Kathryn Morse, Councillor District 10, Halifax-Bedford Basin West
I’ve been the Councillor for Fairview, Clayton Park and Rockingham for a year now. It’s the first time I’ve ever been elected, so I’ve been on a learning curve. To mark my first anniversary, I’d like to share the Top Ten Things I’ve Learned as a New Councillor:
10) Traffic is the number one concern of residents.
For several years HRM council has been asking the Province of Nova Scotia for permission to lower speed limits in residential areas but it’s slow going. In the meantime, council is working on traffic calming, better crosswalks, and bringing in a system of photo radar and automatic ticketing (hopefully by 2023).
9) Getting things done at the municipal level takes time.
The reason is individual Councillors are generally not permitted to direct HRM staff. Direction must happen through a majority vote at council. Before a vote at council, there is usually a staff report to provide options and recommendations. Staff reports take a few months to be written. If the project has big financial implications, it will have to be added to the budget and approved. Approving the roughly $1 billion municipal budget takes about four months because we fit it in around regular business.
8) In municipal politics we work on a wide range of challenges.
No issue is too big or too small. Councillors get right down in the weeds, literally sometimes, when it comes to residents’ requests for trimming and pruning. And we also deal with some really big issues, like how to help HRM adapt to climate change. Climate change may be the biggest issue facing humanity, ever.
7) For every request from a resident, there are at least three other requests for the opposite thing.
6) There is often confusion about which level of government is responsible for which service.
Housing for example, is the responsibility of the Province of Nova Scotia, and so is Education. But HRM is playing a greater role in providing emergency housing and HRM is also responsible for maintaining many school playgrounds and fields. Sometimes responsibilities overlap or get redefined.
5) Social media has upsides and downsides.
I do a weekly Facebook post, and it can be a great way to let people know what’s going on in the district. But social media is not a great way to communicate about sensitive or complicated issues. I find whenever possible phone conversations work much better. Then we’re having a real dialogue.
4) HRM is growing by 9000- 10,000 people a year and that pace will probably continue for many years.
Construction is booming, new companies are moving in, and young people are starting careers and families here. Although there are positives, it’s not always easy for residents living in a city that is growing twice as fast as was expected. Let’s just say we’re having some growing pains. However, growing pains are better than shrinking pains.
3) HRM residents really care about their communities.
Whether it’s working at the local food bank, starting a community garden, or volunteering with their kids’ teams, residents are doing a lot to help each other. These social bonds are the glue that holds our city together. If I can help with your project, please contact me.
2) Being a Councillor is not just a full-time job.
It’s a 50+ hours-aweek job. I try to respond to calls and emails within 3 days. If you’re not hearing from me in a timely way, please call the Councillors’ Office at 902-490-7184 and they’ll help us connect and sort things out.
1) Elections can change things.
On October 17, 2020 HRM elected its first-ever council with gender parity. Personally, it was a very exciting day for me. Not as exciting as having a baby, but close. Thank you for electing me. I’m working hard to keep earning the honour
Photo credits to https://kathrynmorse.ca/