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Charting the course: captain of the civic ship gives his state-of-Nelson address

December 9th, 2011

On Monday night, three-peat Mayor John Dooley gave his inaugural address to Nelson as City council was sworn in and now prepares to chart the municipal course for the next three years.

Here are his words:


Good evening ladies and gentlemen, family and friends. Welcome.

Thank you for attending this special evening.

I am humbled and honoured that you chose me to be your mayor for the next three years.

While other communities in Canada are working towards 30 per cent female content around their council table, councillors Bob Adams, Robin Cherbo and I are desperately trying to keep the male content at 30 per cent.

I am very much looking forward to working with our new council. We have experience, passion, and new vigour and, above all, a desire to work for the greater good of our community.

Over the last number of years we have created an environment of openness, respect and inclusiveness within our organization and around the council table — we intend to keep that focus going forward.

We are proud of the men and women working for our City that delivers services to us 365 days a year. Nelson would be a much different community without our art gallery, our library, our protective services, our parks, recreation sites, public works, hydro, transit, and the people that answer our phones.

Nelson is a small city with a history of delivering big city services to its people; all the good work our employees do is very important to support our quality of life.

I am sure you all would agree that in today’s world there are many outside influences. Whether it is climate change, and now a push for climate adaptation, or the economic collapse of countries around the world, we must continue to work and plan to mitigate some of those challenges that may impact Nelson.

With the support of council, and the people that we employ, we have been able to look outside our boundaries to sell the Nelson brand and seek out partnerships that create opportunities. These partnerships have a benefit not only for Nelson and area, but for those we partner with.

Municipal work

Let me take a few minutes and talk about some of the work we have done internationally, nationally, provincially and regionally and how those partnerships have impacted us locally.

On a trip to Ottawa last year I visited the Irish Embassy. I learned that Ambassador Bissett spent part of his career on a team negotiating the Good Friday Peace agreement in Ireland.

Mr. Bissett was part of re-structuring of the Northern Irish police force and building a model for civilian oversight, a topic that is of great interest trough out B.C. and Canada. We invited Ambassador Bissett to Nelson to speak at the B.C. Municipal Police Boards Conference, which he did here at this hotel.

Recently, we erected a corner stone on Vernon and Hall streets in recognition of the contribution to Chinese community to Nelson and area. Through that event the Chinese Counsel General visited Nelson shortly after.

Our relief afforded for Onagana, Japan was recognized with a visit to Nelson by the Japanese Counsel General last fall.

Nationally and provincially

On the national front I was once again elected to the board of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in Ottawa. That position gives us access to a wealth of municipal knowledge, an opportunity to network with other communities across Canada, interact with the federal government, and last but not least, a seat on one of the most influential tables in municipal government in Canada

Let me gave you a few examples where those FCM partnerships worked. Nelson will receive $423,000 per year from 2011 to 2014 from the Federal Gas Tax fund. The Gas Tax fund has now been made permanent — after 2014 that revenue will continue indefinitely.

  • We received $265,000 for a healthy Nelson project.
  • We received $1.6 million through the Build Canada fund to upgrade our water system.
  • The new dorms at Selkirk the expansion to Kootenay Lake Hospital were also funded in part by Build Canada fund at over $5 million.
  • Just last week the federal government committed to a long term Build Canada infrastructure fund.

On the provincial front we have had number of successes, whether it is advocating for the new housing project on Anderson Street, dorms at Selkirk Collage, or the expansion of KLH. We also received $660,000 in small community grants, traffic fine revenues of $236,000, climate action revenue of $24,000 per year, to name but a few.

Looking regionally

Regional successes can’t be measured by dollars alone, but by a cooperative approach with the RDCK, our neighbouring communities and the Colombia Basin Trust. We have successfully worked together on many fronts: health care, transit, arts, culture, recreation, tourism marketing, economic development, library services, waste management, housing, and, of course, together we were able to deliver a major event this past year, the B.C. Seniors’ Games.

Our Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce has been a stellar partner. They are tireless promoters of our region and, in particular, the business community. I am looking forward to working more directly with them over the coming term.

Here at home

On the home front, council has been active in setting short and long term goals for our community, good planning and common sense decision making with an eye on the community’s ability to pay has been the order of the day.

In public works some of the plans in place for water, sewer, roads and sidewalk upgrades are well under way. Nelson Hydro plans for upgrades to their infrastructure is moving forward with the downtown conversion well on its way to completion.

Davies Street Park will be completed in 2012, as will the upgrade to the dock at Rotary Lakeside Park and the revamp of the ball diamond at Lions Park. The new downtown Waterfront Plan has put us on a path for a step-by-step revitalization of the downtown core and the Cottonwood Creek corridor.

You will notice over the next few years improvements like sidewalk repairs, lighting, changes to the amenity areas, signage, completion of the new bridge over Cottonwood creek, a micro hydro on the creek, a new farmers’ market, a plan for the vacated transfer station on the waterfront, and with the development of Nelson Landing the extension of the waterfront path all of the way to Red Sands Beach.

Looking ahead

The Path to 2040 plan has set us on a course to reduce our carbon emissions and develop planning that meets sustainability goals for our community. We are well into that plan at the corporate level and are now ready to start the community piece.

We will continue to work closely with our regional district partners to deliver an outdoor skate park. With the Nelson Daybreak Rotary Club now on board I have no doubt that project will happen.

One of our bigger projects that will need our attention will be the completion of the Visitor’s Information Centre in what will be the re-furbished CP Station. The completion of this building will be a catalyst for economic development and the tourist industry in our region.

One of the first challenges all new councils face in the next few months will be our new five-year financial plan. We will work with staff, our various departments, and review options with the community. I intend to keep us focused on the community’s ability to pay. We will look at all departments and options to contain costs and add value.

The financial sustainability of a community is vital. We cannot leave ourselves vulnerable to outside influences. I have witnessed situations where communities put themselves in a position financially where they sold off water systems, bridges and buildings.

Our finances are in good shape, our taxation is in the mid level in the province. My goal will be to work with council and staff to keep us that way and to stay the course.

Community partnerships

We are very lucky here in Nelson we have some very good partnerships with community groups and volunteers that help us in many ways. Without their contribution our community would be a much different place to live. I want to publicly thank them and gave you just a few examples where they supported all of us.

When the Kerr building burned down and left people homeless we pulled together service groups and volunteers. They formed an unmet needs committee and they didn’t stop until every person from that building got housed and clothed and their needs met.

When the Tsunami hit Japan and all but wiped out Ongagwa, Nelsonites came to City Hall every day for a month and made origami cranes to raise funds for the people of Onagawna.

The community, hospital staff, and IHA identified a need for a CT scanner at KLH to help support the new ER. The Hospital Foundation raised over $1 million, and within the next few days a CT scanner will operate in Nelson. 

Just two months ago Nelson Minor Baseball and the Lions Club came to City Hall with a plan to upgrade the park. They didn’t just bring a plan, they brought $50,000 and a commitment of labour to maintain the ball diamond.

Just a reminder

I am reminded on a daily basis we have something special in our Canada. The work council does and the work each of you do matters to the place we live. When local government and community groups work together for the betterment of all, we are building a better Canada.

In Nelson we are building on that solid foundation — a foundation that was poured and improved upon for over 100 years. A foundation with cornerstones that are straight and true: such as a water system, sewer system, hydro system, transit system, police and fire, roads, culture, parks and recreation facilities, and add to those clean air and natural beauty and we have a quality of life here second to none.

For the next three years I want to continue to work with council to build on a legacy that has made Nelson and Canada the best place on Earth.

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