by KORIE MARSHALL, EDITOR
One of Valemount Council’s new strategic priorities is “Community Engagement.” I find that interesting, because it is vague enough to mean very little, and in fact, I’ve seen little in the way of community engagement from this Council. One example is the fact that they haven’t really announced their new strategic priorities – I found them listed unceremoniously at the top of the monthly staff report in one of the January agendas.
I think it’s worth looking at them, because the whole point of setting priorities is so everyone is on the same page – there is usually too much to be done at once, or too many things that can pull you in various directions if you don’t set a course.
Some of Council’s new priorities seem similar to the previous priorities, like Emergency Planning, Human Resource Development, First Nations Relationships, Exploring Geothermal, Integrated Community Sustainability Plan, and Valemount Glacier Destination Resort Support. I suppose it is fairly clear what those priorities mean.
Some are a both a bit more specific, and yet a bit more vague than previous strategies. One of previous council’s goals was to develop a comprehensive infrastructure strategy. There are now four priorities that I think could be considered part of an infrastructure strategy: Public Health – Water and Sewer Systems; Water Resources; and Financial Reserves. And yet the new priorities don’t really say anything about how Council will approach these issues, and what they want to see done. I could guess that “Financial Reserves” means Council intends to set up reserves for services like water and sewer utilities, maybe reserves for snow removal as was suggested by interim CAO Ken Weisner, and I’m quite sure by others previously. And I’m glad to see “Water Resources” on the list; I hope that means Council is looking at options to sustain our village supply, especially in light of climate change and our potential growth.
“Finance and Taxes,” well that is how we pay for services, and it might be lumped in with public health and water resources, but it doesn’t really tell me anything about how Council intends to approach finances and taxes. Are they going to control taxes? Spend more? Save more?
There used to be a priority to update the Official Community Plan and Zoning Bylaw, and there has been some money put aside for that over the last few years, including by the current Council in last year’s budget. The new priorities include Zoning Bylaw Updates (I hope they are still planning to update the Official Community Plan first); Pre-zoned Land Issues (I have no idea what that means, even with the example of “Future Servicing & Development of R1 zoned lands”); and Streamline Development Procedures. I suspect streamlining development procedures could have a lot to do with simplifying the OCP and Zoning bylaws and making them more inclusionary, but it could mean something totally different.
A few of the old priorities got left off the list: Kinder Morgan Strategy, initial steps for an airshed management plan, solid waste management strategy, a strategy for effective communications, a strategy for effective Committees of Council, and effective bylaw enforcement. It’s not to say Council doesn’t care about any of these things, just that they aren’t priorities.
Instead, there are a few new ones like Valemount Community Forest (yes, I agree it is important, but what does Council need to do about it?); the Clearwater and North Thompson Geopark (I hope it’s going to include Mount Robson and maybe the Ancient Forest); Update Public Facilities (which facilities? And what kind of updates? I see dollar signs…); Engage Chamber and Local Businesses (engage them how? What does Council want them to do?); Engage Youth (same question…); and Clean-up Unsightly Properties (how do they do that without effective bylaw compliance and enforcement?).
It is true that different people look at priority lists differently. We’ve waited over a year to find out what Valemount Council’s priorities are, and I’m not any closer to understanding their priorities.