New mayor’s hope: To make connections with the community

Communication the key to overcoming challenges, says Nils Jensen

New Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen

New Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen

One of the first things on new Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen’s to-do list is learn to tweet.

“I never tweeted before,” said Jensen who has yet to send out his first message on Twitter. “I’ve got the account all set up and I’m looking at how it all gets done.” Follow him @mayornils.

Coun. Tara Ney is keen to see communication between town hall and the residents increase.

“We need to (enhance) the social media in Oak Bay,” she said. “(New councillor) Kevin Murdoch is an IT (Internet technology) guy … so maybe council now can provide some leadership around that. Maybe technology is the way. It could become a useful and cost-effective way to communicate with people.”

In his inaugural address Monday night Jensen outlined his vision for the community, which included better communication. He has set up a small working group to help facilitate the municipality’s review of its Official Community Plan, which has not been reviewed since 1996.

The group includes councillors Pam Copley, Ney and Cairine Green. “They are all interested and experienced,” he said. “I thought that working group would come up with what the process would look like, develop the issues and structure for consultation.”

He hopes to finish the OCP review process in a year or so, saying it should be a deliberate, thoughtful process.

Ney agreed.

“It’s not an insignificant task,” she said. “We’ll be looking at extensive input from the community about land-use issues, environmental issues and trying to address sustainability. We have to set up the map to realize the sustainable community that people in Oak Bay want and aspire to. We’ll need consultation and input from a variety of stakeholders in different parts of the community to help create ownership around the community plan.”

The Oak Bay Lodge redevelopment issue could help increase public interest in the OCP review, Ney said.

“I think (that) certainly brings to a head the need for us to come together to define our community values in the face of these types of land-use issues.”

Jensen hopes to establish an advisory committee for environment and climate change, and another for active transportation, early in 2012. Such groups would provide advice to move the community forward in a “sustainable, modern way,” he said. “I want Oak Bay to reach its potential of being a green leader in the region and in the province.”

On the issue of deer, however, he is content to wait until the Capital Regional District makes recommendations.

“There is a clear consensus in the community. We need to move ahead (with) no more talking. We need an action plan which should be developed at the CRD level and brought forward with some haste. I don’t think Oak Bay should go it alone. Deer is a cross-border problem that will not be solved without co-operation among adjoining municipalities.”

Jensen also wants to gather area mayors in Oak Bay to discuss regional policing.

“There are a lot of newcomers from other areas who wonder why we have so many police forces. The city of Victoria uses one model – the amalgamation model. What we have in Oak Bay works very well and is well received by the community. It’s an integration and co-operation model,” he said.

“Oak Bay works closely and co-operates with Saanich police department to share some services … It’s a model people should be aware of.”

Jensen foresees Oak Bay leading the discussion on what is the best model of policing for Greater Victoria.

Other communication goals called for a strengthening of links with community associations and organizations. Jensen singled out Windsor Park dog walkers as a group that could give council advice on regulations and invited them to recommend how Oak Bay can become more dog friendly while encouraging responsible dog ownership.

“In our fast-changing world we must be proactive as well as progressive,” he said. “We must anticipate emerging issues, search out funding and partnerships where possible.”

Welcome to Oak Bay

• Mayor Nils Jensen plans to continue Christopher Causton’s personal welcome to newcomers on their doorstep. “(It was his) innovative idea to build community and friendships one household at a time,” Jensen said.