Monday, November 17, 2008

Our election results are in and we have a new Council for Bowen Island.

This is the fourth Council for our Island Municipality, since we incorporated in 1999. It shows a fairly typical pattern in Bowen Island voting which has emerged over the years. First of all, Bowen Islanders vote in droves; our turnout is always in the high 70% and I'd be surprised if it was any less than that this year. Second, Bowen Islanders seems to prefer keeping a certain amount of experience on Council. Third, an incumbent mayor has never lost. And fourth, the high turnout results in a Council that reflects the will of the population, and as much as this has changed over the years, Bowen Islanders seem to favour a mix of people who campaign on fiscal responsibility, preserving the natural environment and getting things done. If you are an aspiring municipal politician you'd be well advised to think about adopting one of these three perspectives in your campaign.

So who got elected? Three Councillors got returned: Alison Morse, Peter Frinton and David Wrinch. All three have served multiple terms on Council. Three new Councilors were elected, Cro Lucas, Doug Hooper and Nerys Poole. Doug and Nerys are well known environmental campaigners, deeply involved in the Cape Roger Curtis Trust. Cro was very involved in the golf course and campaigned strongly on the "getting things done" ticket. Finally Mayor Bob Turner was returned with a strong majority mandate.

Outgoing were the two Lisas, Barret and Shatsky, both of them friends of mine. Lisa Barret was our first mayor, and has sat on the last three Councils as mayor and Councillor. She has been deeply involved in our community's relations with the GVRD (now Metro Vancouver) and was especially involved with the Lower Mainland Treaty Advisory Committee. I think we owe her a debt of thanks for nine years of public service, undertaken with a fierce commitment to social justice, peace and the environment. She has always seen municipal politics as a microcosm of a bigger picture, and while lots of people felt that her perspective was too broad, I think that in an interdependent world, you cannot simply pretend that what is going on elsewhere doesn't affect you.

Lisa Shatsky wasn't returned to office either. Lisa is a poet and a therapist and she wears her heart on her sleeve. She talks beautifully about her commitment to Bowen, her care for the place and for the preservation of its character. I don't think we are missing that perspective on the current council, but I especially respect Lisa's stance in bringing care and passion to her public service. I know that she won't be shy about reminding Islanders about the essential character of this place.

The third non-returning Councilor was David Hocking, who declined to run again. Again, we owe him a debt of thanks for his hard work and for bringing a deeply informed green way of thinking to municipal issues. It is not an easy road to hoe, especially when you are holding down a full time job and making decisions that puts you on the receiving end of blistering criticism. But David was a good Councillor, and brought a very important skill set to Council, and his contribution is appreciated.

So our new Council has a very full plate. There are huge public process challenges emerging in this term, including development concerns, Snug Cove planning and the granddaddy of them all, the Official Community Plan process. I have been musing rather openly that now might be the time to get involved again in this kind of thing, building on some of the work we did with the Bowen Island Life Long Learning Society back in 2002 and 2003. I'm especially interested in how we can create ongoing containers for community conversation that invites creative, generative and involved community participation in an ongoing way and that has the effect of creating capacity in our community for this kind of conversation so that we don't default to positional debate.

So if you are interested pursuing this with me, let's get together soon and talk about how we might do this. Initially I'm conceiving of something of a citizen led initiative in support of our decision makers on Council and on the various committees that do the big work of caring for life on our island. Let's see what we can do together.

Good luck to the new Council, and big thanks to those retiring and those who ran, and to those who continue to be involved on committees, task forces and community groups. There are no "special interests" on Bowen...just associations of citizens trying to make this place the best it can be. We are luck to have so many that care.