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Murray For Mayor

I’m seeking your vote for mayor so I would like to take this opportunity to tell you why.

Our daughter turned three just after we moved to Bowen in 1978. A year later her brother arrived. Janice and I were seeking a life style in a natural setting. While the natural setting and proximity to Vancouver drew us here it is the community that has held us for 36 years. During the years it took to build our house we moved back and forth across the island living in whatever we could rent. When our house in the woods was liveable we got our goats, chickens and honey bees. If you ever want to hear stories about how not to raise livestock, I’m your man.

For thirteen years I commuted to town and I still remember the costs and challenges involved. Since 1991 I have run a business on Bowen so I’ve been pretty close to the action and have a good idea of what works and what doesn’t, where there is consensus and where differences lie. There are so many issues and projects where we already have broad agreement that it really is time to move forward.

I’ve been writing about island issues for a decade now. I just read Ron Woodall’s take on me and the Bulletin. “…some of us see Murray as a kind of referee out there calling offsides, often right, sometimes wrong, but always trying the keep the game fair. The Bulletin is where we look for a plainspoken interpretation of how this place actually operates. The writing is straightforward and free of platitudes. Tough questions get asked so raw nerves get touched. No one sues, perhaps because the nerves need the touching. And there are always just too many inconvenient grains of truth.” My view has always been that an informed and engaged Bowen Island is a stronger Bowen Island. And that is what I have tried to do.

A Mayor must be a team leader to draw the best from others. I will listen carefully, listen to everybody, and think in terms of what would work for all of us. A Mayor must also be able to communicate and engage with the community. I think I’ve proven my ability and desire in that regard.

Other important skills include the need to see the larger picture. In my commuting days I worked as a project manager in the construction industry. I believe the experience gained in those days will serve me well as mayor. One frustration I’ve had with municipal process is an inability to see the deal breakers for a project and deal with them right away. A methodical step-by-step approach requires identifying major hurdles and knowing that they can be dealt with. A good example is the rezoning of the community lands next to the school. A community campus and high density housing are envisioned but, no traffic engineer has told us what it would cost, or if it is even possible to put an intersection in next to the school grounds at the top of the hill.

But buildings and infrastructure are only a small part of what I’m hoping to achieve. In meeting with young families I sense a real hunger for constructive, hands on community building. Many years ago, when the school was new I helped build the playground. My project was the slide. It was the classic committee of primarily young mothers getting designs drawn, funds raised, materials ordered and enlisting a construction crew. When we left at the end of that workday we had created something together that was part of us. Years later when the playground was redone I happened to drive by as the slide was pulled apart. It was a bittersweet moment. I want today’s young families to enjoy that sense of community. Two of my proposals include creating playgrounds in our small neighbourhood parks and building forest trails connecting neighbourhoods. There are undoubtedly other projects that can be undertaken. Municipal government can’t do everything but we can welcome the opportunity to participate with grassroot community groups.

Often when people running for office make promises, somebody runs a tally of what they would actually cost. I’m always looking at the numbers. Bowen’s rapid growth without an industrial or commercial base has put us a bit behind. However on the plus side our community lands are a tremendous asset. We have some organic growth in property tax income from new lots and houses and the federal government is in a generous mood these days. My commitment to you is that property taxes will not rise beyond the rate of inflation. We will juggle things a bit but for every increase in municipal expenditures there will be a corresponding decrease.

At the end of the day we need to see that our local government is striving for balance and showing sensitivity to the diverse interests. I believe core commitments can act as a touchstone. The most basic core commitments we can make are to honour our natural environment and build community. Our community is strong. We have a heritage, a character, a story, a brand. If we are true to who we are, we can move forward with confidence that we are heading in the right direction.

It would be my honour to be your next mayor.

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The vital need to build a more fully democratic society

by John Sbragia

As British Columbians prepare to vote in municipal elections involving a longer four year term, it becomes increasingly important for all citizens to “think globally and act locally” when considering and exercising their civic responsibilities on November 15. That process points to the most vital issue in acting locally towards a more enlightened community in our current world.

The economy and other important issues affecting all of us cannot be dealt with adequately without a more fully democratic governance and society. Until that happens, “the economy” will remain a political shell game played by the agents of wealthy and powerful vested interests – a game where the rich are getting richer, and increasing numbers among the rest of us are getting poorer.

The most important political lesson we can learn from history is that the French Revolution was not the end, but just the beginning of the battle for modern democracy. That battle has never ceased since that fateful time in history. The main difference today is that we are dealing with a more sophisticated form of feudalism controlled by a much more powerful, wealthy ruling class – a military-industrial-corporate complex which is essentially solely driven by the quest for profit and the power which flows from it.

As was the case during the French Revolution, the main priority of this ruling class is to maintain its position of power and privilege. The difference today is that it must give the appearance of being egalitarian by espousing pseudo-benefits for the common citizen, such as the so-called virtues of “trickle down” economics. In many cases, that process involves people, political parties and communities being paid, sponsored, funded, subsidized or bribed to remain subservient to the power of big money in our society, as opposed to any adherence or loyalty towards anything remotely resembling democratic principles.

If we truly believe in the principles and values of democracy, the only way to eventually break out of that vicious circle in the real sense is to promote the creation of a more fully democratic society through public education. Through increased awareness about the prime importance of a stronger, vibrant democracy in dealing with the urgent issues affecting all of us, we can foster a society which can find the courage and the will to say that our general populace, our communities and democracy itself are not for sale. Unless we do so, democracy within government and society will become an increasingly empty shell – a mere backdrop to a puppet theatre where we are being manipulated with our own purse strings.

Globally, the dire consequences of that self-serving manipulation can be seen in the economic crash of 2008, the increase in poverty, a dwindling and struggling middle class, the massive degradation of our climate and environment, and the widespread destruction of our wildlife.

The revitalization and fostering of a healthy, vibrant democracy is also the only means by which our society can move beyond less moderate, polarizing political ideologies. By harnessing the experience, knowledge and skills of the community at large through participatory democracy, the focus simply becomes the pragmatic process of preserving what needs to be preserved and changing what needs to be changed. The real struggle therefore is between those forces within our society that are consciously or unconsciously stifling and subverting democracy, and those that are striving to maintain and strengthen it.

Ultimately, the only way to move towards grass-roots unity and change for the better within our society is to elect politicians who seek balance in all issues and the building of a more fully democratic society – a society which places power where it belongs: in the hands of all our citizens, instead of any vested interests.

The longer we delay that vital process, the more we are headed towards a hard landing. As all the freedom fighters did before us, we must find the courage and the integrity to take the necessary steps towards claiming and building a society which truly and fully reflects the values and principles of democracy – on behalf of all of us and the earth upon which we all live.

At the end of the period which created Bowen’s original Official Community Plan, Brian Fawcett, a representative from the G.V.R.D. planning department involved in overseeing that process, explained to me how he had never before witnessed such a thorough, community wide democratic process in the creation of any community plan in the Lower Mainland.

When Bowen Islanders go to the polls on November 15, we need to remember that our community was founded on the solid cornerstone of true democracy, that it defines who we truly are as a people and that this priceless legacy has been handed down to us. When we vote on November 15, our prime civic responsibility is to entrust that legacy to representatives who must keep that light burning if we are to make the right decisions – so that our society can reflect the same balance manifested in the nature around us, and so that we may truly create a community of the future for our children and our children’s children.

- John Sbragia

 

Building Consensus and Community

By Tim Rhodes

My most important lesson of the last three years is how difficult it is to move any agenda forward in the partisan and divisive atmosphere that often pervades our public discourse, and how important it is to move beyond this if we are to prosper.

I believe we have common values – we cherish the same things – and we can and must build consensus on these values, because Council’s success over the next term will depend on building things we cannot see and will benefit us far into the future: the culture of positive public discourse Continue reading ›

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SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT – follow the money!       

By Nerys Poole

When you consider who to vote for in the upcoming election, ask yourself: which candidates have been funded or financially supported by developers on the island? Who is likely to hold closed door meetings to discuss issues that need open debate and public scrutiny?

These are critical questions for our island. We have had the last three years to assess candidates from the current council. And we have many fresh faces.

For those who may be relatively new to the island, there is much to be learned from past election results and Continue reading ›

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Setting the Stage

The countdown to our municipal election starts now. Nominations close this Friday and in five weeks we go to the polls. We don’t yet know who will be running nor do we know what the major issues will be. But it doesn’t hurt to speculate.

For me the biggest consideration will be how our existing council treated us over the last three years. They approved the construction of stupidly oversized and inappropriate private docks at Cape Roger Curtis. They did it in secret and then they pretended that they were forced to do it. It wasn’t until we saw an email from the provincial government, obtained through a freedom of information request, that their malfeasance was exposed. Continue reading ›

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Here we go again

It looked for a minute like our upcoming municipal election would give us a chance to elect a diverse group of councillors who would be representative of something other than pro-development or antidevelopment (or in the case of the last election pro or anti a national park). But Wolfgang Duntz would prefer that the primary issue of the next election be his most recent rezoning applications. He has asked Council to consider two large development proposals and would like them to give the necessary bylaw amendments first reading before the next election so Islanders can decide where to take it based on who they vote for in the next election. I kid you not, that is almost a direct quote.

We should probably look at the chances of our remaining council members getting sucked into this abyss as well as taking a cursory look at whether these proposed subdivisions are even worthy of discussion, let alone be the centrepiece issue of a municipal election.

Let’s start with Seymour Bay. Continue reading ›

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Summer Is Over

Summer is over and its time to get serious about the upcoming municipal elections. In the past mayor and council served for three year terms. On Bowen this meant that they almost had time to do something, but not quite. This time the term will be four years and a council with four likeminded individuals could do a lot to change the face of our island, for better or for worse. To make an informed decision about who to ultimately vote for we should remind ourselves about how politics work on this island. The nuances of who supports what and why they do it needs to be explored.

The two groups that most quickly come to mind are the Eco Alliance and the Improvement Association. Continue reading ›

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This Side of the Moat

Have you ever wondered where we’re going? Is Bowen going to grow, are property values going to rise or fall, is BC Ferries going to drive us into the ground? There are a few factors that exert enormous control over our demographics but there are also some macroeconomic trends that may skew things a bit.

Imagine what Bowen would be like if we had unlimited free ferry service with runs every fifteen minutes. Instead of a 3,500 population it would be 35,000 and the character of the island would be completely different. We have a small population precisely because access is so difficult and expensive. In business we talk about the width of a company’s economic moat; those things that prevent competitors from destabilizing its position. On Bowen our moat isn’t just figurative, Continue reading ›

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Elder Abuse

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) was developed & launched on June 15, 2006 by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse. Abuse and neglect of older adults is not limited to any one country or part of the world. So, WEAAD involves activities to bring greater recognition of mistreatment of older adults wherever they live throughout the world, and to highlight the need for appropriate action. It is intended to give abuse and neglect of older adults a global relevance that will sustain and move prevention efforts forward throughout the year and for years to come.

On Bowen Island, Snug Cove House Society is dedicated to supporting independent seniors to stay well.  We are, therefore, concerned about the issues of elder abuse and neglect, whether caused by the self or others.  There are resources available here and Continue reading ›

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Island Notes

Be careful what you wish for.

Our Municipal Council is putting the final touches on a bylaw to rezone six acres of municipal land between the school and Seniors Lane. The area is divided into three pieces. Along the road it envisions four-storey mixed commercial/apartment buildings. Behind that would be buildings, again up to four stories high, with 33,000 square feet of municipal administration and community assembly space and more apartments. Behind that, closer to Bowen Court, would be townhouses with secondary suites. In total, between the townhouses, suites and apartments, up to 80 living units could be built. When you consider that our population grew by 40 people in five years (2006-2011) it again seems a bit optimistic.

Normally it would be hard to get excited about grandiose plans but this one is a bit more serious. Continue reading ›

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