Inaugural address by Mayor Nils Jensen, December 8, 2014
Mr. Justice Gaul, Councillors, Honoured Guests, Friends.
Congratulations and thank you to everyone who participated in the election. Tonight is a good time to reflect how truly fortunate we are to have something that most of the world thirsts for, indeed that so many have died to achieve: democracy – which includes the right to free speech, the right to vote and importantly the right to an independent judiciary.
It is not possible to overstate the value of living in a free and democratic society that allows open and unfettered elections and debate. It is something we must cherish every day we come to work here in this Chamber. It is a central value underpinning Canada.
Thank you voters of Oak Bay and throughout BC for participating in this essential democratic process.
I am very honored to once again be mayor of this wonderful community. I accept the privilege of your trust and the responsibilities of the position with humility.
Before talking about future challenges I want to take a moment to recognize departing Councillors Herbert, Copley and Green. Between them they have served Oak Bay for a remarkable 27 years. They have left a wonderful legacy seen in the successes of the last three years. To name just a few:
- Our new Official Community Plan, which they all worked on as members of the steering committee,
- Improvements in community engagement and transparency which included a new website, citizen advisory groups, and the most extensive consultation ever undertaken in Oak Bay hearing from over 4,000 residents in the community planning process
- And near the end of our term establishing the Honour of the Oak Leaf to recognize the many people who volunteer and serve the municipality.
Together we as council accomplished this and more in a three year span that saw what I believe to be Oak Bay’s biggest change of Chiefs ever – we had 7 different Chiefs in that time – 3 Chief Administrative Officers, 2 Fire Chiefs and 2 Chief Constables.
On behalf of the incoming council and our community I thank Councillors Herbert, Copley and Green for a job excellently done.
Since Oak Bay was founded in 1906 there have been Reeves, Mayors and Councils who have contributed to the evolution of our community. Each in succession standing on the shoulders on those that went before.
Photos of our past Mayors are seen in the lobby – each Council they presided over had their own unique and important achievements as Oak Bay progressed from the First Nations traditional territory on which we continue to live, to farmlands, to rural community, to what we are now, a carefully planned, modern, progressive municipality that has successfully preserved the uniqueness of its neighbourhoods.
The torch has been handed to us seven. It’s now our turn to contribute to an Oak Bay that our children, grandchildren and generations to come will be proud of.
Oak Bay will continue to grow, evolve and mature. The work and challenge for us will be to direct change to ensure we protect and preserve our unique community – its character – its ambiance.
We face the challenges ahead in the knowledge we don’t do this work all by ourselves – we will be ably assisted by great staff and dedicated volunteers. To them I say thank you in advance.
I am very optimistic about the future – a bright energetic future for Oak Bay. I’d like to highlight but a few of the things that await us.
- The Arts our community theatre at Oak Bay High School will open next year thanks in large part to the $1 million our municipality contributed. It will again raise the bar on arts and culture in our community. As was recently done in two areas 1) public art organized by Canada’s first Arts Laureate Barb Adams and 2) the filming of Gracepoint. In keeping with the renewed interest and importance of the arts in our community I will propose Council widen the mandate of our Parks and Recreation Commission to become the Parks Recreation and Culture Commission.
- Public Engagement and Transparency – I will propose to Council that we continue to open up Municipal Hall by webcasting our proceedings & and making our new e-agenda packages available for residents interested in following what we do. I also propose to ask staff and Council to review how our Advisory Committees can be more effective.
- Building Healthy Community by directing resources to healthy living habits such as biking and walking.
- Building Bridges in the region and with our first nations – at the CRD we must meet our sewage treatment obligations in a timely and green fashion. I have already met with Mayor Helps and Mayor Atwell to open a discussion on an “east side solution”. I am very optimistic a solution will be found soon. Regional cooperation will also mean working with Regional partners to look for opportunities for economic development and efficient integration of services. I was very pleased to hear mayor helps’ inaugural address where she committed to region wide cooperation and collaboration – I make the same commitment here tonight. We will continue to work with our First Nations to forge a strong and meaningful relationship as set out in the Community Plan. As an important recognition of the long history of First Nations in our area Council has and will continue to support the First Nations Pole Project at the new Oak Bay High School. And in the very near future we expect to see the launch of an exciting new community project that celebrates First Nations history in Oak Bay.
- Planning ahead – in very short order we expect to hire Oak Bay’s first ever in-house Planner. He or she will be responsible for working with Council to implement our Community Plan – the first steps in that multi year process will be to build consensus on a housing strategy and housing guidelines. I propose that in our first year Council tackle the issue of what should happen to the municipally owned property at 1531 Hampshire. I also will continue to work with Island Health as they review their plans for a new long-term care facility and what they will do with the Oak Bay Lodge. I am very optimist based on my meetings to date with Island Health that a public health use will be found for the Oak Bay Lodge property – but given Island Health is doing a major review, decisions on the future of Oak Bay Lodge will likely be many years off.
These are only a few of the many items that will fill our agenda. And we mustn’t forget our core task of running the municipality and making sure the water flows, our waste and recycling are collected and all our facilities and infrastructure are maintained. A large but important task requiring attention and at times heavy lifting.
On a lighter note I can report progress on becoming the Modern Mayor: in my first inauguration in 2011 I promised to get modern by learning to tweet and generally increase communication.
I’m glad to report I’m making progress – at least statistically:
2012 ~ 5,000
2014: well over 10,000 received and thousands more sent
2014: I am up to 270 and there are still 23 days left in 2014
While I don’t have stats I can report I continued the Welcome Wagon tradition started by my predecessor visiting almost every new home buyer - building community and friendships one household at a time. It is joy to do and I will continue to do so.
Returning for a moment to the agenda ahead. There is, as always, one over-arching challenge that we must heed in every thing we do: responsible fiscal management.
While there were many great ideas for new and exciting projects proposed and debated in the election - we must continue to be aware of our fiduciary duty to be responsible fiscal managers – a long standing Oak Bay tradition.
There will be many interesting task and challenges ahead – I am looking forward to each and every day working with Council, Staff and the Community as we continue making Oak Bay the best place to live in Canada.
In closing I want to thank Oak Bay residents for helping make Oak Bay such a wonderful place to live. What is unique about our community is the high level of community engagement and the number of volunteer hours that are invested throughout our neighbourhoods. We are truly blessed with hundreds and hundreds of volunteers who donate their time, energy and talents to sports, scouts and guides, service clubs, the Monterey Centre, Oak Bay volunteer society – the list goes on and on.
Our heartfelt thanks to each and every one of you for creating the quality of life that we all enjoy. Your generous contributions of time and spirit help make Oak Bay the most livable community in Canada.
Oak Bay is highly desired for its unique character – for its beautiful natural setting, and its wonderful facilities and amenities. However we should always remember that it is the people who live here that make it so special.
Finally, we have accomplished so much with the assistance of talented and hardworking senior management staff who keeps the ship of state upright and sailing every day. I’d like to recognize and thank them individually:
Chief Administrative Officer, Helen Koning
Municipal Clerk, Loranne Hilton
Deputy Municipal Clerk Maura Jones
Director of Building and Planning, Roy Thomassen
Municipal Treasurer, Patricia Walker
Director of Engineering Services, Dave Marshall
Fire Chief, Dave Cockle
Director of Parks & Recreation, Ray Herman
Acting Superintendent of Public Works, Joe Brooks
Executive Assistant Cindy Denomme
Chief Constable Andrew Brinton.
We are truly fortunate to have such dedicated staff. Thank you one and all for the work you and your colleagues do.
Thank you everyone for your time tonight. We look forward to the privilege of serving you. On behalf of all of my colleagues, and on behalf of our families, we wish you the very best of the Holiday Season and a Happy New Year.