By the time you hear this, everyone on Cortes Island will have received a newsletter from their Regional Director (or read it on the Tideline). I found it left me with more questions than answers. So I asked Noba Anderson to explain her vision for Cortes Island’s political future.
A Cortes Community Council
“I want to built community council, really simply put. City has a mayor and council. There is a group of people that are elected by the community to discuss matters of interest to the community and make decisions that pertain to the community and communicate the city’s will to outside agencies. First Nations, equally, have a chief and council. There’s a formalized, recognized, legitimate structure that is more than sending one person two ferry rides away to sit with twelve other reps,” says Director Anderson.
The way the SRD functions:
“I am inherently a minority and structurally, we don’t know things about each other, we don’t know each other’s communities – even with the best intentions, which aren’t necessarily always there.”
“So I’m interested in building something here that is complementary to the Regional District structure and certainly in no way would supersede or replace it. Over time as, I believe, our systems will inevitably fray with the pressures of climate change, we will have this system to really rely on here.”
Hornby Island’s Model Of Local Government
Our interview took place the day she left for Hornby Island “to spend a few days meeting with lots of community groups and learn how they run their community organizations”
Hornby Island has a population roughly the same size of Cortes Island but, while rate payer’s and resident’s associations died out in most British Columbian communities, on Hornby they act as a community council. They do much more than a typical Regional District. In fact, Hornby’s Regional Director “is told what to do and all the leg work is done for him.”
“I’m just really curious what other communities like that do and what version of that might be palatable and functional here,” says Noba.
Cortes Island’s Political Situation
After all of the shenanigans last year, some Cortes residents would like to secede from the Strathcona Regional District. (Listen to the podcast)
Noba says it would be too difficult for an island this small to go it alone, the solution may be an effective community council.
“A minority of very active voices has been very effective in undermining my credibility at the Regional District and yet if what I brought to the District was backed by a community council it would be harder to marginalize.”
Something like this come into fruition on Cortes sometime during the next three years.
“If we were to create this, it would be liaising with the Regional District post next election. I do not know how many of the same faces would be around the table but, regardless of the people at the Regional District table, this would offer credibility toward whatever the Director brought forward.”
Noba Stepping Down At End Of This Term
She will not be Cortes Island’s Regional Director at that time.
“I made that choice, quietly, before the last election. At the end of this term, it will be 14 years that I have been in office. I would do the constituency work forever, the work on Cortes I love. The honour of convening conversations and advocating for Cortes, I truly love, but I think I run the risk of getting stuck in this role and not being able to imagine myself in this community in some other way … I do not want the community to get stuck either, thinking I’m the only one who can do it … I would carry on the Cortes work in some other form if I can figure out how.”
Noba describes her current relationship with the rest of the SRD Board as “very awkward.”
“Most people don’t make eye contact … but I am committed to continue to be as professional as I can and represent the interests of Cortes. I will bring issues forward as I am able, but my credibility has been shaken. It’s quite remarkable how a matter with no legitimacy has created such a situation.”
She does not know anything more than the public about the Board’s decision to censure her.
As regards her legal fees, she says, “I have not been given any rationale as to the board’s decision to not indemnify me.”
The SRD Board did not speak directly to Noba, “it’s all through lawyers.”
Top photo credit: Hornby Island by Quentin Meulepas via Flickr (CC BY SA; 2.0 License)