What’s up at Monday’s Meeting of the COW?
Ron Bolin: Dec. 7, 2012
This is the last COW meeting scheduled to be held in the Shaw Auditorium instead of a small board room in the New Annex and the last which is scheduled to be made available to the public on video. At his meeting comes the opening salvo of the 2013 budget in a presentation of the 2013 to 2017 financial plan by our Director of Finance. No hint of what this presentation will reveal is contained in the agenda, but it should be of considerable interest given that it should cover the $11+ million dollar shortfall which has been associated with the Asset Management Study and the reported $7 million dollars which has been estimated for the removal of the middle and lower dams at Colliery Dam Park. $18 million amounts to an about 22.5% increase in property taxation if they were to be collected in a single year. Of course this will not happen and we will kick even more debt down the road, along with the $65 million for our new water filtration system, about the same amount for the new water supply system, $16 million for the new annex, etc., with further borrowing and with reductions in our savings as well as tax increases. In for a penny, in for a pound as they say.
The agenda for the Cow meeting of Monday, Dec. 7, can be found at:
Other highlights of the agenda include the approval of:
- Award of a sole source contract for the maintenance of the City’s Business Management Software for $269,500.25. Some $78,000 of this is for maintenance of a Budget Planning Module that was added in 2012. We will see how this addition has helped the budget process;
- Notice that the impact of all 2010, 2011 & 2012 assessment adjustment received in 2012 is to decrease gross taxation by $256,402.47, which includes a decrease in the municipal portion of $154,801.06. (A decrease in gross taxation does not indicate a reduction in costs, i.e. this money must be made up elsewhere.);
- Award of $256.651.73 for more work on the Green Lake sewer system in addition to the $3+ million originally allotted as a result of some blasting problems in the original work: recommended for sole sourcing;
- Expenditure of $10,275 for the first batch of 2013 Sport Tournament grants;
- Expenditure of a one-time increase to the Sport Tournament grant fund of $5000 to support the Nanaimo Clippers Western Canada Cup Tournament;
- Expenditure of $4000 for a Community Program Development Grant Application submitted by the Cedar 4-H Sr. Advisory Council.
This is the last COW meeting scheduled to be captured on video for display on the City’s web site where those who cannot attend meetings in a crowded board room at 4:30 in the afternoon can see their Council serve unless action is taken. It needs only a glance to seen that what is discussed and approved in the COW meetings in of the greatest importance to citizens and taxpayers. Without the video record, minutes which appear some weeks after the meeting, are a very poor substitute. For example the matter of the dams in Colliery Dam Park appeared in the agenda at which the matter was introduced (Oct. 29) as:
“(b) Ms. Susan Clift, Director of Engineering & Public Works and Mr. Bill Sims, Manager of Water Resources to provide a presentation regarding the Colliery Dams.”
The minutes of that meeting noted that:
“(b) Ms. Susan Clift, Director of Engineering & Public Works and Mr. Bill Sims, Manager of Water Resources provided a PowerPoint presentation regarding the removal and naturalization of the Lower and Middle Colliery Dams and advised of public open houses to be held on November 5 and 8, 2012.”
Without the video, this was the entire record of this very important issue. It is difficult to imagine anything less transparent and frankly, less honest, than this paper record.
If you think that citizens and taxpayers are owed more by our Council and our Staff, call or email your Council to demand that the video record be maintained:
Email: email@example.com or
Tel: 250-754-4251 at City Hall and ask that your message be passed on to Council.
I have not had an answer to an email sent to Council in more than a year. They dont even send the acknowledgement of receipt anymore.
Has anyone seen anything from the communications officer?
I think most council members don’t respond to public queries. No wonder voters feel that there is no point in voting! The manner in which some of the public is treated at meetings is shameful. We are admonished like little children ,to be on our best behavior,while his Worship is consistent in his interruption of delegations. This council has forgotten that the taxpayers pay their salaries, and are accountable to us!
Cathy, they know they only have to please the 10 – 14% who vote for them every three years, in the meantime they can freely smile and nod and occasionally snipe to their hearts content, and there is nothing to be done about it, providing 73% of the population can’t get off their butts and participate.
When was the last time you saw any changes come as a result of public input? When was the last time a question raised in question period was reported in the press? There are very few of us who care enough to even watch. As for watching council meetings, for the most part there is always something better on the telly.
Ask 10 random people what they think about the dams, and see how informed they are.
The real issue is not self-important, job creating bureaucrats, or unskilled councillors. it is the totally self indulgent, apathetic public that is the real problem.
To true Jim! What is to be done?
Solve that riddle and you win the prize! Of course the downside of waking up enough people, is you then can wind up with mob rule, and that’s not a good thing either.
Take a look at yesterday’s story in the Daily News about the Chamber and its concern about the budget:
In the great Nanaimo political process, such as it is, there have traditionally been two active players: the Chamber on the one hand and the unions on the other. The rest of us, the great apathetic grass roots middle, keep our mouths shut and pay our property taxes. Now the Chamber is concerned, especially to see their proportion of the taxes reduced as was the industrial proportion, and the grass roots middle will be left to pay more. This should raise the level of financial discussion above the almost total silence of recent years. Maybe this will be the year of the grass roots rising. The money they are after is yours.
I wonder if Mr Delves will be so concerned of the budgets to the DNBIA , the Cruise ship Terminal, the Convention Centre, & the survey to detemine how much pollution lies below the streets of Nanaimo? all of which benefit business at the expence of the taxpayer??
As to the ‘apathetic grass roots” I am not sure which sword I wish to fall on.
On one hand we have Government in general; think Provincial promises not to sell BC Rail Nanaimo’s ignoring of the 7000 person petition against Cable Bay ….add your beef here! …
and it’s quite understandable why some do not vote.
Those that do vote or voice an opinion at Council can at least have the satisfaction of saying ” I told you so”.
Short of that we have little alternative than to start throwing bricks!!
How many of the 7000 signators to Cable Bay ever did anything but sign a petition? As I recall that petition was ‘successful’ was it not? Didn’t Cable Bay have to resort to plan ‘B’?
How many of the 7000 ever attend a council meeting? Write their councillor? Pay attention to local issues, outside their own little cocoon?
There is no excuse, for not staying constantly informed and engaged in the process, if you choose otherwise, you ARE the problem.
Saying: “what’s the point in casting an informed vote”, is a gross dereliction of civic duty, and anyone who does, needs to hang their heads in shame. The most important part of a healthy, functioning democracy is the BY the people,part and when we let 10% of the electorate decide who makes the rules, we are failing as a society. Any doubts? Just look around.
Whew………….. should have taken my meds this morning. :^)
It is no accident that the new annex looms over City Hall like an alien spacecraft about to devour our democratic ideals.
Stop the whining and do something.
Demand an end to the use of sole source contract awards.
Demand an end to the use of design build contracts.
Demand an end to In-Camera meetings.
Demand an end to secrecy.
Demand enforcement of conflict of interest rules.
Change the rules that allow non-residents to hold elected office.
Do your own forensic analysis.
Demand release of documentation.
Demand documentation where none exists.
Make a difference.
Educate Councillors where knowledge is lacking.
For example, if each Councillor is able to review staff proposals with their own volunteer research experts in the fields of municipal law, engineering, planning and finance we would quickly see accurate staff reports along with a lot of other changes in the bloated self serving bureaucracy that has become our inheritance.
We need to thank Ron for his tireless reporting on all of these matters, and we need to do something more than whining.
How many of the 7000 signators to Cable Bay ever did anything but sign a petition?
The answer is ; lots of us.
I find it incredulous that you minimize the effort whilst condeming the inaction of Nanaimo residents.
The demise of CB has certainly saved Nanaimo tax payers $millions in infrastucture costs.
My point ,still is, when action is taken Council and or other Governmental departments still finds ways to circumvate the process to it’s own agenda.
This is why many people do not vote!!
How to get their, Councils, attention?
You tell me ; there was no answer to my bricks comment!
We are not even allowed to clap,never mind throw bricks! Many people in Nanaimo do care a lot! Those who are brave enough to stand up and speak up, are ridiculed and relegated to nuisance, or pest status. The Mayor is arrogant, and autocratic, and some of the members of council are totally rude, whispering among themselves while delegates are speaking. When large petitions are presented ,they are ignored. I wonder if staff knew there was rumbling about the ‘conflict of interest issue, and circumvented our recourse by delaying the “legal” opinion. Somebody sure jumped on Bill Bestwick about the sign issue and peppered him all over the Nanaimo newspapers.. We seem to have a better editor at the Daily News. In my opinion, the press should have been all over this conflict of Interest issue, as they did with with Mr Bestwick.
“How many of the 7000 signators to Cable Bay ever did anything but sign a petition?
The answer is ; lots of us.
I find it incredulous that you minimize the effort whilst condeming the inaction of Nanaimo residents.”
At nearly ANY council meeting or ANY COW meeting or ANY committee meeting I have never seen any of those 7,000. Did they support the $80 million for a water plant? The $16 million for an Annex? The $10 million to remove Collery Dams? The seismic policy staff and council are pushing which will cost untold millions to support at best a questionable policy. Tax giveaways for new hotels and pubs in train stations…………. it’s a long list.
Tell, me again, what the 7,000 are doing????
“My point ,still is, when action is taken Council and or other Governmental departments still finds ways to circumvate the process to it’s own agenda.”
That is only because the action is not sustained beyond the petition, the one delegation to council, the one or two letters to the editor, a few emails to councilors……………
A war will never be won if only half-hearted skirmishes are engaged in and then we just move along to the next bitch session.
Unless there is an organized, funded, group that can come together and focus on much more than one issue, nothing is going to change. They will have to be able to fund the message as the press is pretty much useless, craft messages that capture the imagination of more than just the few. That is the ONLY way you can make council and staff listen.
You have to be able to fund court challenges when necessary……………. petitions, delegations, letters, blogs…………. won’t change a thing.
Staff and council know, all they have to do is smile and nod, listen politely and then do as they please, because they know they can, because there has never been sustained opposition.
Every now and then along comes an issue, cb, low barrier housing, pioneer park, colliery dam etc. which can galvanize a group that will mount a half baked offensive for the single issue, and when that issue is done………………. they simply disappear.
That “organized, funded, group that can come together and focus on much more than one issue” is known as a political party and until we have one, nothing much will change as pressure for change will remain diffuse and be easily defeated. There has to be something that can organize and fund the advancement of the rest of us, i.e. those not members of either the chamber or the unions, nor necessarily against either, but seeking a middle way. There has been a distaste for political parties in Nanaimo that is greatly promoted by those who like things the way they are -or is it the way they were…. the times are changing rapidly before our eyes. Perhaps it is time that we change too…
I think a ‘political’ party is perhaps the wrong approach given the polarized political scene in Nanaimo.
However, a ratepayers association could likely accomplish the same goals without appearing ‘political’ which in Nanaimo usually means pro-business or pro-labour, it seems there is no concept of being pro-taxpayer………
Of course finding someone with the ability, personality, expertise is a challenge I’m not sure Nanaimo is up to.
We need to galvanize the whole community Jim, you are right! People don’t seem to realize that there are issues, until they have one in their own backyard. The whole city is our backyard. We have to get past North/South issues and anything that divides us as a community. Consultants, engineering firms, and development companies are bleeding our city dry. They all have more money than the average Joe petitioner. I never went to council until I had my own issue, I knew nothing about the Community Charter until I had to deal with an injunction. Once I started attending, speaking, and learning, I bcame passionate about many issues.Passion is not enough! We need a thousand Jim Taylors, Gord Fullers and Ron Bolins. We need to find a way to fund an opposition to the nonsense that has been going on for years. It only costs $200.00 to file an injunction. Then you need to raise money for lawyers, as the city has a whole slew of them. It is a lot of work.
That dang train station really riles me. More than seven bucks for a beer, and they want people to play there for peanuts. It is a plaything for the Young Professionals who are the new Old Boys Club.
As for me, I got stopped by the police in my own neighborhood last week, and hassled again. I was not even carrying a guitar.,wasn’t drinking, and driving, just minding my own business.I have been stopped 20 times in the last 12 years and usually it happens after I have been to a council meeting. I am very distressed, not feeling much like standing up anymore. Could be coincidence but there have been far too many.Makes it pretty hard . I think I am going to need meds soon myself. Keep up the good work folks!
Jim: You can call it what you like, but a group organized for political action is a political party. It vets candidates, it raises money for elections, it provides advisory services to its representatives as well as guidance. It has a life between elections and it is permitted to have a logo on the election ballots. The term “party” may have an odor about it, but it is the odor of possible success.
I guess, I did not see a ratepayers association having any particular interest in endorsing and electing candidates, but rather becoming an overseer with teeth to keep local elected and non-elected leaders more accountable.
Of course, I am also putting out milk and cookies on Dec. 24th.
I think a ‘political’ party is perhaps the wrong approach given the polarized political scene in Nanaimo.
This is a hard call.
I like your idea of a non political approach as party politics tend to be more idealogical than issue based.
Political Party’s are obsessed with following ideology rather than their nose.
On how to get Councils attention..
How about distrupting a meeting or two; shutting it down?
“On how to get Councils attention..”
That is not the right question, it should be “Oh how to get the electorate’s attention?”.
Good luck with that Trailblazer. A couple of years ago six police officers were called to the Conference centre by Jerry Berry. Even more years ago, when the Nob Hill folks marched on Council chambers, Gary Korpan called the police. Nob Hill neighbors protested with big signs, and flooded the council chambers over the placement of The New Hope Centre being built on the corner of Albert and Prideaux Streets. That battle was won. Perhaps others can be as well.
One wonders what an audit would uncover on those two?
During the budget discussion phase, citizens are free to appear as unscheduled delegated and address issues in the financial plan.
They can appear at regular and COW meetings of council without filing as a delegate provided they address the budget.
Since almost every ‘issue’ can be addressed in the budget, the next months offer a perfect opportunity to not only get council and city staff’s attention but also be included in the Shaw broadcast, and maybe the local ‘mainstream’ media might actually begin reporting on what is going on.
Meetings can be disrupted in a non-militant fashion if, say, 200 taxpayers show up every council meeting and address the budget. The podium could be occupied by taxpayers until 11:00 pm every meeting!
There should be no need, nor opportunity for police intervention, that kind of demonstration would/should yield better results if it were done in front of city hall, downtown, the Krall space etc.
I do believe there is more and more of an appetite in the public to tell council what they think, there is also an incredible ignorance of the political process.