You need to love your community
Participating Poets in the Poetry challenge were, Sienna Longo from The Fernie Academy, Devon MacGregor from Isabella Dicken Elementary School and Mary Menduk, Keith Liggett and Adam MacDonald from the community.
Council supported the MADD Campaign initiative and has installed “CALL 911” signage throughout Fernie. The program encourages the public to call 911 to report suspected impaired drivers.
Council remuneration has remained at current level since March 3, 1997, with councillors receiving $7,620 and the mayor receiving $14,890, of which one-third is tax exempt and intended to cover out of pocket expenses related to the performance of duties of office. It had been increased to $9,199 for councillors; however, it was clawed back by a new council that had some of the members campaigning to do just that.
The mayor’s amount was left the same in recognition that this position has more responsibilities. In the five terms I have been on council this topic came up only twice. In 2007, 10 years after the last increase the mayor’s stipend was increased to $20,000 and councilors to $12,000. I don’t recall any outcry from the community about this increase.
The second time was recently when council members felt that in order to attract more qualified and younger members to run for council the amount needed to be increased to assist individuals in costs such as loss of work and child sitting.
I will now voice a personal opinion. In the years I have sat on council I have seen young women and men (25 to 42) some with university education, some with only partial education and some without any post-secondary education, as well as older men and women (over 50) in the same categories sit on this podium.
From observation and working with the many individuals I have noted that it’s not the age or the education that fosters good decisions. I’m convinced it’s the amount of time you devote to the work, to the research that needs to be done to prepare for meetings, to interest and involvement with the community and the wisdom an individual has that assists in making the right decisions.
Most of all you need to love your community to put in the hours of time that it takes to be an effective member of council. Here is a brief outline of the basic time it takes to do the work. There are four scheduled meetings a month, during budget there can be at least two more scheduled meetings added plus special meetings in the month. To clarify, morning meetings don’t allow council to make binding decisions except to provide direction to staff.
Special meetings allows for motions to be passed that are legal. Special meetings aren’t held to hide anything from the public, all meetings are open to the public except ‘in camera’ meetings held to discuss land, legal or labour.
Every councillor is assigned to several committees that require monthly attendance; they are expected to attend special city events in the evenings such as the tax talk town hall, as well as events put on by other organizations and the committees they represent. They are expected to fill in for the mayor whenever required.
To date this council has gone into the schools, organized poetry challenges, organized attendance at the CBT basin youth network summit for six teens, attended the regional and provincial conferences, (four to five days long) as well as attending out of town required meetings in Sparwood, Elkford, Cranbrook and Kimberly.
Monday meetings can begin at 10 a.m. and end at 11 p.m.; sometimes up to four meetings in one day are held.
There is also the time commitment to reading all the information provided for the meetings. I usually spend all day and evening on Saturday reading and researching for the Monday meetings. As mayor I have a full time job, as I am at city hall daily unless I’m out of town on city business.
I attend many events that I give speeches for and that takes time to prepare. I am out many evenings a week to attend meetings and city related events. I chaired the community directed funds group, sit on the planning group of the crown of the continent conference that is coming in October, am on the Highway 3 mayors’ committee and subcommittee, sit on the Teck Communities of Interest, am the lead on the surgeon recruitment group, and sit on the Regional District of East Kootenay board of directors that meets two days each month in Cranbrook.
Preparing for those meetings takes several days of reading and on that board I sit on SIDIT and a newly-formed Columbia Basin Trust committee.
I receive mountains of emails essential to be responded to as well as many just making inquiries. For instance students from Calgary using the Fernie mayor as a class project and needing much information that takes time, add the mayor’s updates, radio and print interviews and phone calls.
As an individual you can make this job as small or as large as you want to but if you don’t put time and effort in then it’s a loss for your community as many groups appreciate the mayor’s support at their events. I don’t have to respond to emails or phone calls, write updates, or give speeches that have meaning, or attend all the events that I do, I could say no to invitations to attend meetings and workshops.
I don’t have to lobby for amenities like a new Lizard Creek bridge or safer highways, better medical services, an “electric highway,” or to give the Senior’s Centre a part time administrator. I didn’t have to bring forward the invitation from CBT to work on a youth project for Fernie kids and I didn’t have to initiate and work on the dumpster painting project or worry about beautification, Legion cemetery gate and benches or even suggesting having a Valentine tea for Trinity and Tom Uphill residents.
It would be easy to perform the basic duties of running meetings and attending only what is absolutely mandatory. I work harder because I love this town with a passion; I put in time because I want the best for this town. It’s great when people comment that Fernie is the most vibrant and beautiful town in the region.
I’m not alone in working hard I see many councillors doing the same. People run for council because they believe they can make a difference and most do. They put heart and soul into the work because they love the town. I’m able to do so because of the huge support I have from my husband in every way financially and otherwise. Not everyone is this fortunate, but that shouldn’t prevent them from wanting to serve. This is the reason this council decided to increase the stipend which is only the second increase in nearly 20 years.
This year, as in previous years, over $1 million dollars is going into roads and half a million into sewer and water capital works programs. Authorization to allow connection of properties in Phase one of the West Fernie project to water and sewer services was given conditional on the city and RDEK entering into a servicing agreement to allow collection of user fees for the delivery of sanitary sewer service. The city issues a safety waning to citizens in regards to unlicensed commercial ridesharing services. There are strict regulations in regards to this for more info go to www.fernie.ca.
A partnership with the Fernie Chamber of Commerce regarding Summer Socials will see four instead of eight. This should provide increased consideration with funding, staff time and volunteers to provide better events. Council directed staff to bring forward a new partnership agreement with the chamber to continue organization of the Griz Days Festival for a three-year period at $10,000 per year.
As garbage is a primary bear attractant council passed a new bylaw prohibiting the use of plastic garbage bags for curbside collection. It was determined the quickest way to make a difference was to stop use of the plastic bags as animals and birds tend to break them open and garbage is strewn about. Kathy Murray, the city contractor who has been working on bear aware program for over 10 years, is presently working with the city to come up with other ways to mitigate the problem of bears in this community.
Lead image: City of Fernie Mayor Mary Giuliano helps Queenie Reta Smith celebrate her 100th birthday May 27. Photos courtesy Mary Giuliano