August 29, 2018
It promotes in me the wonder and even gives me an urge to wander – happily, of course, always with the intent and hope to return. We plant flowers; we sweep our sidewalks; we pick up garbage; we paint lines on streets. In fact, we as a community of northern dwellers, do all sorts of things to decorate our living space and make it beautiful and attractive to ourselves as well as to others. We like passersby to turn their heads and smile and turn in at the next intersection for a longer look, perhaps even to spend a bit of money as well as time.
And so I wonder, as about our town I wander, can we measure the economic impact of all the things we do to catch the eye of the passersby, even to catch our own eye? Should we do these things even if there is a net cost that can be measured in dollars? Is there a social impact that cannot be measured in dollars dropped?
I guess these are questions that your next Council will inherit from the present (we haven’t answered all of them). Some things will never go away; they just change their names. Budget time will come soon and these questions will have to be faced again. But I hope there will be no regression in Council’s determination to keep our home town beautiful for our own pleasure – and make it more so. Yes, of course there’s a cost!
But let me tell you a story that I learned just today. I was following a motor home through town, well, only part way through town because the driver manoeuvered his gaily decorated machine adjacent to a gasoline dispenser and proceeded to fill the tank with fuel. Sort of normal for folks driving on our ways. So I stopped and chatted with the driver. Sort of normal for a nosey guy like me.
I learned a few items of interest to me and, I hope to your next Council: This is not the first time this driver and his wife have come through our home town. They had plenty of fuel to get their rig (34 feet long without a washer and dryer I am informed) to Prince George where, by the way, the price of fuel is lower. They interrupted their forward progress to re-admire Chetwynd’s array of chainsaw art and drop a few bucks in town. They didn’t at all mind contributing to the economy of the community as they paused.
Were they typical tourists? Don’t know. This was a chance encounter with a couple that happened to have stopped in Chetwynd because they admire the chainsaw art. I doubt that art scattered haphazardly along a dusty byway would attract the attention that our art, artfully situated among flowers, trees, and grassy boulevards gets.
Yes, of course there’s a cost! Some costs are worth the price.
Your next Council will be tempted to cut costs wherever possible (some may promote tax cuts during the election). One of the more vulnerable areas of expenditure will be the flower, tree, grass, watering, mowing budget. Council may question the value of planting and tending flowers, trees, shrubs, grass. Better to spend the people’s taxes on something more substantial like sewer lines and pavement. Gotta be good stewards of public funds. After all …
There’s an ancient piece of Sanskrit poetry the gist of which, sort of, goes like this: If your fortune has been reduced to just two loaves of bread, sell one and buy your wife a bunch of flowers to beautify her day and feed your soul.
I have maintained from the beginning of my experience in local government that economic development is closely linked to the pride we take in our community as demonstrated by the way we encourage passersby to stop, take a second look, and turn in for a longer look. I still believe this doctrine. Is there a price? Of course there’s a price.
Your next Council will set that price.
Oh, by the way: CAO: feeling ambivalent about the suggested tax hike? New Mayor: well, yes and no.
Merlin Nichols, Mayor