The most important political office is that of the private citizen – U.S. Judge, Louis D. Brandels (1856-1941).
We must insist our wishes guide politicians in their plans for us, or the foundations of our identity will crumble – things like equal education opportunity for all, and an environment that sustains life and gives comfort to every soul.
Without our input, single-minded governments will become lax in the protection of pristine watersheds – Horsefly and Quesnel lakes, for example – and command a less expensive system of adequate education.
My dad’s schooling ended with Grade 8.
He encouraged me to go further, believing education meant empowerment and a better standard of living.
Along the way, I got support for handwriting, grammar, and behavior.
Those who attended rallies to demand equal educational opportunity know the most important political office is that of the private citizen.
Last December, Scot Magri, who believes citizens have a duty to contribute to community well-being, told Pitt Meadows council of his plan to restore Katzie Slough, an ecosystem once teeming with life, “a highway for the Katzie First Nations.” It’s become, said Magri, “a home for nothing but invasive species of plants. “This breaks my heart,” he told council.
It seemed not to matter much.
“Thank you,” the mayor said before moving to the next agenda item.
Nor, did it seem to matter that the slough had been a refuge for one of their own 30 years ago.
Scot visited the slough as a teenager to escape a life of bullying and child abuse, circumstances that led to years of drugs and crime. The slough pulled him out of that dark space, and gave him new purpose.
He told council that when he revisited his “safe place” a few years ago, an eagle followed him. It seemed to say the slough had been good to Scot in his time of need, and now it wanted his help.
Many local citizens have since been inspired by Scot’s determination to restore the slough by recreating a normal flow of water through it. It could be a place where coho could winter again. ARMS, KEEPS, the Watershed Watch Society say Magri’s plan could work.
In time, we heard that council had its own plan for land and water near the slough, one that didn’t fit Scot’s.
The city wants to build a park on 35 hectares of farmland. A citizen steering committee would provide input on plans drafted by city staff – a democratic process.
But members never got details of the park’s scope, and some rightly opposed it. The park’s real dimensions – not available until a week or so ago to the committee or even council – showed a water channel 120 feet wide and nine feet deep.
A sketch had been approved.
Scot’s maps and research over two years conclude that the park waterway would funnel fish to Bains pumping station. They’d be ground up because it isn’t fish friendly, Scot told council.
The blind channel, another pond intended as compensation for lost fish habitat, is a haven for the weeds Scot told council about.
The water component in the park is a bad idea. Some on council have said so from the start.
On Tuesday, they all agreed, except Mayor Deb Walters. Council finally heard the voices of private citizens and wants to work with them.
Next week, council votes officially to scrap the park’s water component and focus on the community garden.
“There’s a waiting list for plots,” Coun. Tracy Miyashita told me Saturday at a rally Scot held to stop the park’s water component.
Mayoral candidate, John Becker, supports Scot’s plan for the slough and hopes council will, too.
“It’s a fantastic idea,” he told me. “Council should enable citizen ideas like this. It needs a feel-good project. I’m on board.”