Councillor calls for climate meeting – My Comox Valley Now

Facebook-f Linkedin-in Twitter Instagram Councillor calls for climate meeting – My Comox Valley Now A Comox councillor wants to talk about climate change with residents. Nicole Minions made a notice of motion last Wednesday, that a town hall meeting be held on Climate Crisis and Adaptation. She wants the meeting to be held during one […]

Nicole Minions: New Comox mayor relieved of campaigning, prepares for shifting role

Nicole Minions, a one-term council member, will become the new mayor of the Town of Comox. At the filing deadline on Friday, Minions was the only candidate to file for the mayoralty. She will win the election by acclamation.

Minions sat down with Decafnation early last week to discuss her first term as a councillor and, if re-elected on Oct. 15, what she would focus on in the next four years. We met again on Saturday to discuss her new role as mayor.

It’s interesting to note that Minions had told us nearly two weeks ago that she was considering a challenge to incumbent Russ Arnott for mayor but had not come to a final decision. She said that she would certainly run if Arnott chose to step down.

Minions had already decided and turned in her papers for the mayoralty when Arnott announced on Facebook Thursday night that he was not running. Even so, she told Decafnation, she had expected another challenger that did not materialize.

Now, instead of campaigning for a council seat, the under-40 mayor is shifting toward her new role as the person responsible for facilitating a functional seven-member council.

“But that doesn’t change my priorities or beliefs,” she told us. “That’s still who I am.”

In the near term, Minions said she would focus on helping to increase voter turnout. Local government elections usually see a lower percentage of potential voters than provincial or federal elections.

She also plans to meet with all 11 candidates for the six council seats up for grabs.

She won’t, however, be formally endorsing any candidates. Minions says that would be counterintuitive to her new role. But she will be attending some campaign events.

One of the themes of her mayoralty will be creating open communications, which she believes will help the new combination of seven council members to coalesce as a group.

And early in her term, she plans an opportunity for the new council to set some clear strategic priorities.

“Right now, the work plan has about a thousand things on it,” she says. “We need to identify the two or three top priorities and create a well-organized flow chart.”

Minions would like to change how the Town of Comox is seen regionally and is considering how to advocate for that. She wants Comox Valley’s perception of Comox Council to be a fair representation of the actual council. And part of that, she says, is how information flows to and from the council.

Minions has already reached out to other Vancouver Island mayors for advice, including the mayor of Port Alberni, Shari Minions, who happens to be her sister-in-law.

Before 4 pm last Friday, Nicole Minions was seeking a second term on the Comox Town Council. Now will be acclaimed as mayor.

She was one of four under-35-year-old candidates elected in 2018. Minions has 10 years of experience in the banking industry and has worked in the nonprofit sector including as Executive Director of SOS Children’s Village in Vancouver.

She moved to Comox with her two children nine years ago as a buyer’s agent and Realtor and has since co-founded a real estate company called 2.5 Percent Just Real Estate Inc. in downtown Comox.

Why should voters re-elect you?
Minions says she is her own hardest critic.

“I’ve learned in the last years that it is a person’s character and values that make a good councillor, regardless of their platform or their community engagement,” she told Decafnation.

She says a councillor has to be predictable, but open-minded, “so the public can trust or depend on how you will vote. You must stay true to your genuine values.”

Minions says council members need to attend the meetings fully prepared, which means having read through all the material you get with four days’ notice. And you have to be accessible to all people in the community equally because you represent all individuals, businesses and societies.

“I show up as a conscientious councillor in all of these ways and would like the opportunity to do so this next term,” she said.

Minions ran on a variety of issues, including affordable housing, banning single-use plastics and increasing or fostering youth engagement.“

And I did focus on these issues,” she said. “I delivered on housing as we have more rental and multi-family townhome units today and more infill within the current footprint, which addresses our two hardest challenges today: environment and social justice in our society and community.”

Council passed her motion to ban plastic bags, but the province struck down all municipal bans in BC.

“And then the pandemic changed everything. But I got the conversation going,” she said, adding that other communities have adopted volunteer bans despite the province’s action, “so it’s something to look at.”

Minions’ first four years on the council were full of disruptions, but she voted true to what she said and says, “nobody should be surprised by my record.”

“On the Mack Laing issue, Steph McGowan and I stood on our principles and voted to keep trying to negotiate with those opposed to the town’s plan. We didn’t cave to the pressure,” she said.

Minions understands that 90 percent of a councillor’s job is to ensure the town delivers excellent core services. But, she says, that other 10 percent is important, too.

“We have to always be looking for opportunities that don’t detract from our core services. We can apply lenses of fiscal responsibility, environment, equality and reconciliations, as examples, to every decision that is made at our Town Hall. There is room to clearly articulate where we are going, and leaving no one behind.”

What are some of your key accomplishments?
Minions championed the idea of holding a climate change open house this year. “We communicated where we are and what the future looks like. We listened to the climate-focused actions the public wants. Now, we need to keep this conversation going.”

She considers the 695 Aspen development near Quality Foods as an accomplishment even though neighbors opposed it. The town got 208 new rental units, five at below market rate in partnership with M’akola Housing Society and 28 new daycare spaces with the help of a provincial grant.

“At some point, we were discussing the mix of rentals versus sales units and I was a loud voice to keep the much-needed rental units. I may work in real estate but I truly value putting what our community needs first in every decision,” she said.

The developer wanted to sell all of the Aspen units to take advantage of rising prices, but “I fought hard against that on the principle that we should hold developers accountable to do what they promised and agreed to do.”

Council revised the Tree Retention Bylaw to increase tree retention from 25 percent to 30 percent, but she says, “There’s still work to be done.”

“It’s called a retention bylaw, but in reality, developers can achieve the percentage goal by retention or replanting,” she said. “I’d like to revisit this bylaw.”

Minions recognizes that big issues, such as trees and affordable housing contributions, affect planning and development and that they “move the market in the cost to develop, but they’re for the common good.”

Minions is proud that Comox Council was the first in the Comox Valley to enact the new BC Step Code in 2019-2021, which will have an impact on improving the energy efficiencies of new construction.

Goals for the next four years
Minnions’ number one goal for the next term is to focus on emergency planning given the rapidly changing climate and the adaptations that will be necessary – “We can expect floods, heat domes and someday an earthquake,” she says.

She thinks it would be wise to break emergency planning down by neighborhoods. Minions envisions 10 zones (neighborhoods) that each identify resources available to people in those areas.

“For example, does a doctor or other medical professionals live in the zone? Where is a Satellite radio, emergency planning, access to water in the neighborhood?” she said. “Emergency planning is a provincial issue but the Comox demographic requires preparedness at the town level. Breaking it down to neighborhoods is the natural place to start.”

She wants to explore the formation of a Housing Advisory Committee. The town has a small planning department, she says, so a committee could help the council parse technical reports and review design aspects of applications.

“I plan to explore grant funding for a staff housing coordinator position because there’s not a lot of extra room in our budget for anything beyond core services,” she said. “Comox has the highest percentage of single-family homes in the Comox Valley. Given the state of things, it’s important to think outside of the box.

“The status quo is not acceptable any longer,” she said.

The town needs more recreation opportunities for teens in her view. That’s one of the lessons coming out of the pandemic, she says, which presented particular challenges for teens.

“I would like us to build a pump track because there’s a close enough skateboard park near Isfeld school. And it wouldn’t be difficult for the Comox Rec Center to develop a drop-in youth center. Maybe add some built-in games in our parks, like a chessboard.” These ideas are contained in the Youth Activity Report presented to the council last year.

“I would argue that recreation is a core service.”

Minions believes that reconciliation with K’omoks First Nation should be a focus for our community.

“There’s relationship-building work we can do with Chief Rempel and the council on how we show up as a good neighbour, consult regularly and acknowledge our history. There are a lot of partnerships happening around the CVRD and I think we have a lot to listen and learn about as we move forward together,” she said.

What is most misunderstood about the Council Town Council?
Minions believes that no council member intentionally makes a bad decision.

“They are all serving our constituencies in their own way and are influenced one way or another by the people they talk to,” she said. “But the public shouldn’t lump the whole council and mayor together.”

She recognizes that there is public curiosity about how decisions are made and the background behind them. There’s a gap, she says, between the reasons behind decisions and the public perceptions of what those reasons are.

“It would help if there was less group speculation and misinformation in social media dialogue and more one-on-one conversations with council members,” she said. “I prefer to respond and listen to people who connect directly. Accountability and transparency is a two-way engagement.”

She says the current council hasn’t always agreed on everything, “but we have been respectful and functional with each other a majority of the time.”