Reflections on my first term as a city councilor
Steep learning curve. Many new relationships. Like having several new dance partners; some stepping on toes and awkward moves. We readjust and move on, because there’s so much to do. Staff provide years of experience and knowledge to help council move forward on the ever-changing dance floor that is our community.
Reflecting on some of the important achievements in this first term on city council, we have made tremendous advancements in the social sector – one of the four interconnected pillars of the Cranbrook Connected document.
Volunteering expands understanding. The work of these Committees: Family & Community Services Committee; Community Social Planning Society; Urban Governance Committee (with Ktunaxa Nation & Street Angels and various social service agencies); Habitat for Humanity Committee; Child Care Needs Assessment Task Force; Food Action Committee; and the Division of Family Practitioners Supply Task Force (among others), has resulted in:
– Our first Habitat for Humanity house is being built;
– RCMP report that crime is substantially down in Cranbrook over last year, due in part to strong relationships with Street Angels and social services;
– A Task Force just embarking on a regional childcare needs assessment to identify gaps. Lack of childcare is an economic barrier. Phase Two will be an action plan;
– Conducting the first ‘Red Carpet’ welcome to a potential new doctor. Success! Cranbrook area is short several doctors, leaving about 3,800 people unattached to a physician, and straining hospital emergency resources;
– City donated land for the Community Produce Garden (at McKinnon Park), where anyone can plant, weed, harvest, and attend workshops. Widely used by youth, seniors, homeless, low income earners, great gardeners, neighbours;
– And achieving a healthier community through improved accessibility in and around town for seniors, the ably challenged, parents with strollers, walkers, and cyclists.
Cranbrook has approximately 300 people in varying stages of homelessness. The Salvation Army and Street Angels provide and coordinate much needed support services. The costs of homelessness to our community are due to their reliance on emergency services (emergency shelters, soup kitchens, and day programs), increased illness and more health care, and involvement with the justice system. However, reports illustrate that if this same population was provided with adequate housing and supports, the cost per person would drop substantially. There is a strong community effort underway to address Cranbrook’s homelessness.
Social services is a provincial and federal government responsibility, not the municipality’s. However, there is an impact on our community we can’t ignore. Sometimes, feelings of helplessness overwhelm me at committee meetings while listening to stories about residents in dire need. Frantically searching my mind, “What can I do? Where do I start?”
What I’ve learned, is that city council can be the catalyst for change by gathering our community members and partners together to move forward on some of the issues listed above. We truly are stronger when we work together, making Cranbrook a more welcoming and livable community. I see this in our service clubs and organizations as their many volunteers give us parks, bicycle and walking paths, trees, flowers, shrubs, gardens, and much, much more.
Each New Year, a key word comes to mind. Over the years, ‘creating community’ and ‘service’ have helped me focus. Volunteering my time, and being on council are real opportunities for connecting to those key words. To serve with respectful discussion and debate is my ‘intention’. Each key word begins a dance. Some missteps and awkward moments. I move on, hoping that my ‘intentions’ will come from a good place, because there is so much more to do.