When I used to sit opposite of Town Council in my radio and newspaper reporting days I often wondered one thing. I used to try to imagine the juggling act that a full-time employed person or business owner would have to perform in order to be an effective member of a local government. I am getting a quick education on the demands of elected officials just four months into this term.
What I have learned is that the workload of meetings has to be fit into a schedule that also allows for work, family and personal time. Nobody said it was going to be easy but early on, I can see why a lot of retired or semi-retired individuals tend to be nominated and elected to represent their community. For me, my schedule is pretty flexible but a few years ago it would not have been.
As I am a full-time work-from-home entrepreneur, I’m usually quite capable of fudging my timelines to squeeze in last minute meetings. I also have two days a week that I have purposely designated as being reserved for personal time. It gives me the opportunity to spend quality time with my wife and with friends. All of this is apart from my political life and has to be.
As for my daily workload, it really depends on the particular job I am working on. As a full-time freelance writer/ghostwriter, all of my work activities are exclusively dealt with online. I have different deadlines for each and every project. Thanks to my radio/newspaper past, deadlines are something I’m rather good at working with. So, my work is never disturbed as a result.
This past month has given me an opportunity to work on defining my timelines a little better and I think I have done rather well with them. Here’s a review of what March 2019 was like for me:
Town Council Meetings
There were two regular meetings of Princeton Town Council. Monday, March 4 and Monday, March 18. Probably the big news items to come out of those meetings were the awarding of the new Landfill Contract and Curbside Pick-Up Contract. As far as I’m concerned, the real news from this month was the appointment of Lyle Thomas as our CAO. He had been filling the position as an Interim CAO since October.
My total meeting count for this month is down from last month at 13, plus 2 I had to cancel out of due to other conflicts. However, on three dates I managed to squeeze in two different meetings and still hit my deadlines for freelance jobs I have been working on as well on those dates. I also attended a total of two out of town meetings. Here is the complete breakdown:
March 11 – Meet ‘n’ Greet with MLA Linda Larsen
March 11 – Special Meeting of Town Council
March 12 – Community to Community Meeting, USIB Head Office, Hedley
March 12 – KVR Select Mixed Use Trail Committee *
March 14 – School District 58 Meeting
March 14 – Chamber of Commerce AGM
March 19 – Princeton Health Care Steering Committee Meeting
March 20 – Princeton Arts Council *
March 21 – Princeton Museum AGM
March 22 – Princeton GSAR Meeting, Princeton Airport
March 27 – Tour of David E. Kampe Tower, Penticton Hospital *
(* - attended alone. All other meeting included other members of Town Council)
It’s not often that I can take my wife, Brenda along for a meeting or event. The Princeton Museum AGM provided a short social hour prior to the meeting where Brenda got to visit with a few close friends and casual acquaintances before the business portion of the meeting began. We tend to forget that our ‘partner’ is also part of our political life and I’m trying to include Bren in things I think she’ll find interesting and enjoy.
What I liked most about the Museum AGM was that I had an opportunity to speak briefly as the past President on a number of highlights from my less-than-a-year in the Chair prior to getting elected to Princeton Town Council. My first mention was the volunteers. I know the price they pay in our community working hard to keep their facility vibrant. I also got to conduct the Election of Officers. It was a great evening enjoyed by all in attendance.
For many years I used to view February as a transitional month. You know, it’s shorter than all the other eleven months of the year and it sort of got wedged into the last part of winter just before spring. I saw February as the month that made winter seem to pass by a little bit quicker. It also was short enough that you really couldn’t get much done in it before it was over.
Well, let me tell you that I now have a far different perspective on February. So far in my term on Town Council it has easily been the busiest month so far for me. I had a total of 15 meetings scheduled throughout the month. Three of them I actually could not attend as there were conflicts with other meetings. This was the first time I had to choose between meetings.
Let me try to give you a snapshot of my February.
Town Council Meetings
We had two regular meetings of Town Council. They were on February 4 and 19. One of the most interesting things we discussed was to explore the viability of DCCs. A Development Cost Charge is essentially a mechanism that is used for recovering costs associated with infrastructure expansion. The costs are usually passed on to the developers in one of many different ways.
The Town of Princeton does not use DCCs at this point. Discussion from the strategic planning sessions earlier in the year suggested that it could be a good idea to look into whether or not DCCs would be beneficial. Could they help to fund future expansion of existing services to meet demand when growth takes place? The motion made at the February 19 meeting said:
“That the Town of Princeton retain the services of Urban Systems Ltd. at a cost of $14,200 (plus taxes) to undertake an assessment of the potential to establish DCCs and what other cost recovery options are available to assist in funding servicing needs as the Town grows.”
I’m going to just list the other meetings I attended in February and where there were:
February 10 – KVR Mixed Use Trail Committee, Chamber of Commerce (with Mayor Coyne)
February 13 – Conservation Office, Town Hall (with all Town Council members)
February 19 – Princeton Health Care Steering Committee (chaired this meeting) PGH Board Room
February 20 – Similkameen Valley Planning Society, Cawston Hall (with Mayor Coyne)
February 20 – (evening) Princeton Arts Council, Riverside Centre
February 21 – Inter-Agency Meeting, Princeton Family Services Society
I also had a couple of extra events I attended during February:
February 9 – Rotary Club Winefest, Riverside Centre (as MC)
February 11 – Princeton Posse Awards Banquet (with Councillor Gould)
Of interest out of this list of activities I still managed to work my home-based business activities around this schedule. So far, I have noticed a bit of a pattern developing where there will be one week that contains several meetings followed by a week with maybe one or none. This seems to repeat where every other week is a slower one where I can catch-up on client tasks.
The start of the New Year was actually pretty quiet as far as Town Council business was concerned. However, by mid-January it got intensely busy with what appeared to be an endless stream of meetings in and out of town. Let me break some of it down for you.
Town Council Meetings
Due to the Christmas Break, Town Council held just one public meeting in January. It was not nearly as full an agenda as I had expected but we did take care of a number of things. Probably the two most talked about items will be the announcement of the members selected to sit on the KVR Mixed Trail Use Select Committee and the Repeal Bylaw.
KVR Mixed Trail Use Select Committee
I sat on a similar Town-appointed committee prior to the October 2018 Municipal Election. That committee was charged with the task of establishing an alternate route connecting the two ends of the KVR trail without cutting through the Town of Princeton on the existing rail bed. The matter became an election issue and a new committee has been struck.
This one has a different mandate. The recommendations to be made to Council are to be on such topics as the proposed route to join the KVR trail between the two ends of Princeton with a focus on safety, noise/dust control, maintenance, ground cover and policing. The new committee also has to create a survey for residents who live along the corridor and must work with the RCMP to identify issues.
The Town of Princeton Repeal Bylaw
This document was given first, second and third reading during the January 21st meeting of Town Council. It is essentially a housekeeping action to permit the removal, repeal and deletion of a number of outdated bylaws. I looked through a few of them and will share a couple here so you’ll understand why they are getting axed.
Bylaw No. 102, 1961 is a bylaw to “prohibit the sale of raw milk in the Village of Princeton.” It was better known in the day as the Milk Protection Bylaw which defined raw milk as milk that had not been pasteurized “to the satisfaction of the Medical Health Officer.” Another one I found interesting was Bylaw No. 135, 1964 which posed the question, “Shall the water supply of the Corporation of the Village of Princeton be fluoridated?” to electors as part of the Municipal Election set for December 12, 1964.
Meetings and Seminars
The monthly meeting schedule for me included the Princeton Health Care Steering Committee and Princeton Exhibition Association (both on January 15) and Princeton Museum Society on January 17 followed by a ‘Meet ‘n’ Greet’ session later that night with representatives of a major industrial corporation.
Seminars included two days of Strategic Planning (January 16 and January 22) where all members of Town Council and Management spent several hours working on priorities for 2019. The sessions were valuable to me as it got all of us in the same room working together to build a better Princeton one step at a time. The rest of that week was spent in Kelowna at an Elected Officials Seminar with all members of Town Council and the Interim CAO.
Elected Officials Seminar
Organized by the Local Government Leadership Academy (LGLA) and hosted at the Delta Grand Okanagan Resort, this was a long and involved series of presentations. Although a lot of it would be considered dry and uninteresting to the average person, these mini-workshops – each running no more than 90-minutes and strung together – were very important to any elected official.
Here’s a list of some of the presentations I sat through from January 23 to 25:
Lessons For A Happy Political Journey
The Local Government Weather Outlook
Dynamics and Decision Making
We’ve Got To Stop Meeting Like This
Local Government Law 101
Overview of Municipalities and Regional Districts
Public Hearings 101
Local Governments & Indigenous Communities Working Together
Local Government Finance 101
Local Government Planning 101
Making The Media Work For You
I took copious amounts of notes (which reminded me of my old reporter days) and many of these presentations can be found online at the LGLA website.
And The Month Ends With Numbers
January wraps up for us with two full days working on the annual Town of Princeton budget. I have my Wish List ready but I’m sure I’ll have to revise it somewhat in the next day or two. What we can’t come to consensus on by the end of the month will have to be hammered out in early February.
What I Gained From The Extra Activity This Month
I personally felt a much better working relationship forming within the walls of Town Hall following the Strategic Planning Sessions. We all get along well, already. I just think that the two day exercise helped in solidifying that cooperative and forward-thinking direction.
As for the Elected Officials Seminar, I made contact with several Councillors and Directors in other communities including Revelstoke, Montrose, Oliver, Osoyoos, Peachland, Kamloops, Keremeos and Hedley. These contacts may be helpful when I need some assistance in dealing with an issue. One thing I did discover was that all communities in BC represented at this event are faced with the same two main issues: housing and infrastructure. That, alone, made the two and-a-half days worthwhile to me.
My name is George Elliott. I have been in the Media Industry since 1978. I spent 23 years in Broadcasting and worked in a total of six different radio stations located in southern British Columbia Canada during my career. In 2000 I switched gears and moved into the Print Media Industry at a small town, local weekly community newspaper. In 2004 I bought the paper and operated it with my wife, Brenda until July 2016 when we closed it. I launched a freelance web content and article writing business from my home in January 2014.