Last Night (Dec. 3, 2012) at City Council

Ron Bolin: Dec. 4, 2012

At last night’s Council meeting, among other things,  we were assured that NEDC has its act together and good things should be coming real soon; our environment targets were gutted;  we were informed that the referendum which was recently held regarding the lease of public property to private interests had a positive response and the leases were approved; the question of whether our mayor is in a conflict of interest was revealed but the answer  remains unknown;  an agreement for collaboration between the City and SD 68 was approved; the question of whether to spend over $800,000 on maintenance of the exterior of the theatre which Council purchased in 2008 for $465,000 was kicked down the road; and there will be another vote on whether the City should undertake a core review given a notice of motion from Councillor Kipp on the subject for the next meeting.

The meeting was chaired last night, in the absence of Mayor Ruttan, by Councillor Bestwick who performed well in keeping the meeting moving forward and on track showing considerable administrative skill, though perhaps unable under the circumstances to demonstrate a leadership style on the matters under discussion.

I will restrict my comments to some of these issues, reminding readers that a video of this meeting is available on line at:  http://www.nanaimo.ca/meetings/VideoPlayer/Index/C121203V for those who want to view the entire session.

Of significance for the City was the adoption of the City of Nanaimo Sustainability Action Plan (CSAP), the highlight of which seems to be to reduce the City’s greenhouse gas reduction target of 33% of 2007 levels by 2020 to a pitiful 3%, and from 80% by 2050 to 39%. CSAP is to be found in the Agenda for Monday’s meeting and is discussed on the video.  This seems like an awful lack of optimism for our environmental future.

I bet you didn’t even realize that you were taking part in a referendum on the use of land in our parks.  Up for lease was the use of the Centennial Museum in Piper Park.  This alternate use requires that a referendum be held to approve this change in use.  You didn’t hear about it as the referendum was held as an “Alternate Approval Process”.  An AAP is held silently (though notice is given) and is successful if fewer than 10% of registered voters sign petitions to stop the matter.  This is a very costly process for citizens to undertake but is very easy for the City.  AAP’s can be used to save the City the money it would take to hold a true referendum and for some innocuous matters can be a real saving for taxpayers.  However as there are no limits of the kinds of issues that can be brought forward in an AAP, they can also be silent killers.

A question from Gordon Fuller clarified the issue of conflict of interest on behalf of the Mayor in the matter of advancing $225,101.71 to the DNBIA for an environment study in the Terminal Avenue corridor.  Legal opinion found that the affirmative vote on this matter would stand regardless of any conflict of interest on the part of the Mayor who owns property in the corridor, as his was not a deciding vote.  The matter of the Mayor’s actual prosecution for a possible conflict of interest is moot until such time as a charge may be laid.

The matter of adding $800,000 in maintenance costs for the Nanaimo Centre Stage theatre which was acquired by the City for $465,000 in 2008 to the “soon come” Asset Management report which is to define how many millions of dollars Nanaimo is behind in funding infrastructure maintenance was kicked down the road to the big reveal of the Asset Management Report itself despite an alternate Staff proposal to sell the property.  This could make it an even worse example of City investing and resale than has been that of the old City Hall Annex.  Neither can be sold for anywhere near the amount that taxpayers, through their Council and Staff have invested in them, and in fact both probably have a net value of less than nothing.  Sad to say, none of the Arts and Cultural groups using the theatre showed up to discuss the matter.  Perhaps this is simply because, as usual, the agenda comes out too late to be useful in organizing any reasonable comment.

Councillor Kipp gave a notice of motion that he would be bringing forward a motion to undertake a core review of the City’s activities.  Such a motion was defeated when last proposed, but should bring forward some lively discussion, even though it comes too late to be of use in the 2013 budget.  Googling the term “core review” doesn’t bring much back though it does capture the core review that was recently completed for Prince George core review:

http://princegeorge.ca/cityhall/mayorcouncil/csr/pages/default.aspx

Take a look.  As I remember it the outside review of our contracted services completed earlier this year didn’t lead to much more that the acquisition of a few more staff.  I am more comfortable with the definitions of a Performance Audit or a Management Audit that can be downloaded from the internet which seem to have better defined criteria.

We will be interested in your observations on Council’s performance at Monday’s meeting and any recommendations you may have for our Staff or Council.

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