Building stronger inter-municipal bonds
Editor’s Note: This is the sixth in a series of columns by members of Amherst town council. The columns are running every two weeks in the Amherst News. Today’s column features Deputy Mayor Sheila Christie.
Having been newly elected for a seat on the Amherst town council in November of 2016, I realise now looking back, how much I truly did not understand about the inter-workings of municipal politics. How important it is to have strong building blocks in place and the importance of communication.
This new council has taken on a lot of big challenges in its first year and focusing on communication and transparency has been very high on the list. I can honestly say how wonderful it has been that all of the councillors respect each other and maintain an open dialogue as it pertains to the issues of the day.
One area of work that I am most proud of is how this council has worked very hard to strengthen our bonds with our municipal partners, which is long overdue. We have met as a group several times to discuss issues that affect our region as a whole, which benefits us all. We had joint presentations by groups who would like to accomplish things within the town, but also with our county partners, and it has proven to be very worthwhile that the same information is given to all at the same time, as and it allows for discussions of strengthening our area, instead of being competitors.
Some of the joint boards and committees that we share with the Municipality of Cumberland and the Town of Oxford have governance and agreements that are in some cases 20 years old, and we have worked hard to redevelop some of these policies and have placed new governance regulations to better reflect the current make up of our region.
Two prime examples are CJSMA (Cumberland Joint Services Management Authority), that operates the landfill as a joint venture to handle management of garbage and recycling for all three of our regions, and REMO (Regional Emergency Measures Organization), which is responsible for emergency preparedness for our region.
We have also collaborated on the formation of the Business Connector that will focus on economic development and tourism for our region as a whole.
There have been further new joint committees set up, with representation from all groups, such as an “Entrance Improvement Committee” that I have been asked to sit in on, along with county councillors.
We need to keep respect and the lines of communication open not only within our own councils, but with all three municipal groups and all levels of government.
We all have the same goal, to improve the quality of life for all our residents. We need to stop thinking that we are in silos and work together, to understand, what is good for one, only strengthens us all.
We have to find a way to work with our neighbors, and I feel that this council has made great strides towards doing just that. Amherst Council will be hosting the next joint meeting with Municipality of Cumberland and Town of Oxford in January.
One of the other areas that this council is focusing on is establishing stronger poverty initiatives. This council has initiated a new three-tiered low income property tax exemption in 2017, as a town we are hosting more free family community events , planning a Poverty Forum to involve all community stakeholders, and expand on the ideas brought forth to improve the quality of life for all who live in Amherst and area.
This is an area that I am very passionate about and if you would like to be involved, please feel free to contact me.
I for one am excited on the improvements made, the bonds that have been strengthened, by being open to change and new ideas.
Please feel free to call me at any time.
Sheila Christie, newly elected to town council, was recently reelected to the Office of Deputy Mayor for a second one-year period ending October 31, 2018. She has served the Town of Amherst on various local committees and boards, as either a member or chairing many organizations over the years such as, Relay for Life, Showcase Productions Society, Bright Beginnings Daycare, Engage Nova Scotia Committee, Amherst and Area Trails Society, Empowering Beyond Barriers, as well as a member of the Amherst Curling Club. Her lifelong community volunteering efforts, along with her 29 years’ experience as a financial controller, give her a grass roots approach to the various issues facing Amherst. Sheila has lived in Amherst and area all her life, and has a university-aged daughter Alisha.