Editorial: Weigh in on local issues but mind the ‘facts’

We’re fortunate in Oak Bay to live in an engaged community

We’re fortunate in Oak Bay to live in an engaged community. People care about their neighbourhood and it shows in how they keep their homes and gardens, their time volunteering with local organizations and their involvement in Oak Bay issues.

At the same time, we must remember that a com- munity is composed of many people, of different ideas and perspectives. In many cases, just because a person’s perspective differs from our own, doesn’t in and of itself make it wrong.

We have received several letters and emails, for example, taking issue with council process and direction. Some are fair comment, certainly, and the airing of individual views and ideas is what we want in a democratic society – a community – but some seem to blur fact with perspective.

 

Some have suggested council is not accessible to the public. Another letter questioned Oak Bay’s adoption of the provisional budget that as it stands calls for a 4.86 per cent property tax increase. (The budget was approved by council, not the mayor as was asserted). If adopted as is, this would indeed follow 2015’s tax increase of 5.1 per cent, which is a significant hit for residents. It was further suggested that these increases stem from council adding man- agement positions when in fact they should follow Nanaimo’s lead and make cuts.

 

But here’s the thing. Oak Bay (population just over 18,000) and Nanaimo (population 100,000) are very different communities. To compare the two is like the proverbial apple and orange. Given its size, Nanaimo also has layers of bureaucracy at the municipal level that Oak Bay simply doesn’t.

It would seem a greater wonder – especially given many residents’ concerns over issues of development and “monster houses” that Oak Bay previously had no planner.

Should mayor and council strive to mind people’s money carefully, finding efficiencies wherever pos- sible? Absolutely, and we urge residents to involve themselves in the process.

The 2016 provisional budget will be discussed and evaluated in the spring. And as council wades through the budget process, the community will be encouraged to weigh in – just as it can with every other item that comes before council during com- mittee of the whole. Agendas are posted online before the meetings, yet the public by and large does not turn out. Residents are also welcome to share their thoughts with mayor and council via email or letter.

As elected officials, ignoring constituents can come back to haunt them at the polls.

So share your thoughts, weigh in, be engaged, just try not to mistake a point of view as ‘fact.’