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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Letters to the Editor (part two)

The following are some of my letters to the editor over the past couple years. I have found, since submitting my first many years ago, that this is a means, one widely read, to express an opinion on events in the city and realms further afield. I fully encourage people to write letters to the editors of what some fondly consider our local rags, though don’t be surprised when they appear and are edited by the paper. In one letter I submitted the editor changed one word, eliminated one sentence and totally changed the context of what I was saying.

Re: Alternative approval process
Kudos go out to Beverley Eert and the many others who helped coordinate and volunteer in the gathering of Electoral Response Forms regarding the annexation of Regional District Lands.  As one of those volunteering, both at Maffeo Sutton Park and the FPN sponsored table at Port Place Mall, a number of concerns about the process arose for me.  Cedar residents have no say with regard to annexation of land from their community; this specific process implies that those not signing are agreement with the annexation; the city only had to put a couple notices about the process into the newspapers, yet notice of the parking survey is in the papers almost daily; and, the fear of sanctions, by the city or developer, that was a concern of many of those who would not sign.

For me, I found that equally as many people who signed the forms did so not only because they did not like the potential development, environmental impact and ongoing cost to taxpayers, but because they thought the process undemocratic.  Having collected the required 10%, not including those handed in to City Hall, a number of us will be out again over the long weekend at Maffeo Sutton Park .  I encourage anyone who has not filled out the required form to drop on down and do so.  If Nanaimo City council decides to go further, having failed by this means, let’s hope they do so without exorbitant cost to the taxpayers of Nanaimo by tying a referendum to the upcoming municipal election.
Re: Chamber of commerce awareness of homelessness issue
I congratulate Mr. Lobay, and hopefully the rest of the Chamber of commerce, on being aware that homelessness is a complex issue that needs all sectors, social, political as well as business, to be onside when developing solutions for community.  I do however have to correct him on one thing; the city does not as yet have a plan.  What was essentially presented for public input was a plan for a plan and not the plan itself.

Many of us look forward to the actual plan which will hopefully be comprehensive enough to allow us to move forward, leveraging funds from all levels of government to provide the supplements and housing needed to alleviate the growing homeless problem in Nanaimo .  Yes the municipality will have to contribute as well, something they have done in the past, and one hopes the means for doing this will be firmly entrenched in upcoming revisions to the Nanaimo Official Community Plan.

When all is said and done the Homeless/Harm Reduction plan, as well as the OCP, will either guide the way or gather dust as have so many other plans.  As Mr. Lobay says, “solutions can only be developed with collaboration and tenacity.”   As we move forward I sincerely hope the Chamber of Commerce will be tenacious in taking an active role in this collaboration.

Re: Homeless & Harm reduction action plan
After 6 months work and $60,000 spent the citizens of Nanaimo finally had a chance to view what will be Nanaimo 's own "Harm Reduction and Housing First Action Plan."  In my opinion we have taken a step forward in looking at the provision of housing for the City's homeless population but the process itself has been less than community friendly. 

It was decided by Council that the SAFER Nanaimo Committee would be the steering committee for the process.  SAFER, formed as a result of recommendations from the Downtown Security and Downtown Social Response Committees recognizing that "'communication and coordination' between stakeholders will be key to managing the issues of public order and social exclusion in the city centre."  They called for a group comprised of  the RCMP, Bylaw Services, Social Planning, Downtown Nanaimo Partnership, Vancouver Island Health Authority and members of the downtown business & residential communities.  Despite this and after several requests SAFER will not allow representatives of Downtown Neighbourhoods on the committee.

In seeking out input for the action plan City Spaces Consulting interviewed the heads of the three downtown neighbourhood associations with little or no input from the association members.  Two of these groups hold monthly meetings and would have been ideal venues, had City Spaces chosen, for greater community input.  Finally we had the open house; great idea though how much input does one really have at these even assuming they can get there?
While I personally think the plan good it relies heavily on the political will of the municipality. With the upcoming public hearing of the revised Official Community Plan it is important for people to know that the OCP contains little on attaining affordable housing.  Unlike the Kelowna , Victoria and Vancouver  Official Community Plans, that have extensive sections on housing, ours is but a page and a half that is wishy washy at best.  I encourage everyone to attend the public hearing, June 19th, and speak out.  I also have been assured that feedback from the public regarding the Harm Reduction and Housing First Action Plan will still be accepted.  The action plan is to be posted on the City of Nanaimo Website, where one can also view the most recent draft of the OCP, and comments can be sent to Brenda McBain – City Spaces Consulting via e-mail at .

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