Tag Archives: Community governance models

Thank-you SRD, But There Is Currently No One To Negotiate With You

The opinions expressed in this report are my own and not necessarily shared by any organization, or committee, I belong to.

It has been more than a year since 14 disgruntled Cortes residents attempted to change the outcome of the 2018 election with a lawsuit that the Supreme Court of British Columbia eventually dismissed as having “no basis.” Now at least one of the former plaintiffs has joined a group of anonymous Cortes residents who informed the Strathcona Regional District (SRD) Board of an alleged secession plot. Twenty minutes of the board’s Feb 26, 2020, meeting was consumed with this nonsense. Kudos to Chair Michele Babchuk and the other Directors who recognized it as such. However the suggestion that SRD receive a delegation, or have staff look into ways to help Cortes find a more democratic form of local government, is premature. There is currently no one to negotiate with them.

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Hornby Island’s Style Of Government

Hornby Island has roughly the same number of inhabitants as Cortes Island. They have similar problems with volunteer burn-out, partisanship on public issues, disruptive personalities, and gossip. Reina LeBaron, Hornby Island Residents and Ratepayers Association’s (HIRRA) Administrator, said this is usual in small communities. Some disgruntled Hornby residents even complained to their Regional Director, but the discontent has not festered on Hornby, like it has on Cortes. To some extent I suspect this may be because of Hornby Island’s style of government. 

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How Community Decisions Were Made

The process behind a revision of Cortes Island’s Community Plan has been cited as an extreme example of how community decisions were made. According to the most recent (2012) version, “During the winter of 1983 and the spring of 1984, the APC (Advisory Planning Commission) and other community volunteers proceeded to assess the current community feelings concerning zoning regulations through an extensive questionnaire, including the tabulation and reporting of the results to the community, conducting seven question and answer evenings in homes throughout the island …”

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Local Governance Alternatives Discussed

About forty Cortes Islanders attended a public meeting on February 15th at Manson’s Hall, to discuss local governance models and alternatives. The meeting was announced in Regional Director Noba Anderson’s article “Seeding Community Council: Hornby and Cortes” which appeared in Tideline on February 2nd; it was co-hosted (with introductory remarks) by Director Anderson and moderator Kristen Scholfield-Sweet. Folk U co-sponsored the event. While some were disappointed in their expectations of a much larger turnout (“I thought the hall would be full!”) others pointed out that many people are still engaged in the ongoing search for missing island youth Miles Meester.

 We have a regional district system that, by its very nature, regardless of the people involved, leaves decisions off-island with a group of people that know little about our community.

— Regional Director for Cortes Island, Noba Anderson
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Local Government Through Annual Town Meeting

Originally published on Cortes Radio.ca

Recent events suggest that the Regional District system does not always work well in a remote island like Cortes. Some say, it is time to Cortexit. Our Regional Director says we should work within the existing system, it would be very expensive for a community this small to go it alone. She is currently wondering how a community council system would work on Cortes Island. “A minority of very active voices has been very effective at undermining my credibility at the Regional District, but if what I brought to the district was backed by this community council it would be harder to marginalize.” In this morning’s program we go to Cambridge, Vermont, to explore how an even more democratic system of government would work here. For more than two centuries, the local authorities have been carrying out the decisions made at an annual town meeting that everyone in Cambridge can attend.

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