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November 17, 2005

November 19 and the Hell's Kitchen of Sustainability

Editor's note: Guest contributor Hans Peter Meyer writes on community development issues from Courtenay, British Columbia.

Saturday, November 19, is local government election day in British Columbia.

It's too late to nominate anyone, and it's too late to really organize. By the time British Columbians read this, there won't be much left to do but vote for whoever you think has the vision and the energy to put the pieces in place for a more 'livable,' more 'sustainable' future.

Why does local government matter? Joy Leach once said of her experience as Mayor of Naniamo, one of Vancouver Island's biggest municipalities, "Local government is the Hell's Kitchen of sustainability." It's at local council tables and regional board meetings that so many of the big issues become real. Garbage. Sewage. Town design for cars, bikes, pedestrians, and buses. Development applications to spread expensive infrastructure, or 'intensify' populations and reduce the ecological footprint. These are the nuts and bolts of community sustainability.

Some changes seem to take place overnight: All of a sudden there's a $1M highway connector between two small towns. Or a huge box store in the middle of prime agricultural land. But in fact, these land use decisions were made years, even decades before anything happens on the ground. Someone put the pieces in place so that when the time was ripe, the plan and the action unfolded.

We need people in local government willing to put the pieces in place for healthier communities and neighbourhoods in 10, 25, and 50 years.

I live in Courtenay on Vancouver Island. At about 20,000 people, it’s still a small city, blessed with its own set of beauties and eyesores. But it’s growing rapidly. The tsunami of growth in BC won’t reach its full peak until after the 2010 Olympics. By then, the world will know that this place--from Vancouver to Whistler and all of Vancouver Island--is a wonderful place to call ‘home.’ Before that big wave bears down on us, we need an elected team willing to tackle this list:

- implement a workable a growth management strategy.

- do some bona fide community economic development planning.

- strategize on a regional basis on emerging youth issues, drug and crime issues, housing & poverty issues.

The list of issues are piling up faster than the condos and single-family dwellings are being built. And it’s growing. Another reason to consider carefully who you'll pick to represent you in your local 'Hell's Kitchen of sustainability.'

Posted by hanspetermeyer | Permalink

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