COLUMN: Participation can make a difference

It was sort of an interesting comment that was made to me just as a council meeting was ending a couple of weeks ago.

Council had just spun its wheels deeper into the mud over the LED sign issue and a councillor looked at me with some anxiety and said, “We must be the laughing stock of the city.”

All I could do at the time was shrug, but it got me wondering about how councils in other cities have handled the situation.

The results were surprising. From small town Tennessee to Toronto, from the backwaters to the giant metropolises, the reaction has been the same, and the debate has been over the same topics. Every city that has had LEDs come before it has seen a struggle over how to implement them, and the issue has always been driver safety and esthetics.

It’s no different in Nanaimo. The community is split right down the middle and as a result, so, too, is council.

Laughing stock? Not by a long shot. It’s democracy working, and for those who have trust in democracy, which I would hope would be everybody, the end result will be policy that reflects the desire of the community.

Sometimes it just takes a bit of a journey to get there. What’s the hurry anyway? We’re on Island time.

For local businesses, having blitzy, glitzy signs is a tool to attract customers. LEDs have been heavily lobbied for by the Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce, and rightly so. Nanaimo businesses want to be seen as on the leading edge, and when local business prospers, so, too, does the community. Charities receive more donations, sports teams can travel more and more money is put back into the local economy.

But at what cost? The reason many people live here is because of the undisputed beauty of Vancouver Island. Do we really want to compromise that with a sea of flashing LED signs?

The argument on both sides is excellent, and the struggle that has resulted is part of the price to be paid for living in paradise.

I know one thing, I wouldn’t want to have to make the decision.

But our councillors have been put to the task, and they work day after day on equally difficult topics for pay that amounts to peanuts.

Sure they’re deeply divided, they’re a reflection of the city’s electorate which is also divided.

So instead of snickering, laughing and shaking our heads in disapproval, perhaps people should be thinking more about how to help council reach some kind of compromise. During every council meeting there is a few minutes where citizens can address council with virtually any subject on their mind. It’s rarely used.

We’re all here in this city together. We all live and die by the decisions the people we elect make. But that doesn’t mean we can’t help out by participating.

And it’s not just LED signs. In the near future, our infrastructure needs are going to require some serious money. Already, residents at Green Lake need sewer services at a cost of $3.2 million, or the same amount equal to a five-per cent increase in the residential property tax rate. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. In Nanaimo, an additional 300 properties need to be hooked up to sewers for a total cost of $19 million, or a 30 per cent tax rate increase.

Couple that with infrastructure maintenance needs that are currently underfunded by $12 million annually, and decisions we’ll have to make in the future will make LEDs look like a walk in the park.

It is estimated that nationwide infrastructure is underfunded by $123 billion. The noose is tightening on all of us.

Addressing these decisions is noble work, and while council is not and should not be above criticism – taxes are paid and services are expected – we may all be better off working on solutions as a community with the same things at stake.

reporter2@nanaimobulletin.com

Just Posted

Nanaimo Fire Rescue crews on scene at a boat fire near the boat ramp at Long Lake on Sunday, June 20. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Boat burns up on Nanaimo’s Long Lake, man and child unhurt

Jet skiers attempt to put out fire by circling around to spray water on burning boat

Nanaimo Track and Field Club athletes are off to a fast start this season after no competition last season due to the pandemic. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo athletes back on track, starting with club competitions

Nanaimo Track and Field Club registration filled up

A conceptual rendering of a commercial plaza at 1130 Rocky Creek Road. (Town of Ladysmith image)
Commercial plaza in north end of Ladysmith passes public hearing

Councillors debate proposed land use at 1130 Rocky Creek Rd.

The Nanaimo sign at Maffeo Sutton Park could be hazardous for children, says letter writer. (News Bulletin file photo)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Nanaimo sign will cause falls

Children can’t resist climbing on sign, says letter writer

John A. Read, who was inspired to leave his former career to become a professional astronomy by the purchase of a $13 telescope, will give beginning astronomers key pointers on how to set up and get the best performance from their instruments at Nanaimo Astronomy Society’s meeting June 24. (Photo courtesy Jennifer Read)
Astrophysicist will talk about getting the most out of a telescope at Nanaimo astronomy meeting

John Read’s purchase of a $13 telescope led to a degree in astrophysics and a career in astronomy

Robin Dutton, left, and Peter Sinclair are taking their mountain bikes and travelling down trails in the Mount Benson area June 19 as part of a 24-hour fundraiser benefiting Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Full-day mountain bike fundraiser gives financial support for Nanaimo food bank

Event part of Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank’s Food 4 Summer campaign

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

A Lotto 6/49 ticket purchased in Parksville for the June 19, 2021 draw is a $3M winner. (Submitted photo)
Winning Lotto 6/49 ticket worth $3M purchased on Vancouver Island

Lottery prize winners have 52 weeks to claim jackpot

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Most Read