What’s Up at Council on Jan. 28 (VICC, 7pm) and What Happened at COW (VICC, Jan. 21, 4:30pm)

Ron Bolin: Jan.-25-13

It is important to understand that many, if not most, of the matters coming before Council really only impact one property owner, and perhaps the surrounding neighbours: i.e. such matters as parcel rezoning, development permits, property maintenance infractions, unresolved building deficiencies.  Others should command general taxpayer attention as they impact everyone: i.e. the budget and financial plan, bylaws and their amendments, special expenditures and grants, the zoning bylaw, Work plans and grants, the subdivision process, etc.

On Monday’s agenda both kinds of items are included.  As is usual I will only comment on those which I believe to be of general interest.

The first of these on the agenda is item 8(d), the approval of the 2013 Work Plan of the Nanaimo Community Heritage Commission.  Let me preface my comment here by noting that the work done by the Commission is of service to the community.  I comment only that the 2012 report seems to me to be remiss in not noting the names and addresses of those persons and those buildings which have received heritage grants for either heritage homes or heritage storefront renovations.

Item 8(e) deals with the process to be used for the review of Provincial Riparian Areas which may be of interest to those with direct or indirect interests in the many riparian (rivers, streams, ponds, etc.) in Nanaimo. Passed

Items 8(g & h) deals with the multitude of fines for various ticketed infractions in the City as well as the adjudication of bylaw tickets. Passed  It is proposed that these latter matters be removed from the courts and be taken up in a system whereby adjudication will take place in Nanaimo at a place and time to be designated approximately every six weeks.  This process is estimated to save considerable time and money as it brings these actions together rather than seeing them scattered across court dates which may require not only scattering the courts time but that of witnesses, legal counsel, etc.  This seems to me like an idea the time of which has come.  It has been used, apparently successfully, in North Vancouver, West Vancouver and the District of North Vancouver for some years.  Costs here may be further reduced as neighbouring jurisdictions have expressed interest in participating with us. Passed

Item 8(i) deals with the matter of the approval of a subdivision.  Subdivisions can be of major interest to all taxpayer because, despite the fact that the expenses within the subdivision are borne by the developer, related expenses are borne by general taxpayers who must provide the services to the new subdivision, i.e. water and sewer, police and fire services, garbage and related services, etc.  This may include not only local links at the boundary of the subdivision, but very costly upgrades like new dams or other forms of water capture and treatment, new police or fire halls, new garbage dumps, city service yards, etc.  While some of these costs are built into the DCCs (Development Cost Charges) charged on new home developments, they do not cover the full costs associated with development.  For example Nanaimo has in its current plans, probably some $150 million dollars or more in development related costs.  These chickens are, through the City’s Asset Management Plan, coming home to roost.

At this point the agenda moves to Section 9, Corporate Services.

Of particular interest is item 9(a): Delegations pertaining to the 2013-2017 Financial Plan.  This is the time when citizens are free, without pre-registration, to come before Council to present their comments, complaints, or better yet, recommendations regarding the Budget and Plan.  This is our chance to draw Council’s attention to money matters: how the City gets its money or how the City spends it, or ideas for enlarging the former or reducing the latter.

I must say that I find it amusing that this item is found in un-emphasised text which is easy to overlook unlike the other items in the agenda which are printed in bold and underlined.  I am sure that there is a reason for this.  I would find it hard to believe that it would be a good reason.  Many more suggestions for the budget are required.

Item 9(b) deals with some amendments to Bylaws 7000 and 7031.  These bylaw amendments:

“MANAGEMENT TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF EMPLOYMENT AMENDMENT BYLAW 2013 NO. 7000.03″ and “OFFICERS APPOINTMENT AND DELEGATION AMENDMENT BYLAW 2013 NO. 7031.01” deal primarily with housekeeping, but the matter is interesting as the report attached to the agenda, among other things reminds us of Provincial downloading, as it adds the new statutory holiday (Family Day) to make 12 statutory holidays annually.

It is also interesting to read the details in the contracts regarding the benefits provided for our City management appointments.  You can compare the benefits of your job to see how you and yours rate.

The report can be found on page 62 ff., along with the entire agenda package,at:

http://www.nanaimo.ca/UploadedFilesPath/Site_Structure/Corporate_Services/Corporate_Administration/2013_Council_Agendas/C130128A.pdf

Passed with relatively little discussion, tho not much to discuss about housekeeping items.

Item 9(c) deals with the 2013-2017 Financial Plan Bylaw and proposes that Council give the first three readings necessary to adopt this plan.  While final adoption is scheduled for May, I find difficulty in giving three readings to a budget and plan which has, as yet had very little discussion either at Council, at COW or from the public who will now, at least, be given the opportunity of a public hall forum on line in March.  While the City must have some budget guidance on which to operate until the final budget is passed, to use the entire document as a permissible guide seems to me to be overkill.  It should also be noted that though a plan is hard to put together, once accepted it is even harder to change.  Passed three readings

It should be noted that Councillor Bestwick has given notice of a motion dealing with the budget for the next Council meeting.

There seemed to be little understanding that the effect of passing the first three readings of the 2013 budget, undid the constraint of operating under the 2013 version of the budget which was contained in the 2012-2016 budget ($157.5 million dollars) and raising the spending limit to $175.5, an increase of $18 million over last years estimate and also opened the door to approving items in -or added to- the now current 2013 budget.  One can see, even before the budget presentations from Staff or any general budget discussion that a run in on to stuff pet items into the budget and get them passed.  This last happened with the position of Communications Manager and is now symbolized by the move to approve money for the upgrade of the Nanaimo Centre Stage.

There was also a call to ask Staff to come up with a budget reduced by some percentage value rather than to be so increased.  This move failed and in fact in approving the “new” 2013 budget, it was increased by 11.5% rather than being stable or reduced.  Much of his increase is hidden in borrowing.  Councillor Bestwick also sought, appropriately in my opinion, that the plan should come before additions, but he did not have sufficient backing to prevail.  Accordingly we will deal with the crumbs before we bake the cake.  Good luck to Nanaimo taxpayers.  This is why all budgets and their corresponding calls for higher taxes persist year after year.

Item 9(d) extends all appointments of Council members to Committees, Commissions, and Boards until the Mayor presents a report to Council.  Approved

Under Item 12 (Correspondence not related to a Report to Council in this agenda) are two letters dealing with the Colliery Dams questions. The first is from the Dam Safety Section of the FLNR regarding the risk level classification and removal of the Dams.  This is based on the current situation.  The second is a letter from the President of the Archaeological Society of BC requesting an Archaeological Inventory and Impact Assessment withing “Colliery Dam Park.  Received

Item 15.  On a point of personal privilege Councillor sought a reconsideration of the Diana Krall $110,000 toilet.  After a good deal of loquacious discussion, the item was brought back to life, now under an actionable 2013 version of the budget.  Again there was no discussion of the success of the toilet strategy in Portland, Victoria or here.  As my request during Question period raised  in this regard when this item was originally raised, was not answered, I raised it again asked the question regarding the success of the previous potty installations.  On Friday I received the following statement:  

Further to your question at Council 2013-Jan.-28, we compared the amount of tickets issued for public urination for the period of 2011-Jun-01 to 2011-Dec.-31 with the same period in 2012, to see if the installation of a portable toilet downtown in 2011-Oct.-2011 contributed to a decrease in tickets issued. During this period tickets issues decreased from 221 to 176, a drop of 20 %. This information should be considered taking into account that the portable toilet was installed part way through the first sample period, Occupy Nanaimo occurred from 2011-Oct.-15 to 2011-Dec.-09 (the city provided a portable toilet in the plaza during that period) and total tickets issued for each sample period was for the entire city (though the public urination problem is predominately downtown).

 I think that you may agree that a 20% reduction for an expenditure of $110,000 is pretty thin evidence for such an expense and we may brace for further requests.  Perhaps if we put in 5 such facilities we could substantially reduce public peeing in the wee hours of the morning, but do we have the money?  Our Asset Management Report says that we do not.

Item 16 (Question Period) is the last item of the agenda before Adjournment, and is open to anyone with a question regarding any matter on the agenda.  As we are in the time of budgets and the financial plan, this opens the door through item 9(a) to anything on the budget or plan, in case you missed the delegation slot.

Some interesting questions which can be seen along with the whole show at:

http://www.nanaimo.ca/meetings/VideoPlayer/Index/C130128V

PS: I salute Councillor Kipp for doing an excellent job as Acting Mayor.

Hope to see you there on Monday:

And now on to some history from last Monday…

Agenda Item 5 (Presentations):  Following the usual housekeeping items, the meeting opened with a presentation from Ms. Jean Crowder, MP Nanaimo-Cowichan, on the subject of “local and federal government issues.” While she spoke eloquently about some funding policies which in the not too imminent future might help the municipalities of Canada which, as she pointed out, hold 50% of the country’s capital assets, yet receive only 8 cents on the dollar from Ottawa: a worthy topic, especially in the time of the release of our Asset Management Plan which shows significant holes in our financial future.  But what caused my chin to drop was that there was not one word from her about the situation at the Boat Basin. While the Federally regulated Nanaimo Port Authority prepares to lease our boat harbour to a U.S. corporation and apparently ignores Federal duties to our First Nation via the Marine Act, and to our city which is divided by the port.  My jaw then proceeded to drop further when there was not one single question from our Council on this matter.  Only Acting Mayor Kipp ventured to mention it in passing in his thanks and goodbye address before she left.  I can only imagine how this came about.

Agenda Item 8(a) was again an opportunity for delegations who wished to address the 2012-2017 Budget and Financial Plan to do so without registration. This item will appear on all Council or COW agendas up to the time the final form of the Budget/Plan is adopted. If you have something about the budget or plan which you wish to convey, item 8(a) is you opportunity.  Don’t put it off until it is too late for consideration of your ideas.

Item 8(b) was a presentation from the Director of Finance on “The Balanced Scorecard” approach to evaluating Nanaimo’s Services.  This is another move, like the Asset Management Plan, which Staff is to be complimented on presenting, despite the fact that both assessments may be overdue and in their infancy.  My hat is off to Staff as documents such as these, while leading to improvements in matters of management over time, by the nature of their being available for review by all of us, open up many avenues for criticism.  It is difficult to criticise what is done in the dark as we can see from many Council in-camera decisions.  But criticism is the path to better performance as any coach can tell you, as long as it is thoughtful and ultimately respectful.  Please take a look at the Balanced Scorecard at:

http://www.nanaimo.ca/PerformanceMeasurement/BalancedScorecard

Recognize that it is a start and not a fully developed system, but it is one that can grow and improve and you can help by providing input.  Look at the various “volumes” in the series and at the category headings.  One which some have found amusing, although it is also lighthearted in view of the way the questions were asked, is the data shown for the rating of “Satisfaction with Level and Quality of City Services”, in the “Customer Perspective” book.  Afraid this is a little too vague to be of much use in improving, but it clearly shows that most of those surveyed were not unhappy with City Services.  Note too, that as in most instances targets have not yet been set.  Look around and see how you think this tool might be used and improved here and in other categories.

Item 8(c) The schedule for Budget and Plan for 2012-2017 was introduced an endorsed with some possibility of moving the date of the Electronic Town Hall Meeting given any scheduling problems.

January 28      Regular Council -first three readings of the budget bylaw

February 18    Regular Council – adoption of the bylaw

March 4           Electronic Town Hall Meeting (tentative date)

Feb to April      Budget briefings on selected issues and budget discussion (see below)

April 22            Regular Council – Introduction of amended budget and tax rate bylaws

May13             Regular Council – Final adoption of amended budget and tax rate bylaws

The possible issues to be discussed include:

• RCMP contract budget – how we budget for the largest single operating expenditure and past and future trends in policing costs;

• Municipal cost pressures- e.g., energy costs, vehicle fuel costs, GHG offsets, asphalt, and how similar expenditures impact the budget. This would also include a discussion about why the Consumer Price Index does not represent municipal cost increases;

• How wages and benefits are calculated and budgeted for and their impact on the budget;

• Tax policy- relationships between the property tax classes, with opportunity for discussion

on commercial and industrial tax rates;

• Debt policy – when it is appropriate to use long term debt, how we compare with other

municipalities, and some long term forecasting of our debt levels;

• The long term fire plan and its impact on the budget;

• Reserves – uses and balances;

• The five year capital plan – review of major projects.

The list of topics may be modified and may not be presented in the above order. Other topics may

be added if Council has any specific requests. The briefings will be held as part of the regular open

Committee of the Whole or Council meetings between now and the introduction of bylaws in April.

Watch agendas for topics in which you may be particularly interested.

Item 8(d)  Council approved the mandate and objectives of the Governance Policy, Structure and Process Review Steering Committee (Governance Steering Committee). This committee has a mandate to support, guide and oversee the selection of a qualified consultant to undertake a governance review for the City of Nanaimo as set out in the Terms of Reference mandated by Council on 2012-NOV-05 at a Committee of the Whole Meeting and the objectives of the Governance Committee are to:

• ensure the selection of a qualified consultant is made in accordance with the Terms of

Reference approved by Council and the Request for Proposal No. 1389;

• make recommendations on the deliverables by the consultant;

• support linkages to Council’s Operating Philosophy articulated in the Strategic Plan; and,

• make recommendations to Council on the Final Report of the consultant including

recommendations regarding the proposed Governance Policy.

I wish them well.  Several instances recently have highlighted the need for this document.

Item 11 (Notice of Motion) Councillor Bestwick noted that at the next COW meeting (February 4), he would be bringing forward two motions with regard to the release of the results of in-camera meetings when there was no longer a need for secrecy.  Discussion, clarification and a defined process for dealing with the many in-camera meetings held by Council is overdue and is certainly timely given the recent presentation from BC’s Ombudsperson.  Councillor Bestwick is to be congratulated for putting it on the agenda.

Item 13 (Delegations on items not related to a Report to Council):  Four delegations were received, one regarding a development permit, one asking for due consideration for the $800,000 renovation to the City owned Nanaimo Centre Stage, and two oriented to the questions that continue to surround the Colliery Dams situation.  Staff, when pressed, admitted that no agreement on the approved inclusion of the options which Council has approved was yet completed.  Mr Jeff Solomon again demonstrated great skill in presentation and in dealing with questions from Council.  In my opinion he is someone to watch.

Item 14 (Question Period on agenda items only) found some lively questions and discussion on a number of topics.  It is perhaps worth your while to view this as well on the video at:

http://www.nanaimo.ca/meetings/VideoPlayer/Index/COW130121V

Remember that one may view the video by section number without going through the entire meeting unless one so desires.

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