Build­ing stronger in­ter-mu­nic­i­pal bonds

The Amherst News - - OP-ED -

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.

Sheila Christie

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