Wow! Here we are at the half-way mark in my term in local government. A four-year term is a long time, especially to a millennial. There’s been much ado about the rise in municipal officials resigning before their term is up. Thankfully, I’m still here and committed to seeing it through the end. Time has flown, and looking back, the start of my term in December 2014 seems a lifetime ago. I’ve certainly learned more these last two years than I can describe.At this point, it has become clear that my goal of posting regular updates on this website is far out of reach. My other social media platforms on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are quite active, but I struggle to write anything longer than a paragraph on a regular basis. An annual review, however, is important! So tonight is dedicated to getting it done.
As with my 2015 Annual Review, I base my progress on the three core pillars of my 2014 election campaign: Transportation. Representation. Celebration…plus a few extras I’ve picked up along the way. So, let’s review.
A direct excerpt from my campaign website:
A good transportation network should bring people together, not split them apart. A good transportation network must avoid deteriorating the natural environment, and aesthetic of the community. A safe, reliable, efficient, equitable, and enjoyable transportation network is one my primary focuses. At the core of my policy is a transportation budget that allocates spending on transportation fairly across all modes of transportation.
Investing equitably in our transportation network means an improvement of our pedestrian, cycling, and transit networks. By focusing investment in these areas, we will be supporting people not only to make better choices for their health and the environment, but also provide more opportunities to people who do not have access to a personal or family vehicle. Investing in our alternative transportation network will also improve recruitment and retention of new residents.
The groundwork for these changes has already been laid. In 2011, city council approved the Active Transportation Plan with an implementation strategy for pedestrian and cycling networks; and in 2014, council approved the Prince George Transit Future Plan with a 25 year strategy for the growth of the transit system. As your City Councillor, I am committed to ensuring the vision developed in these plans is implemented.
So, what I have done to improve transportation in the city?
Huzzah! The provincial funding freeze on Transit expansions is over, thanks in part to the strong push back from municipalities. As a result, the City of Prince George moved forward with its first major transit system expansion in over five years. This is my proudest accomplishment of the year.
- I supported the immediate expansion of statutory holiday service in 2016
- I supported the expansion of 2,500 hours to the city’s transit service, to roll out in September 2017, with a focus on early morning, evenings, weekends.
- I sat on the Highway 16 Regional Transit Committee and supported the City of Prince George’s commitment of $50,000 to support a Prince George to Smithers transit service
- I supported and participated in the Prince George transit public engagement activities in the fall
While I had some success in my first year boosting the 2015 sidewalk repair budget, we fell back into old under funding habits in 2016, despite my pleading. It was a disappointing year for sidewalk improvements as the poor performance of the sidewalk contractor meant that only a fraction of the already small sidewalk repairs scheduled for 2016 were completed. It felt much like one step forward, two steps back. But there’s hope for 2017! Read on to learn why.
- I unsuccessfully advocated for a larger sidewalk improvement budget in the 2016 budget
- I participated in a sidewalk repair prioritization exercise with the City’s Accessibility Committee
- I met with Edgewood Terrace parents and attended a community meeting to discuss the possibility of sidewalk installations around Edgewood Schools
- Late in 2016, City staff brought forward a proposal to reallocate $1 million from the road repair budget to the sidewalk repair budget in 2017, with my whole-hearted support and enthusiasm. The final decision on this proposal will be made February 1st, 2017.
- Early in 2017, I supported a staff proposal to increase the annual new sidewalk installation budget by $400,000, especially to help address the concerns of elementary schools without access sidewalks (Malaspina, Edgewood, Immaculate Conception, Vanway, Blackburn, Hart Highlands)
- I review all zoning and permits that come before council to make sure they uphold good pedestrian access principles
It was a big year for cycling improvements, as the notice of motion I brought forward in 2015 to remove parking from bike lanes was finally approved and implemented. At the same time, improvements to signage and marking of bike lanes were made across the city.
- 60 new bike racks were custom built and installed in downtown.
- All the city’s bike lanes were repainted
- Parking is now prohibited in 68km of arterial road bike lanes
- Permanent signage has now been erected along 70km of bike lanes
- I supported a grant application to the Province for pedestrian and cycling boulevard in Westgate (still awaiting word of approval)
A direct excerpt from my campaign website:
Diversity creates strength, wealth, equity, creativity, and beauty. In order to be stronger, smarter, and more engaging, our governments need to be more diverse.
The United Nations tell us that in order for women’s concerns to be successfully represented in a community, there must be at least 30% women at the decision making table. Employment, child care, housing, recreation, transportation, and many other municipal decisions all have different impacts on women as a whole, than they do for men. Women need to be a part of the decision-making process.
The impact of many decisions at City Council will be felt most prominently by the next generation. Youth need to be involved in shaping the community they will be living in for decades to come. If we want to build a community that young people will consider moving to (and staying in) we need their perspective at the decision making table.
Even more concerning than the lack of diversity in our leaders is the lack of diversity at the polls. Voter turnout in the Prince George municipal elections in 2011 was 29 percent, down from 38 percent in 2008 and 41 percent in 2005. When less than one-third of eligible voters show up to the polls, our democratic system is failing.
Voting only happens once every four years, but the opportunity to practice community participation happens every day. Strong action is needed to re-engage citizens with the local government. The type of leadership needed to bring our community back to healthy civic participation won’t just come from me, leadership is for everyone. I am counting on you to lead your community to better civic involvement.
So, what I have done to improve representation in the city?
- I maintain one of the best attendance records on council, having missed only one meeting of Council in the last two years (there have been 53 held).
- I regularly take part in women’s and youth leadership events and panel presentations including the BCEGU women’s leadership conference, CNC and UNBC classes, and the Library’s Youth Advsiory Board
- I take part in many meetings and events related to the MMIW enquiry
- I was named one of Prince George’s Top 40 under 40
- I founded and helped organise the first ever Ms. Mayor event at City Hall
- I helped organise an event to celebrate women working for the City as part of IWAU 2016
- I built a City Council a float for the pride parade for the second year in a row
- I supported the installation of a rainbow crosswalk in downtown
- I participated in a Government to Government Forum with leaders from Lheidli T’enneh, Regional District Fraser Fort George and City of Prince George.
- I take part in regular meetings with local MLAs and MPs to make sure all levels of government are working in partnership
- I take part in NCLGA, UBCM and FCM to make sure that municipalities across the country are connected and sharing best practices
- I continue to Chair of the Select Committee on Students Needs and supported them in publishing their White Paper on Student Needs
- I continue to serve as a liaison to the Advisory Committee on Accessibility and support them their activities.
- I post regular social media updates to keep the community engaged
- I regularly arrange in-person and phone call meeting with constituents
- I publish all my Council activities in a public calendar to improve transparency and understand of what a councillor’s job entails
- I participated in the Talktober Town Halls that brought City Hall out into the community
- I actively mentor anyone who expresses an interest in running for municipal office
A direct excerpt from my campaign website:
How can we transform politics? All too often, politics make us feel angry, sad, and disappointed. Our political debates are littered with accusations, condemnations, and outright bickering. The political discourse has become so toxic that many of us are shutting politics out completely. We are all political animals, but few of us wish to bring this kind of negativity in our lives.
I believe that re-framing the political discourse and re-engaging our citizens requires a commitment to positive words and actions.
So, what I have done to improve celebration in the city?
- I attend as many ribbon cutting, flag raising, celebrations and community events as possible to demonstrate the support of council in community initiatives
- Supported multiple liquor licence applications in downtown’s entertainment district
- Supported bids for the 2022 BC Summer Games and the 2019 World Paranordic Games
- Supported expanded grant programming for Celebrate Prince George events
- Supported the hosting multiple activities to celebrate Canada’s 150th Anniversary, including the SESQUI exhibit
Other Noteworthy Items
- Support of a multiple new innovative multi-family housing projects, including Riverbend Seniors Community, Elizabeth Fry complex behind Studio 2880, and Aboriginal Housing project on Spruce St
- In my election campaign, I pledged to get free wifi set up in City Hall: COMPLETE
- In my election campaign, I pledged to getting backyard chicken allowance in the City: FAILED – the resolution was voted down by the majority of council
- In my election campaign, I pledged to end breed specific legislation and improve our animal control bylaw: IN PROGRESS. Staff have begun work in this new bylaw, likely to come before council in 2017.
- I continue to pursue professional development so that I can serve in my role with better knowledge. I 2016 I took three university courses in pursuit of a Certificate in Public Administration and several short course webinars.
Still to do in 2017-2018:
- Keep on pushing the transportation mandate. With some headway made on the transit and cycling fronts, I’ll be concentrating on pedestrian improvements in 2017.
- Tree Removal: We still need stronger rules about removing trees on development lands
- Encourage and mentor new candidates for the 2018 municipal election: we need even more people to run, especially those who are not well represented
- Decide if I want to run again. I’m starting to get asked this question all the time. The reality is that if you want to run in the 2018 election, you should start planning in 2017. I would love to continue to serve another term, but I would also love to explore new chapters in my life. I’ll have to make up my mind soon enough.
Looking forward, all three of my core pillars are well-represented in the City’s newly adopted 2016-2018 Corporate Plan, so I’m feeling confident moving forward. Maybe you’ve got some ideas and suggestions? Would love to have your feedback on the past two years and your ideas for the next two years!