Rocky here - sitting President for Mission’s Downtown Business Association (DBA). I’m ½ of the owners of the now closed Independent Cycles. My better half Cheryl is the other ½, and my business partner at Blondin Enterprises Inc.
And, if you don’t know me, we moved our family to Mission in 2010. I am a proud father and husband, community builder, and entrepreneur, in that order. I work with several organizations to make our community better, and add value from my somewhat unique perspective wherever it makes sense. I don’t have much tolerance for bureaucracy, and that isn’t a good character trait when you try to make changes in the community. Change takes time. The challenge I suffer is that I listen, learn, and hear of all the opportunities we have to do amazing things, that can help a few, or so many people lead better lives. And then some garbage procedure or man-crafted regulation from the 70’s gets in the way, and I ask the hard questions like “why?”.
This makes me unpopular sometimes, but at the root of it is an unrelenting desire to make changes so many can benefit. And that has been the thrust of my efforts at the DBA for the past three years, and as I head into one final year on the Board. Try to leave things better than I found them.
So, with that in mind, I’m penning this Open Letter to Mission’s DBA members, and anyone with a stake in downtown. I had written a long-winded thing with a bunch of fluff (6 pages!) in it, but it didn’t get to the point. I will try to do that now. All of this is written in my humble opinion, but is informed from a career spanning two decades, many continents, and including owning and operating a professional service business and a retail bike shop - both located in Downtown Mission at one point or another.
To whom it may concern, (ick, that’s formal)... Hello friends, colleagues, and others,
Downtown Mission is key to a thriving City of Mission, and the DBA is critical to a thriving Downtown. These things are interlinked in ways that took decades to create. They include Provincial legislation that creates BIA’s in over 60 communities in BC. Mission’s DBA is our local BIA, and responsible for the health and wellbeing of our Downtown and its membership.
And, that membership is…at a challenging cross-roads, both for themselves as individual entities, and with respect to the DBA. The fact is - the DBA’s membership is just a reflection of society as a whole. And from what we see online, and IRL Downtown, there are some deep divisions among people that are creating conflict and friction, and result in politics and paralysis. I have worked hard for 3 years now to help attempt to reform the DBA into a modern organization that can serve our community for another 20+ years. This was at the request of the ED at the time, who was frustrated with the politics and paralysis then. And I’ve had lots of help and support along that journey. From fellow Board members, stakeholders, and from staff - from Joanna, to Miriam, to now Karley, they have one thing in common, working hard to have Downtown fulfill its vision:
Leading a thriving, vibrant, and unique downtown community.
This is not something that will come easily or naturally. It requires a regular dose of hard work. And many good people are putting in that hard work. But…there are others that are working against both their own best interests and the DBA’s as well. A healthy and resilient DBA is a good thing for everyone. I can’t see a downside to the DBA being highly capable, and executing well. But…I have experienced 3 years of some Downtown members that are working to stop the progress that has been made. They have openly expressed desires to “make things the way they were.” That vision of the past isn’t generally well articulated when pressed on it. But from what I have gathered, the past was: a small group of mostly men that got together regularly and made most, if not all of the decisions for Downtown. And this past wasn’t all bad. Autocracy has its upshots - you can move fast when you don’t have to be accountable to your voters (membership).
But, the modern DBA has become, and needs to remain a thriving democracy in order to succeed. I don’t get to dictate the path we are on just because I’m the President. I think this is the most misunderstood part of this job. It entails being a steward, and ensuring as many voices are heard on how we are doing, where we can do better, and where we can go next. Everyone’s idea deserves to be heard, and then democracy can decide what path to take. I believe so strongly in this fact for so many things that ail our community. More participation will bring about better decisions. I truly love being wrong via vote.
And then we get to the thing that the DBA is really lacking: acceptance of defeat. This is at the core of a working democracy. We put things to a vote when needed, and then we accept the results, even if they don’t favour our own vote. This is how we move forward. This is how we function as a community. But today, this muscle of democracy is torn and injured. We put things to a vote, and that creates enemies of neighbours. It creates division and tension where it’s not needed. If we vote on something as trivial as colours for banners, or something as fundamental as the structure of our City Bylaw and Levy, we need to discuss, debate, vote, and then carry forward. A vote cast in dissent means someone doesn’t agree with the path chosen. That is OK. We can agree to disagree. But then, we carry on bravely.
I aim to shine light on this matter with one goal: to inspire as much participation in our democracy as possible at our upcoming AGM. Mission needs Downtown ; Downtown needs the DBA ; the DBA needs you (its members). June 7th, 6:00pm, Copper Hall.
If you are a member, you are needed. Your job: listen, learn, share and then vote for the board. And if you have a desire to have more input: join, or help us form one of the committees that are where most of the action happens. And the biggest stake you can take: stand for the board, and if successful, help lead this organization, following democracy as it takes us to a future we can (mostly) agree on.
It’s that simple. And to those that have worked for my entire 3 years on this board to take things back to the way they were: I continue to invite you to participate in our democracy. Formulate your ideas, present them clearly for all to consider, and then solicit voting support. You will not get opposition from me in doing so. Where I stand up and speak out is against the sidebar meetings, and doorway rumour mill. The constant voice of dissent. This does nothing to help both the community, or yourself. I don’t expect everyone to agree on everything. But I do hope that we can agree: the DBA needs to remain democratic, and needs to serve the needs of all its members, the best it can. If we do that, we can’t fail.
All the best moving forward,
Mission DBA President