The town has to be an advocate for its people and businesses.
We cannot sit idly by and watch as people fall between the cracks of assistance or lose key members of business in this community.
How can we let a family move back into a unsafe moldy home because they are falling in the cracks between insurance, disaster recovery and relief funding. Families need heat and hot water before winter. Often, as I have found out by making calls, all that is needed is someone who knows the system and process better to help. We are in danger of losing doctors and professionals because they are boxed into a buyout when they may or may not be in a floodway in the future. We have retirees, who although deemed to be in the floodway, have never flooded. We need the town to be finding out the facts, helping people who need help and providing facts for decisions.
The town has to communicate and be the trusted source of information
The town has to be the trusted voice of the facts. That trust was lost during the flood and we need to regain it by being open, direct and transparent. To do that will require better, regular information online and in the paper about what we are doing and why. We are elected to make decisions and as a Council, need to say what we have decided and why the decision was made.
We need be connected with our key partners
The most important thing to move forward is commitment. The second most important is action. We have had some strong commitment by the Province and some actions started by the town. Now is the time for action. Commitment and action come from working with partners and stakeholders because we respect and trust each other. We need to build that trust and credibility with the MD and Province to be included in decisions.
We need to leverage local action
Volunteer and community action is what will make this town a great place again. We have to empower, encourage and listen to on the ground action. Community associations or similar organizations are needed to be the voice of and action teams for the local communities within this town.
We have to have an emergency plan
We flood. Hopefully never again like this one when we fix the flood prevention. But there are other disasters that can happen. We as a community don’t have a clear disaster plan. We need one. It’s that simple.
We need a strong business community
The foundation of a strong community is its business base, professional base and cultural base. We need to help our downtown rebuild. We need to attract new business to our town. We are positioned for example to be a transportation hub, with a major highway, manufacturing and processing facilities nearby. We could even explore a secondary airport south of Calgary. A strong business and cultural base attracts people to the community to visit and to live. It also provides a strong tax base to offset personal property taxes. Our town needs that.
Health Care is critical
Another foundational corner of our town is having a hospital, as well as other professional services. We have a great hospital and we need to keep our health care community here and strong. That means attracting new professionals here. More attracts more, especially in areas like health care to get expertise here and support those already here. In turn, strong services attracts new residents and families. We can’t afford to outsource our services to Okotoks or Calgary.
I have been sitting as an observer on the HRAC (High River Advisory Committee) which has a mandate to make flood recommendation to the Town Council. It is comprised of 2 Town Council members; 2 from the Municipal District and 2 from the larger public Flood Prevention Committee. The Province is also represented at these meetings, as is key Town and MD administration. Worley-Parsons, the engineering firm doing the flood modeling, has also been present. The good news is the town is committed to and is making good progress with in- town flood prevention rebuilds and improvement measures. The Province and MD are also working hard and getting things done. However, what is also clear is that there is not great coordination and communication between each level of government. With flood prevention planning the approach has to be coordinated. What happens upstream affects what happens downstream. Now that immediate rebuilding is in progress it is time for the Province and local government to sit down and commit. A public commitment gets wheels in motion to evaluate options, design, manage impacts and begin building. It is a complicated problem and requires in-town dikes, flood diversion, or even upstream dams. There are many affected stakeholders, issues and large scale multi-year projects. But it is a solvable issue and solving it begins with a public commitment. If that can happen, even if the solution takes time to complete, we can bring confidence in the future back to High River and can begin to make personal and business decisions.
A big thank you to my campaign team! Jim Ross, Darlene Gehrke, John Andresen, Rod Cunniam, and Arlet Wilde. These people know how to get things done. Its been a crazy week. We will be ready to go Tuesday.
Also thanks to Scott Tannas, Jeff Burke and Catherine Rogers from Western Financial for encouraging and supporting me to help our community.