Blogs, Brennan and Bad Information
Ron Bolin: July 9, 2011
Re: Blogs not great for information, Diane Brennan, Daily News, July 8, 2011
Unfortunately it is not only blogs that are not great for information. A great deal of the problem with which blogs must cope is the same as that which the public must cope, and, I fear, all too often, City Council. Either that, or Council knows but is, even worse, not talking.
It is deplorable that a former Councillor like Ms. Brennan must, as must the rest of us, try to track down the information which has gone into important decisions at City Hall on her own. It is a mystery why all the information required is not fully manifest in transparent publically available documents which present an unambiguous case for the decision made. There are (or should be) complete, well-reasoned staff reports. There are (or should be) Council Minutes full of probing debate shining light on any ambiguities or missing information. There are (or should be) investigative newspaper reports which have independently probed questionable assumptions or assertions. There are (or should be) figures which demonstrate the costs and benefits of various options.
In the instance of the annex, for example, how much operating money is proposed to be saved by the new annex? Where is the guarantee that this design/build process will be limited to $16 million? Why was no bidding process followed? Why the urgency to get to the annex which came out of the blue, before getting to the water treatment plant which has been around for years? Where are the estimates that show the need for the approximately 20% more space than the old annex? How much will the new facility increase work efficiency? How do we explain the purchase of the seismically challenged building in 1999? If I am not mistaken, many of the same people involved in that purchase (minus the mysteriously missing Jerry Berry) are now recommending an expensive and opposite approach.
The problem is not entirely with the blogs. It is more with the availability of the kinds of information needed to make rational, if not always agreeable, decisions. In decision making, missing information, matched with the distrust which is thereby bred, makes for very poor governance.
I’m not really sure why you must beat this dead horse with a big stick but I have and will again point out that this building was tendered publically. In this sort of process you go through a series of go/no go assessments and engineering reports.
Once again, you fail to recognize that in that time frame listed the codes have changed dramatically from 1999 and are far more conservative then they once were.
I’m not part of the new project as I’m up north in the washout country working and I’m not supporting the increase in value to $16M (just because they want to) but the building as it stands is dangerous and if we do in fact have a shaker I still think it would be very important to have a command central for the city to coordinate repairs and emergency response – something they will not be able to do with the existing facility.
It all, like most things these days comes down to risk and what you are prepared to live with or live without.
Again, just my opinion.
Wyatt: I must apologize if the objective of my letter was not clear. I did not mean to beat the dead horse of the annex (if it is indeed dead), but rather to rail against the lack of easily accessible public information which could at least provide me with a viable rationale for the decision made. It may have been a good one. But how is anyone to tell? Where is the data that anyone would expect from a good business plan? Can it be shown that the new building in some finite amount of time will adequately amortize the higher amount associated with building rather than renovating? I/we are expected to take this on faith. I prefer to stick with Ronald Reagan: “Trust but Verify!” Where is the verification? And speaking of risk, where is the risk assessment?
PS: I would not equate a request for information with a quote -and I do not believe that most contractor/developers would either.
PPS: If you read Ms. Brennan’s Daily News piece you will note that it has not added any facts to the case, but rather some unsupported assertions.
Ron, you make very good points. This is not yet a dead horse case because the replacement foal (foul?) has not been born.
There were substantial changes to the earthquake provisions in the building code in or about 1995 and again ten years later. I doubt very much whether the existing building met the 1995 standards – very few buildings in downtown Nanaimo do meet those standards. If the building as it stands is dangerous, it is far from the top of the list of dangerous buildings in this City.
The Annex is not being built as the Earthquake Command Centre. Why is this now being pushed as part of its raison d’etre.
No one has been killed in an earhquake in Canada since Confederation. Thousands of people have died in fires, in vehicle accidents, by drowning, at the hands of other human beings, etc. That does not mean that a killer quake will not happen on Vancouver Island but it could be ten years from now, hundreds of years from now … Also how this big earthquake would play out locally is a total unknown. I do not believe there is any geological record of a major previous earthquake with its epicentre at or near Nanaimo.
This is not about safety (City Hall, a safer building????) but about a shiny new building for professional staff AND A GULLIBLE SET OF COUNCILLORS.
Blaring music rings out all thought process.
It can be heard from here and there!
Grease lubricates a sarcophagus accustomed to slurp and toxins. Proud paddlers strut their expensive pouches shoulder-slung: obese, they paddle to make room for more.
The course is set. May whoever win: names called chests swell, soon forgotten.
Coming, another extravaganza: tubbers, who probably haven’t had a bath in weeks, will be doing it again.
In the mean time thirty million dollars worth of crabbing pier sits idle. There will no cruise ships ‘til September, and maybe not then, depending on the Dow.
A gigantic pile of crushed cars (that’s new) sits by where normally unfamiliarly flagged freighters load our natural heritage for foreign destinations!
Down channel even huger freighters load veneer and measly left over poles from our once great forests.
It’s called a FIRE economy! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_acwahNKjNU&NR=1
THE “GULLIBLE”, meanwhile, follow orders in tear down mode.
It will cost about 7 million to make the building earthquake proof (I’m rounding up to be fair).
This is money we have.
It will cost around 16 million to build a new building. That is 9 million more then we need to spend.
Of that 9 million we are borrowing 4 million.
If we didn’t build this building and put in the upgrades we would have five million dollars to put into the water treatment plant.
We would save paying interest on a 9 million dollar loan.
We don’t know how much that loan for 9 million will cost us because we are borrowing at a time when interest rates are sure to go up, and we don’t know how high those rates are going to be.
Given these numbers in this circumstance, anyone one who would support this project is a fool.
Wyatt …. public tender????? how do you figure. How many prices were compared to build this new office? Comparing the cost to rent from someone, or build a new one with a ‘yet to be seen’ contract is hardly a tender.
Qualified contractors bidding on the same building is a tender, not this joke!
Question for Dan, and anyone else advocating upgrading this building …… why are city staff valued above anyone else living and working in buildings that do not meet this code?? Also where does the $7 million come from, the only number I have heard was $4.2 to actually upgrade the building, and of course we have no way of knowing whether anyone actually submitted a REAL price for the upgrade,
Again, of course why apply this standard to this building and not all others in Nanaimo?? Are city staff valued above everyone else?
The number was 6 point something, and it came from the paper. I rounded up to make the math easier and to allow for the unforeseen. The money for the upgrade is already in the bank. If the actual cost of the upgrade is less then 7 million then my argument is only strengthened.
I’m not against making the work environment of city hall employees’ safer. Also, I would recommend these upgrades for all structures in Nanaimo with a similar degree of hazard. I think the city’s approach to this problem is sensible; as these buildings require significant renovation seismic upgrades are required. This allows the most of the cost of the upgrade to be covered by the budget of the renovation.
I have never seen an actual number supplied from a contractor, the number of 6.2 was a ball park number provided by the engineer that did the building assessment. Their guesstimate was 4.2 million for the upgrade, and 2 million to move staff in and out, and rent other facilities.
I have yet to see a REAL estimate on the cost to upgrade. Don’t expect to either, without a long drawn out FOI request.
There was reinforcing done on that building after the city bought it in the first place, so don’t know what kind of engineering was done back then, but it can’t be that long ago.
This whole deal simply smells, like staff just want a new office, and this complacent, ever sleeping council said “OK where do we sign?”.
BTW do you suppose that Nanaimo taxpayers in years gone by realized they were contributing $12 million to fund this building, being purchased without going to tender??
Something is simply ‘rotten in Denmark’.
I agree, something is rotten.
I think we should be objecting to the money that is to be borrowed to indulge city staff. And this new building is nothing more then an indulgence. I don’t think we should be objecting to increasing the safety of the work place for city staff.
For indulging city staff in this way, we should punish our politicians at the polls. I hope we can keep this issue hot until it is time to vote.