It is not an easy decision to run for Council in Anmore. It is a tiny municipality. There are currently about 1400 voters. Three years ago there were approximately 1200 voters which actually demonstrates the growth we are experiencing, and one of the reasons I decided I must, once again, offer to serve. From 2001 to 2006 there was a 32.8% population increase, and this upward population pressure continues. With a “Rural” designation from Metro Vancouver and an outdated, incomplete Official Community Plan with a firm one acre minimum lot size, the village is evolving via the drift rather than plan mechanism that is created by development pressures. Land values continue to soar and conflict between development and sustainability have come to the fore.

What to do about it? Clearly deflecting attention from it with conflict will not solve the problem. Communication, consensus-building and judicious planning are required to create sustainable development. The Official Community Plan must be revised and adhered to. We must also work effectively with our neighbours. Anmore does not exist in a vacuum. The region of the Tri-Cities shares air and watersheds, we share roadways, transportation and infrastructure. We share services. Working within this small region is as important as working with the greater region of Metro Vancouver in planning and decision making and I pledge to keep communication key for shared resources and services. Already I have inserted myself into committees relating to hospital services, watershed management, social services and the arts in the Tri-Cities as I believe so strongly in their importance.

So, a vote for me is a vote for communication, for dialogue, and for advocacy for our village and our region. I promise to stand for and maintain open government, to be responsive to the voices of individuals and to groups. Sustainable development is not rampant development; we need careful planning to keep Anmore beautiful, green and livable.  I have no hidden agenda. My life for the past several years has been devoted to advocacy. I offer that now in service as your Anmore Councillor. Vote for Elaine Willis on November 19th.

I have the privilege of working as a representative in an exciting, new kind of governance body – a ROUND TABLE. Now when I say “NEW”, the historians amongst you may bristle, and point to the early twentieth century origins in Britain. What Wikipedia doesn’t show is the current use of ROUNDTABLES as more than just a form of academic discussion, but a new way of bringing governance to an often diverse group of stakeholders.

I have been participating on the Core Committee of the Coquitlam River Watershed Roundtable. The process of forming the Roundtable took years and evolved from the Coquitlam River Watershed Strategy.  When the Roundtable officially formed, it was defined as ” a multi-interest body with members representing various sectors with interests in the watershed. Governments and government agencies are represented on the Roundtable, which is an independent entity, not under government direction. The Roundtable does not have authority to make decisions related to the jurisdictional authority or legislative responsibilities of governments or government agencies.”  Now my initial sentence, states that the Roundtable is a governance body, and ultimately, by having all the stakeholders together, with common goals and common values, it is my belief that the Roundtable will drive decisionmaking through its collective strength. After all this is my BLOG, I can say what I believe without censure.

Ultimately, what I want to comment on at this juncture is that this process is working, and working brilliantly. On a subcommittee tasked with revisioning the website, stakeholders have donated hours of time on a regular basis to work through goals, visions, beliefs and ideas to achieve consensus. This is no small feat. Yet, outsiders working with the group, see us as homogenous.

I see the subcommittee as a diverse group of experienced community leaders, each with a view of the Watershed and the world, willing to share and debate, but even more willing to achieve harmony. Our enemies are time, constraints on our creativity and assaults on our cohesiveness. Yet these very things, perhaps like all opposing forces, only serve to bring us closer. I have great respect for each member of this group, for everything they bring to the table.

How lucky I am to have the luxuries of time, creativity and consensus-building skills so I can participate fully. As I participate, thinking (Roger’s Innovation Adoption Curve) I have spent most of my life as an “Innovator” or “Early Adopter”, and seeing many of the other members as “Late Majority” or  later, I find myself delighted that we are working in a modern process style and exploring extremely innovative ideas. Diversity, when given opportunity and nurture, can point the way to new and successful paths.

My previous post on Monday, August 22, 2011, about Jack Layton, was written before Layton’s final letter to Canadians was released to the media. His words, and media’s response to those words, changed and softened this past week. Jack wrote:

 

My friends, love is better than anger.
Hope is better than fear.
Optimism is better than despair.
So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic.
And we’ll change the world.

 

I am currently listening to Simon Sinek‘s book entitled, Start with Why, and Jack was one of those “why” leaders, akin to Martin Luther King as discussed in Sinek’s book. The publisher writes, “Why are people loyal to some leaders, but not others? Starting with WHY works in big business and small business, in the nonprofit world and in politics. Those who start with WHY never manipulate, they inspire. And people follow them not because they have to; they follow because they want to.” (Watch and listen to Sinek –TED TALKS)

Jack Layton, an inspirational leader, began his career in politics knowing WHY, sharing WHY and explaining WHY. It was only logical that the words he left to be read after his death stopped everyone in their tracks. Those of us already on board smiled and were inspired anew. The naysayers stopped criticizing instantly. They stopped wondering aloud what would happen to the NDP party left leaderless at this critical time. Gobstopped they were. The mainstream media reports of a leaderless ship immediately ceasedwhen those words above were released. Our prime minister, after some consideration, changed his plans. Oh, Jack, you are legend already! I am so saddened by your loss but so proud that you knew just what to do, just when to do it.

As the timid worry that the party will not be strong because you are no longer here in the flesh… I will take it upon myself to remind them!

….and on FACEBOOK I wrote in response to the fear that we have no leader….for now – we will all step up – for the secret IS UNITY, the secret is that we are UNITED. His mission was accomplished in his leadership – brilliant man – one inspired, positive, charismatic leader can pull the party together for decades. We have many, great potential leaders but what they need is all of us, carrying our bit of Jack within, to stay together, to stay positive and to know that the time for social justice and ordinary people has once again come to the fore! Not maybe, but certainly!

  • 36 minutes ago · Like · 3 people

Jack Layton (1950-2011)

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was definitely shocking news. We all believed that Jack would, fighter that he is, get well and return to lead the party in the fall. He walked the walk. He made history. We loved him. And Canadians, with hope anew, embraced this straight shooter.

But I am disheartened by all the negativity on the mainstream news this morning. The predictions that with Jack’s death there will be no individual to rise to take the NDP forward. Our job is to honour Jack by keeping the momentum – by making his legacy the one of caring and strong governments at all levels ensuring that government is participatory, consensus oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective and efficient, equitable and inclusive and that the voices of the most vulnerable in society are heard in decision-making. As the mainstream media GO ON about how he can’t be replaced – we will find that little bit of JACK LAYTON in all of us and forge forward. We will not be stopped!

Jack’s favorite song – Oh, What a Feeling by Crowbar:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yay4YMyL8U0  (Canadian of course)

In death, as in life, Jack will be, must be our hero. What we do with what he has given us is now in our hands. The last election defied the predictions of mainstream media and now this legacy must do the same. Social justice, good government and the issues that matter – Jack and the federal NDP platform  listed, of course,  the environment as one of the top issues.

His plan to change this country for the better has not ended with his passing. I see it broken into millions of little pieces to be shared with all of us. Take your piece, feel that feeling, get that rush – let’s march forward without missing a step….a tiny bit of Jack’s giant heart beating inside each of us. I am saddened by his passing but strengthened by these past few months filled with Layton-ness. We will look back at this time in history when the mainstream media stopped having the power to create our reality. We will, like Jack, create our own. His guidance is not gone. It was a starting pistol!

I very much enjoyed the experience of presenting. I realize, after the fact, just how much my left brain dominates.  Although I have a good understanding of how the artistic, right-brained individuals function, I am less tolerant of their function than I would like to be when it comes to what I perceive to be  “professional” events and functions. I am not sure if that is something I learned or if it is innate.

I wanted to (and was) on time for the meeting for the presenters. Part of me knew it would be foolish to worry about being on time for an “artsy event”  but that’s who I am (remember the left-brain dominance). The meeting did not occur and the person who called it did not arrive until forty-five minutes later. In fact the level of organization was just not the tight, structured,  Japanese, haiku-like form that is PechaKucha. So as I waited and watched for the show to begin, safely inhaling oxygen at 4 litres per minute (one of the presenters wore a LOT of fragrance), I experienced some cognitive dissonance. I so firmly believe that the production should be organized, should start on time, should be coordinated  professionally – after all people are paying to see the show. On the other hand the audience is happy, largely unaware that the media is not present, the photographer and film crew are absent, the meeting did not take place – they are more than happy.

Dissonance…tells more about me than the situation… “dissonance is reduced by justifying, blaming, and denying”.  I realize I have done all three. So while other people turn inward with nervousness, do I look outward…settling upon justification for the situation by noting that all went well despite the disorganization which I perceived?  The arts community pitched in and did what was needed. The audience was inspired. The focus was on the positive. The networking was amazing….and the feedback I received was great.

It seems that people were, on the whole,  inspired and motivated.

And when I reread “What makes a good PechaKucha” (it means chitchat in Japanese…) from the originator’s website, I know this whole thought process is something I need to continually work through…

“Good PechaKucha presentation are the ones that uncover the unexpected, unexpected talent, unexpected ideas. Some PechaKuchas tell great stories about a project or a trip. Some are incredibly personal, some are incredibly funny, but all are very different making each PechaKucha Night like ‘a box of chocolates’.”

It was a box of chocolates – there was something for everyone at PKN Coquitlam.

I was excited to see the PECHA KUCHA format for presentations. My tenant, Jay Peachy, was the very first presenter on Coquitlam’s very first PK night. He was brilliant. The whole event was exciting, fast-paced, interesting. Reminiscent of TED talks, but with the feeling of community and an artsy edge, I was immediately drawn in… I should do this, I thought.
So with Pecha Kucha VOLUME 4 looking for presenters, I volunteered, knowing what I wanted to say but not recognizing fully the limitations of the format. I am a teacher, thought I. Timing, meeting objectives, recognizing diverse listening styles…no problem…
As I began to prepare, I realized that I had a lot to say. Will it fit into the 20 x 20 format? PECHA KUCHA, the Japanese term for chitchat, is a simple idea (so they say). The presenter has 20 images with 20 seconds to speak to each image. The pace is rapid. OKAY, this works for design but I want to educate, elucidate, leave a powerful message that has my audience ready to, at the minimum, understand some changes they might need to make. But even better, I would like them to leave feeling the need to themselves advocate for change. Can I do that in less than seven minutes – telling my whole story with the pace imposed by the twenty second slide change? This really is a challenge. I am taking this art form and challenging it as well as myself to deliver.

That written, time to stop procrastinating and work on that timing…

I returned from a weekend at the SEP (Salmonid Enhancement Conference) in Campbell River delighted to have taken a ferry and visited Vancouver Island for the first time this century. My friend, Ruth, who reminded me it was the first time this millenium, is constantly running into former students who shout after her, “Mrs. Foster, Mrs. Foster, remember me!!!”

I was delighted to find the following response to an older BLOG POST when I arrived home; more than heartwarming, it verified the theme of a recent post about advocacy. By choosing to become a teacher, I chose to be an advocate.When I entered teaching, I had no idea it would be a good fit or my natural calling, but I am lucky these things were true. To have a positive impact on anyone’s life is really all one can hope for…

Mikki, in my mind’s eye, you are still that young girl. Yet your writing is clearly that of an articulate, strong, young woman. The impact of your few words lived on for days…still does. I have met many former students, but none that has shared this experience of being part of the “disabled community”. My mother (who can’t seem to grasp that I am 57 years old) constantly asks when I am going to write and publish a book – she so believes my writing skills to be a marketable talent. Somehow, finally, I understand how she feels. Your ability to write well, to express your thoughts with a few powerful words is so apparent. Impactful… Delightful… I think that might be a bit of pride…like what my mother tries to express to me.

Mikki (Cowling) Chartier said May 22, 2011

Elaine Willis,

You were my 3rd and 4th grade teacher back in the 1980s at Grosvenor Road Elementary School. After all these years and wondering what’s happening today, I found your blog. You are a gifted teacher, who showed far more compassion to a very shy and anxious disabled child than our soulless system has demonstrated to you. I was stunned to find out you developed ataxia and chemical sensitivities, but from your blog and The Hindsight Years, it’s clear you haven’t let it stop you.

It was a privilege to have had such a wonderful human being as a teacher. You valued each and every student as individuals, genuinely cared about us and what we were learning. Nearly thirty years on, I still remember how you read stories to the class and didn’t underestimate our ability to understand the themes. How you played “Clouds”–Both Sides Now–by Anne Murray. I remember learning about technology in the computer lab with the Apple ][ and when you took the class on a field trip where we learned about computer programming at a real university! You made the experience magical to a nine year old child who never forgot your kindness, passion for teaching, and your patience.

I just wanted to say thank you.

I suppose being a teacher is being an advocate. One advocates for one’s students. We try to empower them in a system that denies rights to minors. We give them skills and confidence…anything we can to help them advocate for themselves but when they cannot we step in for them, fierce as mother bears.

And then there was the women’s movement. The supposed “third wave of feminism” taught me to challenge political structure and power holders while taking backup people with me. A lone voice is not as effective as the voice with many backers.

Ultimately, I became an advocate because in my greatest time of need, some people stepped (no, they wheeled) forward into my life and intervened, when a system powerful enough to put me in a nursing home for the crime of being disabled, chemically sensitive, and vocal threatened my freedom and my survival.

Paul Gauthier wheeled into my life and assured me that I was not being unreasonable when I requested scent-free care workers, or notice before nurse administrators arrived in my home. “If they tell you you’re being difficult,” he told me, “It just means you’re still alive.” How right he was. And how close I came to that precipice. When an institution, a system, a dangerous machine has control over your life…even those of us who are strong-willed and intelligent can be swept away. But thanks to that young man, and another wheeled advocate from the BC Paraplegic Association, Norman Haw, all that conspired to sweep me away failed. I emerged, stronger, independent, flourished…in control of my own life and care. So what else can I do but help others? And since I am not ALLOWED to work for pay, it is with pleasure that I try to help others navigate the medical system, or, as in my case, not be swallowed by it.

And as I give workshops, I often pay tribute to Paul without using his name. As it happens I was giving a workshop to a group of Medical Office Assistants on Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and who was the organizer? Paul’s mother-in-law. She recognized the man I described from his good deeds, methinks…and she inquired if I knew her son-in-law. It’s a small world.

And I may not have thanked you in this decade, Mr. Gauthier, so thank you, once again!

My granddaughter likes shopping for clothes. I find computer equipment much more interesting (and useful). She listens to music and certainly knows the names of the actors and musicians that appear in interesting designer clothing at the Oscars. I read Popular Mechanics and wanted to TWEET about a new reason why GFCI’S (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters) might be tripping for what seems like no reason because of (GET THIS!!) old, energy inefficient refrigerators! So yesterday we went to the mall (a Saturday – the things we do for our grandchildren!) and looked at shoes and clothes for a couple of hours. Then she sat in the van and listened to her iPod while I spent a half hour at NCIX picking up a few things. She exclaimed, “What were you doing in there so long?”

Different brains like different things. And now I am thinking my friend, Peter, would like these GFCI circuits everwhere so they will detect rogue electricity as he carries on with his mission against electromagnetic radiation.

Now my friend suffers from an uncomfortable state of cognitive dissonance because, I believe, he too is a “nerd” and yet he is discovering huge volumes of information that point to health and environmental issues that show the technologies to be unacceptable. I have to remember that I spent an early part of my life “living off the land” with minimal technology, no electricty and no running water. It isn’t the way. Going backwards is not the answer. Somehow we must accept the differences inherent in the brains of others and begin to solve the conflict in our own minds. For me this has been done by allowing for imperfection. By allowing myself and others to be imperfect, I can now allow that I will work towards improving the effects of technology. I will know I don’t have all the information. I will know that no side on this issue is 100% correct and no side 100% incorrect. Nothing will be black or white. Gathering information will be paramount while suspending absolute judgment will be helpful. I can lean in a direction without discounting ideas from another. This kind of openmindedness is what I aim for and desire in others, whatever the issue. It is very peaceful for the brain…even if I lean towards nerdiness.

Jay Peachy

Sometimes you get the tenant you need and sometimes you get the tenant who needs you. Life is like that, full of give and take. I am grateful for both.

Jay came to me after a difficult time. My new suite had been vacated by me very dear tenant (who had been so helpful – he’s family now but that’s another story) when the developer of the adjacent lands cut off access to my property.

The most important criterion for becoming my tenant is being scent and chemical free. A long round of emails confirmed that Jay  was a good communicator, willing to completely give up the use of all scent and chemical products and delighted to find a space that would allow his dog. I agreed to meet him.

There were a number of applicants but something drew me to this man with no references, a strange affect, no job and clearly no money for the deposit …and our relationship began: landlord- tenant; advocate-client; employer-attendant; patron-artist; neighbour-neighbour; friend-friend. There were and are many more aspects to our relationship. I know that this was the place where he was meant to heal and evolve more fully into Jay Peachy, the artist. And clearly, although he is not the tenant I anticipated, one who could be the helper I needed for my physical challenges – do not get the idea it is a one way street.

Jay is an amazing attendant when I go to medical appointments and need someone to guard me against reactions to chemical exposure. He has twice administered the epipen and numerous times supplied oxygen when required. He’s amazing and was once asked in a medical setting if he was a nurse when he deftly saved my life.

But here in Anmore, “Nature’s Home” as Dr. Lynn Burton and I are determined to label this beautiful community, Jay has healed and blossomed. Yes, he still has bipolar disorder. But now he has safety nets in place, a home community, the courage to stand up and face the world fighting the stigma, LABEL clearly pasted on his forehead, and help others tirelessly through his artistic genius.

He has become a volunteer at Mossom Creek Hatchery just below our home, connected with salmon enhancement and conservation and swallowed that into his art and essence. He hosts a radio show, Sound Therapy Radio on CJSF and has now won awards for his efforts. His standup comedy is just another of his artistic endeavours.  Jay Peachy brought Art in the Garden to Anmore with a group of enthusiastic volunteers inviting the support and promotional assistance of the Tri-City Arts Connect Umbrella.

Twenty-four months ago, this young man could not get himself out of bed. He was defeated by a disease and a system. One hand up, a lot of nature and living with his faithful dog companion, Star, and he didn’t just come back, he’s bringing others with him and showing them the way.