with was one of confidence and security, rather than uncertainty and controversy.
I am very proud of my Council for having the courage to re-think and re-imagine this building, while although "just a building", is also a physical testament to our values, an asset to our community, and a piece of infrastructure we must pay to maintain and operate for many years. I am proud to say it is going to be environmentally friendly, large enough to accommodate future growth, and of beautiful design.
This issue was the first of true turbulence that I had to manage as a Councillor, and was not a smooth introduction into the world of public life. However I feel confident it was the right decision to take our time. I believe that the re-design was worth the extra cost and effort to ensure longevity and relevance of the structure; to include an "innovation hub"; to position us to have space to work with our municipal partners on joint projects; and finally to lead by example by setting the bar high for renewable energy and green building technology in this County. It is a relief to have this issue behind us as we move forward to consider our options for a new Public Works building, and follow along anxiously as construction begins on Village Park Drive in Coldbrook.
During a misty, cool evening in July on the North Mountain at Ross Creek Centre for the Arts, I was able to take in local playwright and author Ami Mackay's latest play "Nothing Less!", a tale of rural women fighting for the vote in 1918. The marvelously acted, captivating, and poignant play brought to light the difficulty in being involved with public life, how much and how little things have changed in almost 100 years, and reconciling a woman's political role with other societal expectations.
Megan Leslie (former NDP MP), Meg Hodges (Kings County Councillor), and Mary Clancy (former Liberal MP) were guest panelists after the show to talk about Women in Politics, and at the eleventh hour I was invited from the audience to join them. We discussed the many joys and challenges of public life, and the unique experiences we can have as women in these roles. Mary and Leslie talked about the importance of support from other women in politics (even across political stripes) but also in the broader community through groups like "Equal Voice". Meg was noted as being the first Kings County Councillor to breastfeed during a session of Council and the particular challenges of being pregnant during an election campaign, as well as discussed her transition from "disruption politics" of the Rhino Party to official Councillor in municipal politics.
I talked about bringing emotion into politics, and the necessity to recognize the aspects of myself that I may have initially seen to be weaknesses as strengths in the political arena. I discussed the experience of being chosen Deputy Mayor and leader to my peers, many of whom have more experience than I do to fulfill the role, and why I believed I was the right person for the job. Recognizing the amazing effort it has taken for women to assert their voices in political discourse and the fortitude of all who have come before me was a humbling and invigorating experience.
In all, it was very refreshing to give voice to the many thoughts and observations I have made about being a young woman in this role during the last nine months, alongside these three inspiring, strong, political women.
March has been a busy month-- so much so that I think the term "March Madness" could better describe municipal politics than college basketball. We have had budget deliberations, an introduction to our draft MPS/LUB (Municipal Planning Strategy/Land Use By-Law), and a Strategic Planning workshop on top of our regular Council meetings and commitments. My brain is full.
Balance also seems be a theme this month. In terms of our budget, we must make it balanced in terms of dollars but also in terms of being fair and reflective of Council's priorities, on which we sometimes have differing opinions. How do we decide where best to allocate these scarce dollar amounts? What are the best investments for the future taxpayers as well as the taxpayers of today?
Another balancing act has come up in our planning documents, and the most controversial so far has been the protection of agricultural land. The discussion has been whether we limit the use of land in agricultural zones to strictly agriculture-- meaning to restrict subdivision of land, building non-farm dwellings, etc., in many areas of the County. I believe in order to support our farmers of today and of tomorrow, we have to protect this land. It is our responsibility to be stewards of our County's future, and one of the most effective tools we have to do this is by creating rules that protect our productive land, and our land with the potential to be farmed. Farmers are thriving. Young farmers are trying to make a go of it. We have to set an example for future Councils and keep these documents designed to protect our current and future productive capacity. In balancing private interests against the future of our County's agriculture industry, for me the balance will always fall toward long-term planning.
Finally, work-life balance is another important balance to be maintained. I'm happy to inform you that with the coming of spring, my little outdoorsman and I have spent lots of time starting seeds, playing in chilly puddles, and pruning our grapevines. Without this balance, I'd hardly be prepared to try and find it in other avenues of my work.
The engagement process for the New Municipal Complex has been released!
Our current Municipal offices on Cornwallis Street in Kentville have been sold and we are looking for a new place to meet and do business. Council has determined that the previous consultation process was incomplete, so to ensure proper consultation we have decided to restart the process. We would like to hear your thoughts and recommendations regarding location criteria and various elements of the building.
The first consultation will be held on March 30th at 6:30pm at the Waterville Fire Hall. In aligning with the Municipality’s Community Engagement Strategy, passed August 2nd, 2016, the consultation will be conducted using a facilitated World Café style, which will allow large group dialogue as well as small group discussion in a café setting.
For those who are unable to attend the consultation, our online engagement tool, PlaceSpeak, will be made available starting at 9:00am March 21 st until 4:00pm March 31st to receive feedback. To join the conversation click the PlaceSpeak icon on our website at: www.countyofkings.ca, or you can find it at the top of this page! Each of the 3 consultation stages will provide opportunities for the public and staff to provide feedback. Public input will also be gathered online at PlaceSpeak the days before and after each consultation to ensure all who wish to provide feedback have the opportunity to join the conversation.