Urban myths and common misconceptions

I think I’ve been around too long. It’s my turn for Fruitvale’s Community Comment, which is designed for an individual council member to share something with the public from a personal perspective, rather than the village “party line.”

I think I’ve been around too long. It’s my turn for Fruitvale’s Community Comment, which is designed for an individual council member to share something with the public from a personal perspective, rather than the village “party line.”

Trouble is – what’s new? Elections – done that, health – done that, amalgamation – done that, LCCDT – done that.

So I’m going to take a risk, and comment on some issues I hear over and over – particularly the ones I see as misconceptions – or “Urban myths.”  As background – I spent 10 years on the school board, several years on the predecessors to the Interior Health Authority (Community Health Council, Regional Health Board), nine years on the Regional District Board, and the Regional Hospital District.

I am now in my 15th year as Mayor of Fruitvale, with the health and education portfolios – which gives me primary responsibility to track and report on health and education issues.

“All politicians lie.”

EXCUSE ME! At my first Fruitvale Council meeting, I laid it out for council and staff – don’t lie to me. I will not tolerate lying. We need to check facts before making statements, and always admit if we were wrong, or relied on mistaken information (like Tony Blair and George Bush – about weapons of mass destruction on Iraq). But please don’t brand me as a liar. That hurts.

Some of the topics we deal with can be quite complicated so it is really important to listen carefully to the message – and question – all the time. But if you are going to quote me – please be sure you repeat what I really said.

“Seniors are better off staying in their own home – with every support we can give them.”

In my mother’s era, there was an absolute dread of being “put away,” in a senior’s home. And no wonder, as most of those “homes,” were beds provided in a vacuum – with no mental or physical stimulation.

Unfortunately, there’s still some hangover of that sense of things. But as I see it today, most seniors’ care in B.C. at least, provides healthy nutrition, good care, socialization and the stimulation of entertainment and outings. I hear so often from residents in care – I should have moved here long ago. And it is a pleasure to see them come alive again.

“Every small community needs a school.”

When I was on the school board we were looking at many school closures. It wasn’t fun, and it was extremely difficult to get the story out to the public so they could understand the challenges. But the school district’s responsibility is to educate the kids. I’m amazed at the number of seemingly intelligent people who still seem to think schools are needed in every little community as an economic driver, or as their social centre. Sometimes, and especially as our student numbers dwindle, we must adjust our sense of what our school community is. The school district’s obligation is to provide the best possible opportunity to ALL students.

I’m sorry, but I did have to laugh at the message from an Australian parent who was going to head back to OZ if the Rossland Secondary School was closed. Ten minutes down the road to an amazing new Crowe high school seems like a pretty good option to me. In the city of Melbourne, I travelled over an hour each way to the high school of my choice. Frankly, that travel was some of my best life learning as a kid. Someone asked me, recently, why don’t Rosslanders privatize their high school, if it is so important to them? Not a bad idea.

“Our roads are in terrible shape – why don’t you fix them?”

Hmm …  but similar to the desire for a replacement bridge in Trail – fix it – but don’t raise my taxes. Who else will pay for our roads? Oh, occasionally – as this week – we get some really good news of a higher-level government grant – $400,000 to fix ONE road in the village. Hooray! One per cent increase in Fruitvale property tax gives us about $4,000. Imagine if we’d proposed fixing our one worst road by taxing at 1,000 times that amount. Might have got a couple of people out for our public budget meeting, do you think?

“The Liberal Government is trying to confuse us with the HST question.”

Hmmm … the question came from Bill Van der Zalm’s anti-HST petition. Our provincial government may be guilty of a lot of things we don’t like – but let’s lay the blame where it belongs on this one. And on the same topic, how cute is the idea to punish the politicians in Victoria by voting yes to extinguish the HST?  Are we supposed to believe the politicians will end up with a pay cut if we abandon the HST? Not likely.

I can guess who’ll have to give up good stuff, if the “Yes” vote wins.

Those are my thoughts, and they are open to your challenge!

Libby Nelson is the Mayor of the Village of Fruitvale.