77% of eligible voters have given us a clear message
Frank Murphy — August 02, 2010
Former City Councillor Diane Brennan contributed the following comment to the blog recently”
“I always found the people who worked in the planning department were professionals whose sole interest was to serve the public interest. After six years on council and two in the gallery, still hold that view.”
I hope to get her to expand on this as I think it’s a key insight into the culture of the institution… Our adversaries as in the good old days aren’t authoritarian monsters (Robert Moses) they’re decent honest well meaning people (that’s how Moses probably saw himself too though I guess). The problem seems to be along the lines of the complacency and mediocrity breed by a system of government that has had any element of opposition, dissent and criticism eliminated from it.
What happens to an individual’s natural activisim and advocacy once they find themselves “inside the system”?
The lack of Council discussion and debate (I stand by my claim that I’ve never witnessed it: I should be more precise though and say that I’ve never witnessed anything — random outbusts aside — meeting my definition of debate) is a key question but my concern is at least as much with the structural. I think the Community Charter makes it pretty clear: the “briefing” meetings with staff should not be held in private and secret.
Municpal government is in such need of reform, don’t you agree? 77% of eligible voters have given us a clear message but we’re not hearing it… Society isn’t producing that number, the system is and the institution would be ashamed if it could muster the humility required to step outside that self-perpetuating notion.
Councils will always have a wide variance of qualifications and skills and diversity. The central issue to me is that structurally– unlike the senior levels of government — there’s no inherent opposition function. So like minded people get together in private and reinforce the principles that they honestly feel leave them above reproach: we’re good folks with good intentions so clearly anyone opposing us is unreasonable. We get together often to test these principles among ourselves.
How systemic is the problem? Let’s run up the flagpole the idea of 4 years terms instead of 3. Lets see… who should we ask? I know! The Union of BC Municipalities!
I am interests as to what is 77% votes is. Where does this come from? What was the questionand who was voting under what authority? I think if there is going to be any credible jusification to the 77% you need to put in context as to where it came from and the conditions under which it was derived. Any of use can make statistics say what we want if we wish. I would be happy to see this in context. If not it is meaninngless.
Wally, this is extracted from an email conversation I was having with Councillor Pattje and I haven’t given it proper context leaving it quite confusing I’m afraid… The 77% of eligible voters referred to is the percentage of people who don’t vote in municipal elections. The two sides of the argument as to what this means line up along 1. this is the fault of the voters and part of a general societal malaise and 2. the electorate is sending a strong message that the institution doesn’t hold that much relevance for them and is in need of reform to better reflect their concerns. I’m firmly on side number 2 of the argument.
So I would suggest that stating 77% of the voters have sent a clear message is only an opinion and is a long way from fact. The low vote turneout is prevalent in most municipalities across Canada and is a common problem. If you are suggesting that 77% are sending a message to Council in Nanaimo, to me that is an example of making data say what you want it to say. I would strongly disagree that 77% of the voters are sending a clear message just because they did not vote. I think your points 1) and 2) are both valid. If you split evenly bewteewen the two, we likely could say 38.5% of the voters sent that message. This is just as valid. Both interpretations are doubtful which makes the data somewhat useless.
Opinion certainly, Wally and to try to articulate it I offer factual data of extremely low voter turnout. And I offer my interpretation of that data: the failure of the institution to engage its constituent public in meaningful ways. Is my interpretation correct? I don’t know but it’s the conclusion I come to. This level of citizen participation must concern you as well. What’s your sense of what’s at the heart of it?
77% are not sending any message at all. They do not vote for a variety of reasons which includes religious beliefs. The 23% (your figure) that vote is equal to 100% of those who cast a vote. They are the ones that voted and they are the ones that care. If each of them converted one non-voter, we could have more voters each election. I am always amazed at the twisting of figures by the losers of elections. They are the first out in front screaming that 77% voiced their opinions, when in fact the 77% did not do a bloody thing. They were fishing or working or begging for meals or the many thousand of things that people do, but they did not send any message or opinion. Those that voted said who and what they wanted. Big Difference!
Gotta agree with Wally and George on this one. Saying that 77% of voters sent a message by not voting is making a huge assumption. Have you ever actually ASKED people why they’re not voting? I have. Most people I’ve talked to say they’re not voting because they don’t really care about what goes on in municiple politics. They don’t understand it/haven’t been paying attention and feel that by voting for someone they don’t know on issues they haven’t paid attention to would actually be counterproductive and detrimental to the good government of the city.
Fair enough… I’m outnumbered here (story of my life!) It’s a good area to have a discussion about though. Is anyone else concerned that the low level of participation sits quite comfortably with the status quo, the institution — who we used to call “the establishment”? Does anyone else miss the 60s?
Voter apathy is a direct result of the 60’s and the attitude about the estabishment. We were not for them and they were not for us. Then we became the middle aged voters and most realized, “We are the establishment.” It is not us against them. We must work for them and with them. Them being the government and establishment. We have found the enemy and he is us. When people realize that they are directly responsible for the government and their actions and only they can influence what the establishment, big brother, government, the big six, seven, twenty or whatever you want to call them, life will be better. We vote, we pick who we want. If we are not happy, we get our friends to help.
There is no THEM, it is US!
I think this figure has to be related to the fact that there is general decline in voting at all levels of government. Furthermore, this is happening in all countries, not just Canada. There are numerous studies as to why this is the case. I suggest that people Google a few of these rather than arguing about the matter.
Discussing more than arguing I’d like to think Larry. But do direct us to some research on this. It’s clearly an important phenomenon.
Wikipedia maybe a good place to start —
What’s your take?
The issue really is how we do we get voters to realize the importance of the vote, not who sent a message to whom yesterday (last election) We are the government, I agree with George. Whether programs and projects are financed with grants from senior governments and /or local taxes, it is still the same people that pay, you and I. Downloading by senior governments of costs to our municipality without downloading revenue sources is a huge issue. Our municipalitites in Canada are collectively going broke. That includes Nanaimo. There is huge competetion for funds to Councils and likely 99% of those requests and needs are valid, yet the requests usually far exceed the available revenue. One current example Nananimo is faced with is new federal requlation (one size fits all approach) that new requires Nanaimo to spend $70 million on a water tretment plant, after 140 years of good water and that has not changed. Yes some grants are involved (our pocket!!) and borrowing (our pocket) and adding about $1.0 million a year to operating costs forever!!! (again our pocket!) Unless we raise taxes even more social programs etc. and other needs suffer. The more you raise taxes the less affordable living becomes and eventally you drive lower income people out of their homes, a terrible spiral.
So Frank, I absolutely agree. We need to engage our voters and make them understand the effect on their lives and the need to VOTE. At tax time we hear a lot of bitching about raising fees and raising taxes, but I don’t hear anyone offering solutions.How do we collectively develop and implement a strategy to educate our residents and get them voting. How do we make sure we have good candidates running for Council? These are worthy of discussion.
Victoria City Council,as an example just had a presentation on failing infrastructure. Set asside their big issue of the Johnson Street bridge and they have advised Council they are underspending annually by approximately $10,000,000. Where do you find that except by raising taxes.
It is also interesting to note that the NDP after years of screeming in option in Nova Scotia were finally elected and, after reviewing the books raised the HST from the 13% to 15%. Yes the NDP raised taxes!!! This is not a knock against the NDP it is a reality check when you are the guys suddenly paying the bills
A large number of the voters who ‘do something’ are voting not because they are so deeply interested, but rather because they are being prodded by organized groups who have their agendas.
Organized labour in Nanaimo knows how to get their vote out, as does organized business interests. They have their lists of identifiable ‘friends’ and make sure they get called, driven to the polls, or whatever else it takes to get their vote out.
The fact that hardly anyone sitting on council has any more that 15% of the eligible vote is a result of what politicians have taught the electorate over the years. It matters little what someone says they stand for during election time, they will simply do as they please once elected, and one bunch is pretty much the same as the other. Most are simply not competent and have more interest in serving the masters that got them elected.
There are zero candidates who will not vote for increasing taxes to support their pet projects, regardless if the majority support it or not.
Sadly, the general population has come to the conclusion that their vote really doesn’t matter, because it matters little who actually gets elected. The results will be the same, ever increasing taxes to support an ever increasing civil service.
I agree, that the large percentage of voters have sent a message, and that message simply is, ‘we know it doesn’t matter who gets elected, the result will be the same’.
A good example of what an organized, concerted effort can do to advance their agenda was the last school board election. Most people, including the press pretty much snooze when it comes to electing a school board. Shame on all of us.
However, the organized group with their agenda worked overtime to see their voters got out and the rest is history.
A plan that took years of study and discussion, having the approval of the province, was simply thrown into the trash, and has been replaced with nothing!
The only gain? Some teachers who thought they might lose their jobs, are still working, and Nanaimo district lost millions to improve local schools.
In the end though, in a democracy we all get the government we deserve. Which is why in one generation we have made such a complete balls up of the whole thing.
Government spending out of control at all levels, supported by government debt out of control at all levels. The reason? We can’t see any farther than our own interests and to hell with those who will have to follow and clean up this mess!
There I go again! :^)
I have to agree with George and Survivor that: “We have met the enemy and he is us!” (Pogo, 196x?) The traditional interpretation of low voter turnout has been that voters are satisfied with the status quo. I guess that satisfaction = apathy = what we’ve got. But can we afford to stick with it?? I believe that the recent debacle of the world economy shows that this pattern is worn out. We were satisfied and apathetic and we are paying for it -and will be paying for years.
We have to change the pattern. I see two, not mutually exclusive ways to do this. One is by the introduction of a full or modified ward system where local interests have a chance to take hold, and the other is with civic parties which provide both input to councillors and can put the boots to them and deprive them of their income if they stray too far from what is seen as the publics’ interests. I would be happy to hear alternatives.
I don’t think that changing to a ward or party system is going to change voter turnout for the better. If anything, it will make it worse by confusing people. Many people see elections as a necessary evil that happens every few years that disrupts their lives for a few moments and their favourite TV shows for a few weeks and fills their newspapers with more pages they skip over on their way to the sports or comics section. They vote for “the devil they do know” instead of “the devil they don’t know” unless they feel that the devil they know has really screwed them over and they want somethng different.
If they ever really understood how our political system in Canada works, they’ve forgotten most of it in the hurly-burly of life in between going to work and raising families.
My brother was the campaign manager and constituency assistant for an MP many years ago. He said most of the calls from constituents were not about the big national policy issues his MP was trying to work out. Most calls were because the street light in front of their house was burnt out, or a water main was broken, or their street didn’t get plowed after a snowfall. After the initial few days of trying to explain that those were municipal issues and attempting to direct people to the right departments, they just gave up, took people’s names and numbers down and called the municipalities or band councils themselves. People would just blow up at them on the phone: “I voted for you! Now you’re just passing the buck like every corrupt politician out there! I’ll never vote for you again!” The constituents simply didn’t know what to expect from their different levels of government.
So changing the system on an already confused public is, in my opinion, not going to help the situation. It doesn’t matter how well you try to educate people either. There is so much great information available to anyone these days via the internet. The thing is that you can’t make people read and understand it if they don’t want to. If people don’t care, then that’s it. They’re not going to do anything.
So how do you make people care?
This could explain the level of incompetence seen in government, it starts with total incompetence on the part of the voter.
There however is a difference between constituents and voters. They are often not one and the same. Most voters know who to contact but constituents often don’t know better because they are not educated in the system. Don’t stomp on the voter saying they are incompetent. The voters are the people that with some proper education can entice others to vote.
Two guys sitting in a bar, a few weeks before election day when one asks the other how they are voting. The other guy replies he ain’t going to waste his time with the election. Oh, I guess you don’t care about your property taxes going up? A conversation ensues and the non-voter ends up voting. Imagine if every one of the voters did that. That is constructive change. Dissing them and calling them incompetent don’t help, Jim.
Calling them, and those elected, incompetent is not ‘dissing’ them. I am simply stating the truth.
If you think we are being ruled by anything other than incompetents, then I suggest you are not paying attention.
Your scenario about the bar presumes the one encouraging the other to vote actually knows enough to be making the right decisions.
So, who was competent during the last few civic elections? The majority of competent(?) voters wanted a convention centre.
Most people do make up their minds based on a 15 minute conversation over a beer. If you are happy with the level of competence that breeds, then we must simply disagree.
OK. As I read it so far we have four choices to try to stimulate interest in public affairs which will hopefully then improve voter turn out.
1) Introduce the Ward System: Would have to be done by Council;
2) Bring in Civic Parties: Anybody could try it;
3) Public Education: Through the School Board?;
4) Do nothing as nothing can be done.
Which, if any, do we think might work? Are there other approaches?
Survivor: A good place to start might be getting involved with your neighbourhood association.
I’ve liked the people I’ve met and the work being done by for instance the South End Community Association (http://seca1.wordpress.com/) and the Nob Hill group (contact: email@example.com.
In my neighbourhood the Nanaimo Old City Association (contact: Andrea Blakeman firstname.lastname@example.org) doesn’t seem to be real active right now but there’s a good group of people there on a new board.
Newcastle, Stewart Avenue folks are undergoing a neighbourhood plan process with the city. The Departure Bay group organized around issues that came up when the new 7-11 wanted to be open 24 hrs…
These groups deal with real issues of immediate importance to neighbourhood folks and the City does communicate with them and work them (and manipulate them but that’s another story). Street level acitivism at the neighbourhood level can have a real impact on making City Hall more responsive to the “public interest”.
I’ll put links to these groups on the blog home page as I become aware of them.
Does anyone know what ‘association’ was the driving force behind the Conference Centre or the Port Theatre for that matter?
Most associations are one trick ponies who have a very narrow focus. Usually if they are successful it will be to their benefit but arguably not for the benefit of the whole community.
For example, does the average Nanaimo taxpayer need to have their dollars support downtown merchants? The DNBIA would certainly think they do, but does it benefit the community as a whole?
What do you think would be important enough to get the average person to pull themselves away from their own little worlds?
We recently saw week after week where concerned, informed citizens could have made their opinions known regards the tax increase council approved. There was not one PEEP from anyone.
If people don’t get involved with the process as it affects their pocket book directly, what else would rouse them from their slumber?
If you know the answer, I will vote for you as King.
How many people can tell you what percentage of their tax dollars go to simply service the debt on money we have spent, which we don’t have? If 10% know, I would be surprised.
As to educating the public. The average person has had some 12 years of education, they get free newspapers at the door, news on the radio and telly as well. So what gets their interest? Hockey games, reality tv, Oprah,the Olympics etc. The circus has always held the interest of the mob as a whole, there is nothing new, as much as we would like to think we are so enlightened.
Give people a jug of wine and that circus and they will pretty much ignore what their masters are doing. The masters have known that for a long time.
Jaysus Jim, enough with the relentless negativity and cynicism! Once you’re expressed the opinion that everything is irredeemably screwed and that the behaviour of your fellow citizens is a profound disappointment to you what is there to add to the conversation? Soon some fact based insight and even constructive suggestions I hope…
Some fact based insight, and constructive suggestions would indeed be refreshing. Is there something in my comments which are factually in error? If so, please point them out as I am still teachable.
Frank, how would you propose getting the average taxpayer to truly give a damn?
It is a belief, that people are more likely to perceive and remember positive things about other people or things than negative ones.
In the realm of evaluating human performance, the Pollyanna Effect is seen as a precursor to events that might have been prevented if more resources or attention were directed to a solution prior to the consequence. If one persists in the notion that “everything will be alright” even in the face of contradictory evidence or observation of deteriorating conditions, and fails to apply a correction or early solution, then one is said to have been defeated by the “Pollyanna Effect”. This focus on a positive outcome in the face of evidence to the contrary can be exhibited by individuals or by groups engaged in problem solving.
In the interests of not upsetting the moderator any further with negative (or reality) based comments, I will say no more.
Jim, just so you know the only moderating I do here is on my own thought processes: I try to moderate any tendency towards relentless negativity or the other extreme Pollyanna-ism. For what it’s worth if I had to choose I would head to the cynical (negative) end of the spectrum. It’s far more likely to produce useful insight but I’m cursed with some kind of small “l” liberal reasonableness.
But again, people may not realize that the original approach of this blog as conceived by Ron, Wayne Schulstad and myself was that it would invite many other contributors and would be unedited. As administrator I volunteered to remove any very offensive personal attacks and I’ve had to do that exactly once and I hate it but honestly felt it was damaging to the blog: the equivalent of someone shouting down all other voices in a meeting…
Anyway, I enjoy and appreciate your participation here and have to assume that a challenge to not be unduly negative is within the rules of this forum… It’s counsel I give myself daily.
But to your question “Frank, how would you propose getting the average taxpayer to truly give a damn?” My premise in this post was that institution bears considerable responsibility for the low voter turnout in municipal elections and that the 77% of eligible voters who don’t vote are collectively expressing that they don’t feel they can have an impact on the workings of City Hall through elections (soon to be only every 4 years).
It’s certainly an arguable premise. The response here though has generally been that the responsibility lies with the individual voter letting the institution nicely off the hook it seems to me.
It strikes me that another reasonable interpretation of the statistic is that 77% of the electorate are expressing satisfaction with how City Hall conducts the people’s business: roads are in decent shape, there’s parks and sports fields, good schools etc. Leaves me wondering though why the large numbers of the disenfranchised aren’t more politically active: low income, single parent families, aboriginals, young people with few options and opportunities in a McJob world….
I prefer to think that discussing politics on an ongoing basis and taking that 5 minutes in the bar and continuing the conversation leads to informed voters. Don’t give up and think that only 23% of the voting public is needed. Stir the pot, get one each or two!
Not all associations are one trick ponies. Some can do two, three and even more. The associations that stick it out and continue to do great things are aplenty. Look around the city and you will find them, but remember for each one of those there are some that come and go and go and come and leave without making any changes, only disruption.
I am really amazed about some of the comments here.If some people are so ignorant as to approach a federal MP on water breaks, road repairs or such, I would blame our education system. From grade 7-12 these issues should be taught and practiced in mock elections and such. I have met some wonderful young students during my years in Nanaimo and know that a lot are active on student councils and such.So, maybe we can not blame the schools.
So let us look at family life.A lot of parents are working various hours, different shifts or are constantly travelling on behalf of their jobs.Family dinners and sitting around the table for meals and meaningful coversations are no longer the norm. Maybe the cost of living, taxes and all costs have to be controlled so families are spending more time together and have time to discuss issues.
I think this is the beginning on how to educate the younger generation and if they show an interest they need to be mentored and have the opportunity to make meaningful contributions.
A lot of young families are contributing to the city. Between making a living , raising families and so on , there is only so much time left to get involved in politics.Many are working within neighbour hood associations and are getting involved. If their concerns are ignored and plans changed to make room for more and more development, they get frustrated and think they are wasting their time.So, some member of council, wake up and take the hint. Make Nanaimo a more compact, livable city and don’t let anyone destroy our asset. THE WATERFRONT!
Yes, we can blame our education system, we can blame our lack of time, we can blame the lack of knowledge and we can blame the real reason: lazyness.
It does not take a lot of time to learn about our system of government and who is responsible for what. Over the years the federal government has downloaded responsibilites to the provinces who in turn download them to regional districts who downloads them to the municipalities who download them to committees. That confuses some people because not everyone reads about the changes daily. Without looking it up on goggle or ?, asnswer me this, “Who is responsible for the internet in Canada?”
“Who is responsible for the internet in Canada?” Can you be more specific? For maintaining? policing?
Jim: Your Pollyanna Effect is also known as Whistling in the Dark, which might be a more accurate description as it references fear, the basis for applied ignorance. Who wants to think about the monsters that lurk out there or face them.
Jim: a quick word on citizen groups and neighbourhood associations. A society was organized to raise funds for the Port Theatre. The Port Authority got involved as did the City and it was transferred to the City as a publicly owned asset. It’s run today by a membership based non-profit organization which elects a board of directors that oversees its management. I can tell you from personal experience that it is a very well run facility. It operates with a relatively small subsidy paid for by Nanaimo taxpayers. In my opinion it returns much value to the community from this investment. For one thing it positions Nanaimo as the centre of cultural and intellectual life (as does VIU) of the Central Island, important elements in individuals or employers decision to move here…
The Conference Centre as we all know was entirely an initiative of City Hall. It is operated under contract by a professional firm and its operating deficit is made up by the infusion of city taxpayer funds. I find this entirely unacceptable. Unless of course I could think up a business that no matter how badly run it was or how top heavy with pricey management it was, its shortfall would be made up by tax dollars… hey a guy could get rich!
Neighbourhood associations do offer some potential I think for participating in the public life of the city… The South End group strike me as particularly inclusive and proactive. These associations are not all activist certainly but they have public meetings and AGMs allowing people to do committee work or run for the board of directors.
Frank, re: Port Theatre, I presume the relatively small subsidy is in the area of $110,000.00? Plus I presume the society is not paying taxes which would be due the city if this were a commercial venture?
The coming weeks list the Canadian Tenors show at $99 per ticket and some magic show at $20 per ticket. The Tenors could gross $79,200 for one show and the magic show could gross $16,000 for the one show.
Of that gross revenue how much of the money leaves the city of Nanaimo, never to be seen again?
In fact of the 250 annual shows attended by 100,000 customers, how much of the millions paid for entertainment simply leaves Nanaimo all together? Making it a net drain on the economy?
Unless the society running the Theatre is truly unique, I would be surprised if there is not at least $110,000 worth of fat which could be cut if there was the political will to do so, and the Theatre would still keep rolling along. Their website says they have over 100,000 customers per year, I doubt if another $1 per cutomer per year would close the theatre, it would eliminate the cost to taxpayers though.
It is the notion that $110,000.00 expenses are relatively ‘small’ that has lead to the ever increasing tax burden on the average taxpayer. A burden which is going to continue to grow at several percentage points every year for as far into the future as you can see.
Next Monday city staff is recommending council approve $10,000 to help the local kayak club with travel expenses. Another relatively small amount.
No one seems to notice that these small amounts when added together, begin to make a considerable amount.
Ready for another 5% tax increase next year?
Jim, $10.000 for travel expenses of the local kayak club….. would you believe $900.00…………?
The City has a contingency account for amateur sports, cultural groups and individuals to travel out of province to Regional, National or International Championships. The current policy provides $100.00 per person to a maximum of $2000.00 per application, first-come, first-served till the funds run out. The Nanaimo Canoe & Kayak Club did meet all the grant requirements and represented Nanaimo very well indeed at the Western Canadian Championships for Sprint Canoeing and Kayaking held in Calgary last month!
Great to hear from you here Councillor!
Councilor Pattje: My mistake,I got my numbers mixed up. I read the agenda and the $9900 for the 7-10 club got assigned to the Kayak club in my short memory.
Is the approx. $110,000.00 all the Port Theatre costs the taxpayers of Nanaimo?
I hope this is a welcome break from the policy of councilors remaining mute on forums and in the papers?
Jim, subsidy to the arts is a positive, productive investment for the community’s greater good. Here’s Western Edge Theatre’s Frank Moher’s video note to MLA Ron Cantelon —
And the second note:
The Ports Theatre is a gem and worth the investment. A healthy good community has balance in economy, cultural and recreational resources and a social net. We are lucky enough to have all those and, yes, all of them are underfunded. That can be solved by infusing more ‘taxpayer’ money but very time Council tries to raise even one additional penny there is a focused public (very few!!) scream yet the same public ‘scream’ attacks City Council when their project is not funded. Be fair to our Council members. They work harder than most of us. I have not heard anyone talk about the many many hours, weekends and evenings they put in for very few dollars and mostly only take abuse for it. Work itout on a per hour $$ and they likely are below miminmum wage.
THe ward system???…. there is no perfect system. One advantage to the ward system is it makes it easier for a competent person to run for Council. Other than have to convince the entire City they should be elected, they can focus on the ward. One big disadvantage (I lived in a community for years with WARD system) vote trading is even more prevalent. A councillor will vote in favour of something to support the other councillor in their ward as it means little to them. In turn they gain the vote of the ‘other’ for something they want supported in their Ward.
Jim, the notion of a city only producing products, cultural or otherwise, that capture all revenues and profits, keeping them within the city boundaries is an interesting idea but I just don’t think it holds water. The Port Theatre like any activity in which money changes hands pays its costs and retains its surplus. Those funds stay here the same as those of Tom Harris’s auto companies that are surplus after its costs are paid. Mr Harris’s companies make more money certainly and don’t go to City Hall hat in hand to ask for help with a small deficit that pays salaries and buys products and services from local firms. That’s where public funds enter the partnership that creates and supports the arts.
An extension of this line of reasoning — keep the monies within the city — would promote the idea that local firms regardless of cost or competency should be given preference when City Hall tenders a contract for engineering or construction work…
Frank, I am not suggesting that ALL revenues stay in the city, that would be nonsense. Unless, all talent is home grown.
I am saying that perhaps the percentage LEAVING town could be reduced slightly and offset the cost to taxpayers. The modest subsidy of $100,000 could easily be born by either the customers or the performers.
Are the Port Society books open to the public? If so, where?
I don’t think you have convinced me that the 100,000 customers presently attending the Port Theatre, couldn’t kick in another buck a year, and eliminate the subsidy altogether.
Have you ever considered what % of the gate gross stays in Nanaimo?
You do realize that councilors receive funding if they are appointed to different boards?
Surely no one would argue that all of the performers who use the Port Theatre are anything more then entertainment, the likes of which is available on the telly for nothing.
Yes I certainly do know that and am very aware they get paid for at least some of it. Just more hours and more time.
If you want to equate the television to live arts, I for one will take a VERY STRONG disagreement with you. Of course you are entitled to your opinion and that is ALL IT IS. I guess the Ports will not be counting on you as a customer. The Ports already collects $1.00 per ticklet to help sustain the theatre. About the only thing I wlll agree with you on in all your writings is that it could be $2.00 per ticket and likely would not affect attendance. The Port theatre employs a number local people full time, buys goods and services locally, infuses money into the local economy provides significant volunteer opportunities and is important to this community.
Wally, I think you misunderstood the reference to television. My point is that not ALL of the performers who use the Port Theatre qualify as anything more than entertainers of the calibre commonly seen on television.
The Port Theatre can and has had me as a customer. I will attend events which suit my taste, and whether or not the taxpayers are subsidizing my ticket by $1 would not make the difference. If I am going to shell out $99 to listen to the Canadian Tenors, I am hardly staying away if the ticket is $100. Who would?
Jim, you’d be aware of course that the fare on the telly is anything but free. Nothin’s for nothin’. The advertising revenues that support the “free” model are paid by you and I every time we buy groceries or gasoline. Then there’s what we pay Shaw or Rogers. And then we get to the taxpayer subsidy to the CBC. And you could probably quantify the monopoly status given to some of the big players by the CRTC.
So we probably agree to disagree on this one, but what about the Conference Centre. I don’t think a strong case can be made for its subsidy but maybe someone would like to give it go (?)
The reference to the telly, was referring to the ‘cultural’ value of some of the offerings at the Port Theatre.
Wally seems to agree that a minor increase in ticket prices would make no difference to attendance.
I would seriously doubt if the organization running the Port Theatre couldn’t find an offsetting amount to remove the subsidy from the local taxpayer, if there was the will to do so, without putting the Theatre in jeopardy whatever.
This is an example of why taxes will NEVER go down. Everyone is in favour of lower taxes unless of course it affects their pet project.
As for the VICC you could argue it adds far more to the local economy than the Theatre does. Theoretically, every cent the convention centre brings to town, comes TO town and therefore every penny would be a net gain to the community.
The other side of the argument, is whether or not many of the events at the VICC could not just as easily been accommodated by facilities already in the city? Clearly the present hotels and motels are able to handle the increase in traffic.
The entertainers at the Ports all stay at hotels including their bus drivers, crews etc, eat here, spend money here and add to the local ecomony. I know of many people from outside Nanaimo that attend events at the Port theatre, spend money while in town, frequent our restarants. Dd you forget about all the spinoff effects? That goes for any venue in town including sports events. I don’t see anyone arguing with local sports events. Why are you picking on the Arts? Pick on everything equally or don’t pick on anything at all!
I’m NOT picking on the arts, I am simply making the case that the Theatre is quite capable of standing on it’s own.
Geeezzzz I just went back and read the start of this thread …. how did we go so far into the ditch on this one???
It is a good example, though of how we can all just ramble on and on and on and NEVER come to a conclusion about anything!
We never did decide what the actual role of city council should be.
It’s little wonder 77% don’t bother to vote, the whole thing just gets so damned confusing, none of us know what the real problem is anyway!!! The only thing we agree on, is that there is a problem.
Point taken Jim, but don’t forget you can take one of these tributaries (tangents) and write your own post for others to comment on… Others can set that up too if they want… just get in touch and we’ll help set it up. Might help organize some of these topics.
A solution was offered about the 23% of voters and how talking to others and each voter convincing one more to vote, would drastically change the percentage of voters, yet nobody has jumped on and supported the idea. Why? Is it because to bitch and complain is OK, but to support and go out and do something is a different matter? Get off your butt and convince one person each and everyone of you and convince every voter to do the same.
George, if you are going to get more people ‘interested’ in the process, there has to be something to get interested about.
During the last municipal election, there was precious little choice among ALL the candidates that were running for council. There was NO defining issue to set one candidate aside from another.
A friend of mine who is a LONG TIME political animal who has always voted and always been involved with the process, as a protest last election, voted for the candidates least likely to win as there was no acceptable choices among the usual crowd.
There was no great differences in what ANY of the candidates claimed to stand for during the last election. In the end, the ones with the deepest pockets carried the day. Some spending incredible amounts on their campaigns.
A mystery to me last election, was why Korpan got so soundly defeated, while most of the same old gang got re-elected. They are the same ones that have supported spending, spending and more spending.
They are the ones who have seen sweetheart deals signed with city staff which allowed Berry to walk with half a million for doing nothing. They supported the conference centre etc.
If you are going to get people interested there has to be candidates who actually STAND for something different other than the status quo.
In a nutshell here is the choice candidates give the electorate:
“Vote for me and I will increase your taxes and spend it on my pet projects”
If I don’t give a rip, for anyone’s pet projects, and no one is offering to hold the line, or God forbid, reduce taxes. What kind of a choice do I really have anyway??
Jim, why don’t YOU run for Council? I guess that way we will get everything fixed for nothing and lower taxes. .
I recognize sarcasm when I hears it! :^)
You obviously think that the level of taxation is needed in order to keep everything running as it is. You obviously think that all those $100,000 + jobs are needed at city hall. That those gold plated pensions and severance packages are a good use of tax dollars. You have no issue with over 60% of property taxes going on nothing more than wages!
Tell me, do you or someone you know work for the city??
It would take at least five people on council, with the same approach to governing to actually change anything.
Since five people on this forum can’t agree as to the function of city council, it is most unlikely you could get agreement on how to control taxes.
Don’t worry though. Sooner or later our generation will all be dead, and we can hand off this huge mess to the next generation. You know, the one we have indebted without their consent.
For your information, I am private sector and own my own business. I do not work for the City and never have worked for any City anywhere in Canada.
Our underfunded failing infrastructure (Johnson Street Bridge in Victoria is a good example that is nowgoing to require the City to spend $50.0 millon or more they cannot afford as it was never funded for repair and replacement. They have now been told fix, replace it or close it in maximum two years. Welcome to hundreds if not thousands of examples across CAnada.) These, among other things are backrupting our Cities, Towns, Villages, Districts, Townships virtually all our 4000 municipalities in Canada. This is a problem from BC to Newfoundland. This results from rapid underfunded expansion in the late 40’s, 50’s and early 60’s that we find ourselves paying for today. That, added to our social needs and a cultural and economic balance is clearly not going to see taxes go down. I am sure there are $$ that could be spent better but it seems we are discussing about 0.01% of the expenditures. Yes, of course, taxpayers $$ should not be wasted.
If there has been such massive underfunding, how did we manage to rack up a $500 Billion Dollar Debt? A debt which sucks how much out of the economy just to service? It used to be in the area of 25% of every tax dollar just paid interest.
0.01% ?? Salaries and benefits to city staff accounts for over 60% of the total tax revenue. Bringing civic wages and benefits in line would account for much more than 0.01%.
It is the BIGGEST item in the budget and it NEVER gets discussed by council at budget time. Why??
Because city staff are really the ones who run things, and when asked for ways to save money, are highly unlikely to suggest a 10% rollback of city staff wages.
Can you imagine in the private sector filling a $200,000 + a year position without any competition for the job? It happens at city hall.
Can you imagine in the private sector someone wishing to take early retirement and being allowed to do so with 2 years full wage for doing nothing?
Where do you see the REAL wealth coming from to finance this failing infrastructure? For example in the city of Nanaimo, how many more tax increases do you think can be supported by low paying hospitality and retail jobs?
How attractive will Nanaimo remain to be to retirees, if city taxes just keep going up and up? Parksville, Qualicum are retirement meccas as well.
Unless something changes, you can expect a 20 – 25% tax increase over the next five years.
Maybe that will not bother you or the well paid civil employees, however there are a whole lot of pensioners, retail workers and people on welfare, that are on the edge now.
Some of Nanaimo’s underfunding would be $100,000,000.00 less if those running the show hadn’t built the VICC. Which will take how many years to pay for? How many here will see that mortgage burning?
We, that is this generation, have had one hell of a party, and have run up one hell of a tab, which we have neither the will nor the means to pay for.
I repeat, from the original post:
“The central issue to me is that structurally – unlike the senior levels of government — there’s no inherent opposition function. So like minded people get together in private and reinforce the principles that they honestly feel leave them above reproach: we’re good folks with good intentions so clearly anyone opposing us is unreasonable. We get together often to test these principles among ourselves.”
Good government doesn’t happen in private and secret. More interests have to be represented at the decision making table so we can build the best possible place to live.
Yes, we have problems with our governments. If people want it fixed they have to get involved with making the decision on who to vote for and get out and vote. Saying there is nobody to vote for or they don’t know the issues is a weak excuse and not a reason.
Frank, you stated earlier, “During the last municipal election, there was precious little choice among ALL the candidates that were running for council.” There were a great number of choices, albeit some new unknown blood, but instead the locals that got off their butts stayed with the safe people and did not elect some new blood. I do not catogorize Johnstone, Pattje or Kipp as new blood (very public people, one involved with the arts, one run but not elected before and one repeat candidate), but am thinking of Mark MacDonald, Ted Greves, Jack Arnonld and Bill Forbes and even Mark Sadhra.
You are right about questioning why the Mayor was replaced but not a single incumbent was replaced. Jim Morrison said it best, ” People are Strange.” I would have rather seen 5 or 6 new councilors and the same Mayor elected but I only had one vote.
I am not in favour of the also rans such as Fuller, Little, Bolin, Brunie, Lander and McGuffie and as much as I would never want Iwaskow or Negrin elected, they do bring out some voters who probably would have never exercised their right.
I did however discuss the election with many people and feel that my discussions resulted in at least 4 more people voting that would normally not had done so.
OOPS, That should have been JIM TAYLOR, not Frank in regards to the QUOTE above.
Agreed Frank…lets get back to how do we get the voters out. There are a lot of very jaded arguments being presented that are off topic.
So, how do we get voters out outside of focus groups such as unions?
Wally, what as a ‘jaded’ voter would you say to me that would convince me you have anything to offer that is not already being offered? In other words, what makes you any different than anyone else wanting to get elected?
What is your vision for the future of Nanaimo? How are you going to employ the young people so they can live and work here and raise families?
Getting people out to vote involves issues and organizations as has been repeatedly pointed out, if obliquely, in these discussions. References to the “unions” or to “business interests” points to organization while the constant discussion of taxes and city expenses points to general issues in which all seem to be interested. It would seem to me then that an organization which focused on tax and spend issues, a ratepayers association might provide the grit around which a pearl could be grown.
It would take someone less “fringy” than I to serve as the focus for such an organization, but I would certainly be willing to help the right cause. Any ideas about who might be capable of building an organization which could galvanize public interest in Nanaimo elections and how they might go about it?
PS: I too like the ward system idea but it would take a bylaw at Council to make it happen. Want to bet on the odds??
No fears Jim, you will not see me running for Council so I don’t have to convince you of anything.
Basck to the topic. How do we improve the vote turnout.
Wally, I was not so much asking you to actually run, but looking for your suggestions as to what ‘planks’ might build a platform with enough solid ideas to stimulate voter interest in the next election.
Two extremes might be to campaign on the pledge to roll back city taxes, or perhaps make a pledge to spend $20 million to promote the convention business since we have so much invested in it now.
We had the ward system in Nanaimo and most did not like it. As pointed out earlier it resulted in council members voting not because they were actually in favour of something, but if they voted yes they in return got a yes for their pet project.
Personally I feel that Nanaimo is not big enough for wards and feel that dividing the city with political parties (associations or whatever word you want to use) could mean that we would turn into a north/south division and that would not be good for any of us. Elect a council and they can easily cover issues from Woodgrove to Cinnabar and Protection Island to East Wellington (which is actually on the west side of Nanaimo, but that is another story).
Regarding Ratepayers association, it is my opinion that any candidate running without the rights of taxpayers and their obligations first most in their mind would be a candidate NOT to vote for. Taxpayers are running out of money. Reduce the overhead and spend our money properly and get elected and re-elected. I would be suspicious of any group claiming superiority of their commitment to ratepayers.
Frank referred to the relatively small subsidy the Theatre gets from the city. I wrongly presumed it was only (only!) $110,000.00.
Surprisingly, Frank did not correct my error as the subsidy to the Theatre is actually over $550,000.00.
When did half a million a year become a relatively small subsidy?
Jim, I thought it was more than $110,000 and was trying to find the right number. I still support it. A couple of points not covered earlier: the RDN contributes funds too to the theatre as its regional role is recognized. An operating subsidy lets the theatre bring in performances that would otherwise skip the smaller marketplaces. For example the recent National Ballet performance. I think this is a good and proper use of public monies.
The basic conversation we should be having here I guess is to what extent public monies should participate in the greater economy.
Does your view align with that of Gary Korpan’s in this mornings DN:
Frank, the real question is whether or not the people who actually want to see the performances need to ask the general taxpayer to help buy their ticket. I am not convinced we do, as there are not too many welfare cases lining up to buy tickets.
Rough figures to offset $500,000 would be another $5 per ticket based on 100,000 customers.
I think the average customer at the Port Theatre is well able to pay another $5 to see a show. Can they buy an alcoholic beverage there? We aren’t subsidizing the cost of booze too are we?
As for agreeing with Gary Korpan, I don’t know enough about the inner workings of Western Edge Theatre, I do post all there performances on my blog to help get the people out. I have no idea how many performances he puts on in a year, nor how many people attend, nor what his gate receipts are.
I am a little vague here, but didn’t the taxpayers buy the old church on Victoria Rd. to help support fledgling arts groups? Does Frank take advantage of that opportunity?
As to what extent public monies participate in the economy, what do you think would happen if Ottawa and Victoria were limited to only the public monies they could raise from this generation of taxpayers. In other words, without spending money our grand kids haven’t even made yet!
Do you think that another 25% tax increase over the next 5 years is sustainable? If so, how? If not, how can it be avoided?
Jim, further to my last comment: imagine how different our cities would be if we individually paid the true cost of driving our automobiles. Full disclosure: I’m very fond of the internal combustion engine and think the car is a wonderful invention. I don’t drive much though — I live downtown and can walk most places I need to go. But the amount I contribute to the perhaps incalculable cost of the infrastructure that allows us to drive is not calculated based on the amount of the infrastructure I use. Can we imagine an economic system where true costs of transportation systems were born by users? It would include cultural infrastructure as well of course.
Take a look at the cost of the new Bowen realignment and bridge at Quarterway that doesn’t include any kind of dedicated transit enhancement. These kinds of car oriented investments that lead to sprawl and unhealthy unsustainable cities make less sense every day. Seems to me…
Frank, you are not addressing the simple question of whether or not the people forking out $50 for a ticket need me to kick in another $5?
As for the cost of the infrastructure, it has already been paid for. What we are talking about is whether or not a tweak here and a tweak there would eliminate the need for a half million subsidy at the Theatre.
I think private enterprise could find a way of turning a profit there without much of a problem.
As to the cost of driving….. have you checked the tax collected at the pump lately?
The Quarterway realignment, is simply another matter of the level of competence demonstrated in the planning dept.
Jim, the general area I’d ask you to consider could be filed under the “knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing” category. Not meant to be incendiary but I can’t find a better way of expressing it.
You clearly care a great deal about these issues and have given them a great deal of thought. In framing your opinions though you leave meagre territory for anyone with a different viewpoint to inhabit: for instance an apocalyptic land where people have callous disregard for their grandkids is available…
Value not cost is the core issue, seems to me. Are we making the right kinds of decisions about where we spend and invest public funds? A 25% increase in municipal taxes that contributed to a better healthier city for all would be widely welcomed I imagine. Is the current system likely to produce that value? That’s the politics part isn’t it and why we should keep trying to find ways to have a positive impact on the decision making process.
With specific regard the Port Theatre subsidy; you seem to believe that the whole thing would cease to exist without a half million dollars from the taxpayer. Yet offer no support for that claim.
This has nothing to do with cost vs value, it is a simple matter of the organization running things being helped to manage their affairs in such a manner as to eliminate the subsidy.
As for the 25% tax increase, it is coming whether you like it or not.
And the five bucks paid at the theatre to cover overhead relates to 23% of the population voting in which way?
George, the only thing this thread demonstrates is the difficulty you will have finding agreement when it comes to spending tax dollars.
Which would have to almost be fundamental if you hope to form any kind of group which could present a ‘platform’ to excite and motivate voters.
Jim, read my lips, I do not want any kind of group representing a platform to excite and motivate voters for the reasons I have stated above.
George, then the status quo it is. The organized business group gets their vote out, the unions get their vote out and they will always carry the day in Nanaimo.