Groups plead with Council: don’t cut the Social Development Coordinator’s position

In an interesting show of force, members of the city's social services sector are pleading with City Council to retain the Social Development Coordinator's contract position. Here, Women's Shelter Director Nelli Richardson, a long-time former City Councillor, asks Council to retain the Social Development Coordinator's position. David F. Rooney photo

By David F. Rooney

In an interesting show of force, members of the city’s social services sector are pleading with City Council to retain the Social Development Coordinator’s contract position.

“As the Chair of the Revelstoke Community Social Development Committee I have been requested to present our concerns to City Council and urge rejection of any recommendation to cut any portion of the Social Development Coordinator budget,” Nelli Richardson, herself a former City Councillor, told Council on Tuesday.

“Historically, it has been difficult for Revelstoke to address social priorities. Social sector staff had no time and very limited resources to proceed on any community-wide social goals.”

The previous Council’s decision to approve the hiring of Jill Zacharias as the City’s Social Development Coordinator was widely regarded as a positive forward that has borne actual fruit.

Zacharias has been fulfilling her role on a part-time basis with a $25,000 budget from the City. Since she has been hired, she has, Richardson said, brought in about $90,000 in funding for various projects from outside sources. The projects Zacharias has completed include a drug abuse strategy, a multiculturalism and anti-racism community action plan, a services guide for seniors and a forthcoming Welcome to Revelstoke Guide for new residents. (Click here to find out more about social development in Revelstoke)

“It’s already a part-time position so cutting the budget would make it very difficult to get anything done,” Richardson said.

When asked by Mayor David Raven, who also took a shot at people “stirring up angst” over the budget, what Council “should take off the table” in order to retain the position, Richardson said she regards the Social Development Coordinator position as vital to community life as snow removal. Certainly, other social service providers agree.

Richardson came armed with letters of support from School District 19 Superintendent Anne Cooper, the Revelstoke Employment Services Centre Program Coordinator Cathie Thacker, Okanagan College Dean Jim Barmby and other organizations and private citizens.

Richardson also noted that Revelstoke’s bold step in creating the position is being held up as a progressive model other communities can and should emulate.

While it remains to be seen what Council will actually do — it will not resolve the municipal budget issue for at least two more weeks — cutting the budget for this highly effective and socially productive position would seem ill-advised.