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In profile: Nelson Municipal Election 2022 — Brenton Raby

Brenton Raby • Nelson, small business owner

This is the first of a series of inside looks at the candidates for city council — both councilor and mayor — prior to the general municipal election on Oct. 15.

Biography: a closer view

I live, own a commercial building and operate small businesses in downtown Nelson.

For over 15 years I have worked, volunteered and contributed to Nelson, and have been present at most City of Nelson council meetings, as well as having been a member of city committees and commissions for many years.

I feel that we would benefit from stronger representation on council from councillors who reside in the city.

In addition, I believe the new council needs to refocus on priorities for the city's residents that are attainable and can be financially supported.

It is being said that council has become complacent and conducted some business in a manner that is not transparent.

However, I will advocate for a transparent council that is prepared for the challenges and investments of the future.

Please remember to get as many people as possible out to vote.

The following are a series of questions posed to all candidates:

• With the cost of doing business increasing for everyone, including the City of Nelson, how does the city keep budgets in municipal departments from rising annually by the rate of inflation, or is the situation inevitable?

The cost of doing business in Nelson has been extreme for a number of years.

The city has many unfair policies, including: maintaining high business licence fees for cannabis retailers; gaining no revenue from patios on public lands; and operating the for-profit downtown market in direct competition with downtown businesses.

There have been initiatives and projects undertaken by the city that have not accounted for the ongoing costs of maintaining them in a reasonable way. 

Adding amenities like a new pier — with no accounting for the additional maintenance costs —while existing community resources like the Gyro Park Pool remain debilitated and not used, is wrong. 

Rising costs for the city is inevitable in order to maintain services in response to new development and shifting community priorities like bears and wildlife interactions. 

The city will be contending with funding the required improvements to the sewage treatment plant that are coming soon (in the tens of millions of dollars). 

• Compared to its sister cities of Trail and Castlegar, Nelson has double or triple the workforce of those municipalities. Part of the reason for that expanded workforce is that Nelson has its own police force, utility company and public library, to name a few. Should there be a move to change the way those services are delivered, or do we need to support them with more resources?

The City of Trail almost closed its only shelter and outreach centre due to the amount of garbage, damage and some straight up old fashioned prejudice. Nelson is a different type of community than Trail is. 

Nelson can look to Castlegar for insight on how to achieve a BearSmart Community rating and reduce the number of tragic outcomes for bears and wildlife in the city.

The province is considering reforms to the Police Act. It is my hope that Nelson maintains its own municipal police force and 911 dispatch. Calling 911 and there is an answer in the city where we live has been very reassuring for many, and far superior service than e-Comm.

As for hydro, I would like to have a report completed outlining the steps to create an independent board of directors for the city-owned utility. Nelson Hydro is a major contributor of revenue and expense to the city and would benefit from the expertise and accountability of a board.

The Nelson and District Public Library board is considering its strategic priorities. These might include a partnership with a private developer for a new library/condo. I would only support such a cost after a successful referendum. 

I do support a predictable funding model for Touchstones Museum. 

I would like to consider more full time, on the ground employees maintaining and building city services, and less working from inside the White Building. 

• The Nelson Airport occupies a significant piece of real estate in the city. How should the airport be viewed and should it, or shouldn't it, be kept?

The city airport should remain an airport for the near future. 

It will play a role in quick response to wild fire threats to the city. It can be managed in a way that is reflective of the city's strategic priorities, and not only for those that can afford to fly private planes. 

The airport board has done a good job in maintaining the facilities. 

Future decisions on the airport lands will have to be data driven. 

The city will be undertaking an update of its Official Community Plan. That process will provide a great opportunity to discuss priorities and options for the airport.

• Climate change is affecting every area of society and how we conduct business, as well as making us aware of how we consume resources. How can the city do its part to reverse its effect, and move the city further (and faster) down the road it is already on to becoming carbon neutral?

The city should review its aspirations as outlined in its climate document: Nelson Next. Many of its strategies and priority tactics are not plausible or reflective of Nelson's needs. 

The cover of Nelson Next featured a photo of outdoor gas heaters on a patio in a city park, heating the outside for no one. There is a disconnection from the contradictions.

In order to be attainable and affordable, I would amend or remove over 50 of its 111 tactics, including: an on-demand, electric, micro shuttle; prohibiting fossil fuel vehicles from certain areas; reducing speed limits city-wide to 30 km/h; and further increase parking rates downtown. 

Similar to what the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD) is doing, the city can demonstrate climate leadership by looking towards its own emissions and corporate policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but unlike the CVRD, the City of Nelson achieves this by real reductions, not from purchasing carbon offsets.

Those who live in the rural areas and suburbs and are commuting to Nelson need to seriously examine their climate impacts as it is the largest contributor of local greenhouse gases.

The city's Nelson Next climate aspirations include, “Nelson has a thriving circular economy and generates the lowest waste per capita in Canada.” 

I would be happy if Nelson just got it together and prioritized not releasing only partially-treated sewage into the river.

• Every community and province has been hard hit by the economic restrictions enforced during the COVID-19 pandemic. What (further) city-led initiatives can be reasonably undertaken to stimulate the local economy?

The city needs to assume a stance of permitting private businesses to realize the success of their hard work by interfering less. For me that means less regulations and fees. 

The affordability of operating a business in Nelson has been impacted by not reasonable costs and regulations from all levels of government. 

The city is the owner of Nelson Hydro. During the B.C. Utility Commission review of its operations it was noted that it could lower rates for businesses and small commercial users. This would provide relief and might inspire substantial employers to consider locating and hiring in our city. 

By maintaining reliable city services like water, sewer and electricity, the city can help businesses in Nelson mitigate one of their biggest, and ever increasing, expenses: insurance.

I have raised my family, own and operate small businesses in Nelson, and I know the challenges and am excited by the opportunities ahead of us.