COLUMN: New ‘philosophy’ gaining strength

Common sense, if a community meeting in my neighbourhood last week is any indication, is taking hold at city hall.

Common sense, if a community meeting in my neighbourhood last week is any indication, is taking hold at city hall.

For example the notorious “tree protection bylaw” no longer exists in the rural parts of Abbotsford, nor it appears does it apply to strata title residential locations. And for the rest of the community, it has been greatly watered down with many weed trees excluded from protection and penalty fees greatly reduced.

I’d suggest an even further “watering” when the bylaw comes up for discussion at the council table sometime in December. For instance, how about eliminating from protection all ornamental trees – those that are not indigenous and were bought and planted by homeowners. For those who want to provide input into the final tree bylaw, council is, I believe, holding a public information meeting on or about Dec. 10. Check with them for precise details.

Another “it just makes sense” change of heart at the city is the “backing off” of the restrictive (and punitive I might add) environmental plan for Sumas Mountain. Gone apparently are the ‘wildlife and recreational corridors’ across private land, which would have had a devastating impact on the affected properties’ worth and the owners’ free use of their own lands.

Also at last week’s meeting in Straiton, the city even seemed amenable to changing its proposed, and planned, kitchen waste recycling program . . . at least in the rural areas where a great many people already compost, if not for their gardens then perhaps like me who bury the stuff in a dirt pile so that when fishing season arrives I have a ready source of worms to supplement my inordinate lack of skill at luring fish to my fly rod.

However, the singular most important message of the meeting came from Mayor Bruce Banman who said, “We listen and we hear you” (and, I add, act on what they hear!)

That is refreshing, and confirms two things for me: you can “beat city hall” if your case is sound, and council does pay attention to reasonable and proper argument.

It also appears there is a definite change in attitude at city hall, in that bureaucracy is reacting to council rather than what seems to have been the other way around in past years.

I’m not sure if the new mayor has endeared himself to the powers that be in the brick edifice on South Fraser Way, but he certainly has changed the culture there.

And I have to give him, and new councillor Henry Braun, credit for that, because many of the battles that we have faced were created, in fairness perhaps even innocently, during past terms by the other seven members of council.

But changes to bylaws and other actions of the city are the work of all councillors, so to all of them I have to welcome what seems to be a general understanding that, as the mayor said last week, it is time (and there should always have been time) to listen to the people, and react to their demands.

After all, the basis of western democracy as championed by Abraham Lincoln during his Gettysburg Address, is: “government of the people, by the people, for the people”.

Nice to see that philosophy is gaining new strength in Abbotsford.