Why don’t more “young people” get involved in politics?

A Parksville-Qualicum Beach News reporter brought this news story to my attention today, and having read the story, I’m stupefied. How can 76 year-old Ken Dawson, candidate for Electoral Area Director in Area E say in one breath, “we need younger candidates to enter the race,” and in the next challenge all candidates to pledge to donate their remuneration if elected?

The story says that Mr. Dawson “did the math and if everyone donated their pay cheque they could raise over three million dollars for charity.” I’m not sure what Mr. Dawson means by “everyone”. If he’s talking about the Regional District of Nanaimo, the total amount of remuneration for the Board of Directors is only $233,083.00. Perhaps he counted all the regional board directors across the province?

The position of Electoral Area Director with the RDN has an annual remuneration of $15,935.00. If the director only works 10 hours a week, this is a generous allowance of $30.64 / hour, and if the director only works this much, then they have plenty of time for a second job. At 20 hours a week, the director’s hourly wage would be less than the hourly “living wage” for our community. At 30 hours, the director makes less per hour than I do at my current customer service job, and if the director is dedicated enough to work 40 hours / week, they would be earning less than minimum wage. I suppose it is all a matter of how much work you think your elected official should be doing. If all you expect them to do is show up to board and committee meetings, then perhaps they are overpaid. If you expect them to be well-informed, frequently consulting with the community, and actively advocating for your concerns, then the job doesn’t actually provide much at all.

Really, though, the problem isn’t with Mr. Dawson’s math; it is with his conflicting desire to see more young people as politicians AND have all candidates pledge to donate their financial compensation for serving. Mr. Dawson said, “A lot of municipal politicians have other sources of income and don’t really need the money.” Do the retired and/or independently wealthy really represent the full spectrum of our society? Are these the people we want making our decisions? Aren’t dissatisfied young people across North America and Europe converging right now to protest the imbalance of the rich controlling our political systems?

If you take away the very, very minor remuneration offered for local government positions, what working person can afford to take time from work to serve? For that matter, how many young, working people can afford to take time from work to run for office? How can we afford to fund our campaigns? I’m funding my entire campaign on a single pay cheque. To be more accurate, I’m spending the equivalency of one pay cheque’s worth of money on my campaign, but really, it is all just going on my VISA because I don’t have any “extra” money. To attend community functions, I have to take time off work, too, so my income for the next pay period will be cut in half. I’m not running in this election because I expect it to better my financial position (in fact, if I’m elected, I’ll be taking a pay cut), but if there was no remuneration provided for the position, there is no way I could afford to serve in local government. I am ABSOLUTELY NOT advocating for an increase in the remuneration provided to RDN board members. I am simply trying to point out that the remuneration is not substantial, and that financial stress is one of the barriers to younger people serving in local government. It is ludicrous to say that you want to see more young people involved in local government, but that you also want to see politicians work for free.

We want to be involved. Of the 3234 people running for local government in BC this year, 1656 (51%) provided their age range to CivicInfo BC. Of those 1656 people, 269 (16%) are under 40 years of age. If you want younger people to be actively involved in the decision making process, then you need to elect us. It’s a simple as that. Instead, though, we are overlooked for not having enough experience or “history”. Even those of us that were born and raised in this community face criticism for not being connected enough because we may have left the area for a time to go to school or find work. The truth is that those of us under 40 have a lot to offer to our communities, and we are willing to do so, but we need the electorate to take a leap of faith, a step into the future and put their trust us. We’re not just “youth candidates”: we are active, intelligent people wanting to serve our communities.

Here are your local “under-40” candidates. If you really want to see younger people involved in local government, then vote for us:

RDN: Skye Donald (Area F), Jordy Alexander (Gabriola Island), and Lance Pope (Area G)

City of Nanaimo: Peter Ramsay, Trent Snikkers, Christopher Ouellette-Croucher, George Anderson & Chris Cathers

City of Parksville: Jesse Schroeder, Alicia Vanin, possibly Peter Morrison

District of Lantzville: Jennifer Millbank, Andrew Mostad, Jordan Gail, Michael Geselbrac

Qualicum School District: Willow Bloomquist

Nanaimo-Ladysmith School District: Noah Routley

*Data from CivicInfo BC, except for Lance Pope, Willow Bloomquist and Peter Morrison.

Just checking in

No blog post tonight. I have lots to write about, but I also have lots to do tomorrow, so I think I’ll turn in and get a good night’s sleep. To give you an idea of all the “political” stuff I’ve done this week… on Tuesday, after choir practice, I stopped in to chat with members of the Errington Volunteer Fire Department. On Wednesday, I spoke with the Dashwood VFD chief by phone. Thursday evening, I made it to the second half of an RDN open house on the subject of a regional agriculture plan. Today, I attended a presentation on “The Englishman River and its Aquifiers”. As you can imagine, I have collecteda  LOT of information, and I want to write about it all, but I also have a very, very full day tomorrow with four different events to attend, so rather than blog, I’m going to get a good night’s sleep so that I can speak, sing, wash dishes and sip tea with all the enthusiasm and gusto that such distinguished acts require. It’s going to be an awesome Arrowsmith day!

CatSpan Fundraiser @ Parksville White Spot

I’ve been very, very busy with a number of different events this week. I have a lot of catching up to do with my blogging. I need to start somewhere, so I will start with reviewing the fund raiser for CatSpan that I attended on Tuesday evening at the White Spot Restaurant in Parksville.

 

The fundraiser was put together by Chris Jackson, one of the senior servers at the Parksville White Spot (where my sister also works). I knew that several kittens had been abandoned near the restaurant at Wembley Mall and that the staff had been trying to rescue them. Chris read this story in the Parksville Qualicum Beach News about CatSpan’s need to raise funds to sterilize a colony of 100 feral cats, he decided to set up a fund raiser to help out. I read about the event in the October 25th edition of The News and called up Chris’ wife Michelle to order a ticket.

 

I’m interested in CatSpan out of personal interest (I love my cats) and out of an interest in the impact of animals – wild, feral and domesticated – on agriculture in our community. My husband and I adopted a feral kitten from the Qualicum Cat Rescue about four years ago, so we know about the challenges of adopting ferals. Since feral populations are the result of human activity (dumping or abandonment), I believe that we have a responsibility to find reasonable and ethical ways to prevent feral population growth and to limit damage to agriculture and the environment; however, my desire to help rescue organisations is cautiously balanced with my belief that resources (time and money) should be directed at helping humans before animals.

 

CatSpan’s practice of capturing feral cats, having them spayed or neutered, then releasing them back into the colonies is an attempt to humanely deal with the problem of feral cats. Last year, they treated 100 cats, and from the sounds of things, they will likely double that number for 2011. They have 35 volunteers and annual expenses of 20-25K. I would like to see more statistical information on the effectivness of their TNR (Trap/Neuter/Return), but in general, I think that they are making a commendable effort, which is why I attended the event.

 

The event was great. The restaurant was packed, and I was seated with two local business owners that work with in the pet industry. I had an opportunity to meet with Belinda Davies, director of CatSpan, and when I have some time (after the election), we’re going to meet again to chat.

 

Kudos to Chris & the rest of the staff at White Spot for hosting the event. It was a great success from the perspective of a guest, and I hope they’ll consider other fundraisers in the future.

What are Skye’s views on building inspections in Area F?

What a day! I worked at the hotel this morning, put up a few signs on my way home, answered a few emails and tweets, and then headed off to the CatSpan fundraiser at Parksville White Spot. From there, I went straight to the Parksville & District Community Choir practice at Knox United, and after that, visited the Errington Volunteer Fire Department at the conclusion of their businesses meeting. It all starts again tomorrow morning!

 

I did say, though, that I would respond to the question of building inspections in Area F.

 

What are your views on building inspections in Area F?

 

The recent imposition of a building permit by-law by the RDN on the electors of Area F is the definitive example of how the RDN has ignored our voices and forced their own agenda on our community. It is also a perfect example of our outgoing elected leader’s inability to advocate on our behalf.

 

First, let’s look at this from the perspective of our community’s values. Any additional regulation goes against our value of “only a low level of regulation”, so any regulation, especially one with such a significant financial cost to individuals and the potential to alter the rural nature of our community, needs to be very carefully examined. The building permit by-law affects our rural life-style and violates our privacy. The added layer of bureaucracy and cost impedes affordable housing construction and makes it more difficult for business owners and farmers to make a living. All of this is contrary to the expressed values of our community.

 

On the other hand, there is a need to ensure that homes are being constructed safely, in accordance with provincial and federal regulations. This is important because deficiencies in construction put our volunteer fire fighters at risk. Building permits should also ensure that construction conforms to existing zoning. Zoning limits density, which in turn reduces urban sprawl and limits the demands on our water supply. It also ensures a certain level of peace and privacy for neighbours.

 

These two points in favour with the by-law do not, in my opinion, warrant it’s imposition on a community so clearly and vocally opposed to it. If, as an RDN planner suggested, there was support for the by-law within our community, but that those that supported it were too afraid to say so publically out of fear, I might be willing to concede somewhat, but the RDN would have to be able to produce a huge stack of letters from verifiable electors in the area expressing clear support for the by-law.

 

This matter was significant enough to warrant the expense of a referendum. I don’t say that lightly because I know that it is not realistic, efficient or economical to have referendums on every public policy (at least not with the current technology available to us). At the very least, this matter should have been an election issue: the by-law could have been brought forward before the election but not voted on until a new board of directors was elected so that voters could show their support or disapproval for the policy at the polls by electing candidates that shared their views. The RDN disregarded the clear desires of our community, and our elected official did not stand up for what we value. Had I been director at the time, based on the wishes of the community, I would not have supported this by-law. Can we go back? Can the by-law be redacted? I don’t know. It is something worth looking into, but I suspect that any attempt to repeal this by-law would be fruitless.

 

What do you think? At the end of the day, it shouldn’t be about what I think. Our new director needs to constantly go back to the community and say, “What do you think? What is important to you?” There may be times when an elected official has to take an unpopular position for some greater good; that’s why character is important, but as a rule, they should be representing their constituent’s wishes to the best of their abilities.

 

Sign Update – “Skye Donald” Hits Area F

On Friday, my mother and I headed out to Whiskey Creek & Hilliers to put up signs. Today, my husband and I (slowly) made our way through Coombs, then out to Meadowood. We’ve put up half of my signs. The rest will go up after Halloween, probably Wednesday and Thursday afternoon, then the last next Sunday (November 6th).

 

I am really hoping that the signs will direct folks to this site where they can really get to know me. If you saw a sign and you’re reading this now, please post a comment and let me know! If you would like a sign for your yard, please give me a call! I designed the signs (and all of my print material) myself.

 

While campaign signs can be “unsightly”, they are probably the best way for a candidate to create name-recognition. Unlike flyers stuffed in mailboxes that can be tossed away unread or newspapers ads that are easily overlooked, you can’t avoid the bright, colourful campaign signs. Thankfully, the visiaul pollution only lasts about a month. As for the physical pollution created by the currogated plastic signs, I have plans for their reuse: I think they’ll make great roofing material for a new loafing shed for my alpacas. 🙂

 

Halloween in Area F

There are lots of Halloween events this Monday:

 

  • Coombs Candy Walk at the Coombs Fairgrounds (Sponsored by ACES) from 6:00-7:45 PM
  • Errington Community Park Pumpkin Walk starting at 6:30 PM
  • Meadowood Bonfire and Fireworks at the Community Park from 6:30-9:30 PM

Sadly, I won’t be able to make it to any of the events. While I’m not keen on spending an important campaigning weekend away from home, it isn’t often that my husband and I have the opportunity to visit family in the lower mainland, so we need to make the trip when we can.

 

Have fun and be safe, everyone!

What does Skye think of a fireworks ban?

While searching for a web link to my last article (RDN to look into mail ballots), I came across this story, also from today’s paper (I haven’t got that far in the paper yet, apparently). What the heck is going on? I am willing to accept that some policies might need to be harmonized across the entire region, but is this really one of them?

 

Let’s look at this in relation to our community values. “Support for only a low level of regulation and the involvement of residents in the development of regulations.” Right there, we see that a by-law to ban the sale of fireworks in our community goes against our community’s clear desire for “a low level of regulation”. Furthermore, to institute such a regulation without community consultation would violate our value of the “involvement of residents in the development of regulations”. Clearly, a by-law imposed on us banning fireworks violates this core value.

 

If the primary argument for the imposition of such a ban is safety, then let’s have some actual data on the safety concerns surrounding the sale and use of these items. How many injuries are reported on an annual basis in our community (Area F) and our region (the whole RDN) as a result of fireworks use? Have they ever contributed to a fire? Is the likelihood of serious injury sufficient enough for us to sacrifice our freedom to protect careless individuals? Sometimes, the answer is “yes”, which is why we have laws that require us to wear seatbelts in cars or helmets when we ride bicycles. Sometimes we also need these laws to protect innocent people from the actions of careless individuals. Is this one of those situations? I don’t know, but without clear, emperical data and public consultation, I would not be able to support the ban of fireworks  in our community. The new director for Area F can’t allow regulations to be imposed on us without a fight, and I’m ready to fight that fight.

 

What do you think? Take advantage of my “comment” section and let me know!

Skye Donald Comments on “RDN to look into mail ballots”

To: Mr. Steven Heywood, editor of the The News
Re: RDN to look into mail ballots

 

Too little, too late. That’s my response to the article published in Friday’s edition of the News that describes the RDN may look into mail-out ballots for the NEXT local government elections. With only an 18.8% turn out for Area F in 2008, why weren’t radical changes to voting procedures considered three years ago? Stanhope’s attempt to mitigate the RDN’s lack of action on the past by pointing out that curbside voting is available for people with physical disabilities only serves to demonstrate how the RDN simply doesn’t understand the problem. For many people, getting out of the car isn’t an issue; it’s getting to the polls to begin with that is a barrier. According to travel times supplied by Google Maps, some residents of the Meadowood neighbourhood may have to travel from 40-50 minutes one way to get to the one and only polling station in our electoral area. Would you take two hours out of your day to vote? We have absolutely no public transportation in Area F, yet there are people that live here that don’t have vehicles. Obviously the cost of implementing mail-in ballots has to be considered, but I think can’t think of any reason that we shouldn’t offer mail-in ballots to residents that request them. I know it is too late to implement the ballots for this year, but shouldn’t it be a priority for all candidates to ensure that we at LEAST have them available for 2014?
I don’t think that we should stop at implementing mail-in voting: we need to encourage the provincial government to change legislation to allow civic governments the option to use secure, electronic voting by way of the Internet. While mail-in ballots do create more “polling stations” by making any post offices or rural mailbox a voting place, imagine how many more people we could reach if they could vote from their own den or kitchen table?
I’m Skye Donald, candidate for Electoral Area Director for Area F, and I support making voting more accessible for all electors.

Is Social Media Relevant to This Election?

I just read this story in The Province (actually, I linked to it from the Parksville/Qualicum Daily).

 

“Social media has become integral to elections,” he said. “If a candidate is not tweeting or having some sort of engagement with potential and existing constituencies, then they’re not seen as keeping up to date, so to speak, or being particularly accessible.”(Peter Chow-White, SFU professor of communications).

 

Do you think this is an accurate representation for local government elections? Most of the people I interact with on a day-to-day basis know very little about Twitter. I’m not sure my mother has even heard of it. I happen to think it is the bee’s knees.  Direct. Concise. Personal. Seems perfect for politics.