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.