Issues Addressed, Accepted, Dismissed -Last Council Meeting of 2012

Ron Bolin: Dec. 19, 2012

Monday’s Council meeting was the last of 2012 –and perhaps the last for eternity if some interpretations of the Maya prophecy are to be believed.  For myself, I fear that we will not get off so easily and that we will all be back in the hands of Council in the New Year.

However this turns out, as previously reported the agenda was packed… and so was the Shaw Auditorium.  Council made a number of housekeeping decisions and in addition, to their credit, made several policy related decisions which were good (which is code for I am in favour) and rejected one for reasons which in my opinion were not related to the merits of the question.

The meeting opened by Dr. Paul Hasselback, Medical Health Officer for VIHA with a presentation regarding our health profile.  In brief we remain a year behind both the Island and BC in life expectancy and the gap is slowly increasing.  By 2030 we are anticipated to see an increase of about 50% in people over 85 and 92% in people between the ages of 75-85 with all that this entails.  We continue to lose ground in education readiness and success when compared to the rest of VIHA and we remain poorer on all measures of economic wellbeing.  What is it that is leading to these recurrent conditions and what, if anything, can our municipality do about it?  The presentation, which does show progress in some areas, can be seen, along with the rest of the meeting, on the video recording at:

Fred Taylor raised questions regarding the acquisition of a portion of the CPR’s Wellcox land on the harbour, noting that the report presented little economic information about the costs associated with it.  This is an interesting acquisition which can be either a blessing or a curse.  It is to be hoped that our City administration has a plan beyond the Bus terminal, though that alone has significant merit.   Back in 2005 as part  of “ Nanaimo between Past and Future: Critical Perspectives on Growth, Planning and the New Nanaimo Centre”, a book written and published by FPN (the Friends of Plan Nanaimo), a conceptual plan for the Wellcox lands spearheaded by Bill Woldnik and Eric Ricker, was presented and is worthy of re-examination.  The book is available at the library.

There was absolutely no discussion of the Disposition of our old City Annex for $1 dollar, along with $40,000 in tax relief on the property to the new “owners”.  Owners is in quotes as set conditions must be met before the final transfer of the property.

Of particular interest to most of those who filled the Shaw Auditorium was the matter of reconsideration of the In-Camera decision to remove the amenity value of the lakes and their associated activities while removing the middle and lower Chase River dams in Colliery Dam Park.  While there has been no denial of the need to address the problems which the dams potentially represent, there has been a great deal of consternation about both the neglect of options for solving those problems and secrecy of a decision which had no perceivable need to be done in secret.  So much so, in fact, that in one of those rare Nanaimo events a group of citizens organized itself around the issue, called a meeting (which was attended by more than 500 citizens), got a sit-down with the City and project proponents, and convinced Council to re-examine its options –which was all that was requested.  Several professionals associated themselves with the group and excellent presentations were provided to Council on Monday.  To view these discussions go to “Community Services” in the agenda at 8:08 pm

Kudos to all who participated in this effort thus far and the team that has been its inspiration, and to those who will continue to see it through to its end.  This is a model of what citizens can do if they are aware and motivated.  The Pioneer Park folks similarly took united action and achieved their purpose.  With City wide awareness and participation, citizens could take our whole community back.

There were a number of Notices of Motion up for consideration, two primarily housekeeping, and two major policy level decisions.  A motion for a vote on a Core Review was defeated in a five to four vote with Councillors Kipp, Bestwick, Anderson and McKay on the losing side.  Unfortunately the level of discussion was too often at an exceedingly low level with several Councillors opining that since we are not immediately on the edge of a financial cliff, as were some others who have done core reviews, that we don’t need any independent advice on how to avoid that situation.  I trust that none of these folks have independent financial advisors. The daggers drawn among our Councillors on this subject were on display despite their efforts.

This issue keeps coming back as there has, to the best of my knowledge, never been an independent outside review of City efficiency and effectiveness and many continue to believe that there may be better ways to do many of the things that we do that that lead to continually rising taxes and fees and a presentment that with upcoming projects and imminent needs for infrastructure maintenance that this pattern will only get worse.  It is to be hoped that the Balanced Scorecard approach to program review will prove that we can evaluate ourselves effectively.  An introduction to this approach is due to be presented to COW on Jan. 21.  It should mesh with the Budget presentation at Council on Jan. 14, at which time the Asset Management Plan will also be laid out.  I await this presentation as the budget as currently presented shows no real signs of the enormity of the problems in this area which has been outlined previously.

Thankfully Councillor Pattje’s motion to continue COW meetings at the VICC and to continue to video record them for availability to citizens on the City’s web site passed unanimously.  Many, if not most, discussions of finance and policy take place in this venue despite the fact that these descriptors were removed from the Committee’s name and the possibility of public viewing by all is a requirement of modern democracy.

No more Council meetings until Jan. 14, but I suspect that there will continue to be a lively discussion of political affairs in Nanaimo in the meantime.