Three City of Powell River councillors, organizing the city’s first Sustainability Roundtable, found weather conditions took a shine to the theme of the meeting.
Councillors CaroleAnn Leishman, Russell Brewer and Rob Southcott took a chance by holding the event at the Rotary Pavilion at Willingdon Beach, Saturday afternoon, June 4. However, as Southcott said, sustainability has to be fun, and the location needed to portray this.
“If a process isn’t fun, it is going to be a little harder to buy into,” he said. “We are not just out to survive, we are out to thrive.” The pavilion was the coolest spot in the park, and as temperatures soared, people gravitated to the flipcharts and stickers, paper bags and pens, to see what the activity was all about.
More than 50 community members took part by indicating which of the action points for each strategic area of the Integrated Community Sustainability Plan (ICSP) they believed were the highest priority for the city to pursue.
“I was not entirely sure what to expect,” said resident Mark Brown. “I was not sure whether it would be a sit down at tables thing, but I actually like this dot democracy idea.”
Laura Wilson, a parent of young children and new import into Powell River, was happy with how the event was organized. “This is a great event to get some real direct action straight from the community,” she said.
The ICSP was created by the Sustainability Steering Committee, and completed in 2015. This roundtable is the first of a series of roundtables focusing on the four pillars of the city’s community strategic priorities: sustainability, social planning, economy and community engagement.
Over two hours, all votes were cast. Wilson attended for two reasons. “I’m here as a community member because I am definitely interested in the way the community is going, in goals, in interest, in intent,” she said. “I am also here as a member of the social planning team, the [Powell River Diversity Initiative Job Creation Project], and we are very interested because we have engaged the community in different ways through conference and personal engagement and different social services, but this is an even better, more focused approach. The ICSP is such an amazing document.”
She liked how organizations were invited. She said it was a good idea because even if only one person from the group can attend they can go back and inform the rest of what took place. Also, if an organization takes on an action, that organization has a team of people to work on it and carry it through.
One of the groups invited to attend was Climate Action Powell River (CAPR). “One of the reasons we formed our group is that while the city is looking after the corporate aspect of climate change by encouraging energy efficiencies within and on city property, they are not doing anything about community carbon reduction,” said Michael Gelber of CAPR. “That is where we can take some of the projects that the city approves that they want to have done at the community level. That is the area where you get substantial carbon reduction. The big part is getting everybody to use less carbon.”
CAPR has offered responsibility for pursuing one of the actions in the Our Environment section, to “adopt a climate change adaptation/mitigation plan.”
“The scope of climate action in our community needs to be broadened from the municipal level to the regional level,” said Jack Anderson of CAPR. “We need to look at the larger Powell River Regional District because we need that broad a scope to address carbon emissions. The ICSP is essential for integrating climate action with the other goals of the community. It all has to work together. It was suggested in the ICSP to carry on with the sustainability steering committee. We need a clear structure for this action, a unifying organizational plan.”
During a debriefing session the organization of the event was discussed. Facilitator Christien Kaaij offered comments she had heard from participants, that people would like more of these events. The councillors, who each moderated one of the stations, found that the community approached them about various issues, some not related to the event.
Brewer added that it was important to acknowledge the “element of fatigue” on public participation.
All results from this roundtable will be collected by Kaaij and put into a report, which will be presented to council’s Committee of the Whole on July 5. The report will inform the city about which actions the community wishes to have prioritized and it will then be up to city staff to decide upon resources for implementation.