A New Council, a New Year and Some Recommended Resolutions

Ron Bolin: Dec. 29, 2014

Here we are just  few days left before everything changes…. doesn’t it?  We have a New Mayor and Council who will be starting on a new Budget and Financial Plan having handily disposed of CUPE contract negotiations for the next few years. In this we seem to have followed the path blazed by previous Councils of 2% per year raises for the future to follow the 2% raises of past years… i.e. only a bit above the Consumer Price Index for Victoria which has in all the years but one since 2006 run below, often well below, 2%, thus providing tidy salary and benefit increases over the years.  How is it that the Province can set raises to zero from time to time to reset the clock while our municipality cannot?  But enough of what has been done…..

Among the resolutions which I would like to see Council adopt in the new year is one which costs neither Council nor taxpayers nothing.  Improve transparency and public participation by ensuring that Council agendas are available to all at least one week to ten days before each meeting.  This provides time for folks to due their due diligence before voting. How many times in the past year have we seen tragic errors in judgement made because items we voted upon before minds were fully engaged?  It is easy to implement and has been advocated by all but a small rump on our new Council.

Refuse to accept reports from Staff which do not include the financial implications of any matter regarding its initial and ongoing costs and its anticipated initial and ongoing benefits.  Too often casual reports are brought forward to Council from Staff with vague or poorly thought out and or presented recommendations.  Council too often forgives these practices.  They should be stopped.  Again there is no cost to implementation.

Eliminate select committees and commissions as they require the resources of one or more Councillors. Those behind these committees and commissions often tend to be made up from special interest groups which are not elected yet exert undue influence on Council. Special interest groups are, of course, welcome to form self-help groups and to bring matters forward to Council for decision (as does the Chamber of Commerce, for example) but should not have an official role in decision making.  Any savings to Council of these deliberative bodies is paid from the interests of citizens at large.

Review the role of grants and tax exemptions in city funding.  Last Year Nanaimo’s citizens provided about 8% of the property tax money which they paid in taxes to the City for Council to distribute as they and their backroom committees wished.  While I do not wish to denigrate the utility of taking from some to give to others, it sometimes looks as if the poor were being taxed to serve the purposes of those better off.  Some groups don’t even have to present a case, but are carried along by history to be able to protect property which may be waiting for future development.  I wrote about several examples in a recent post.  Similarly while some agencies which serve the health and wealth of the community at large are not overly rewarded for their service, others catering to often high priced entertainment are treated to millions.  It’s time for a thorough review of the utility of our grants and exemptions.

Before we rush to a “Core Review” let’s take time to ensure that we all understand what it is about and how to go about it.  A Core Review is primarily a discussion of what it is that a City must do;  what it needs to do for the ongoing health and welfare of it citizens, and what it is nice to do if we (all of us) have plenty of money left over after fulfilling the first two requirments..

I offer these preliminary ideas for your consideration and look forward to hearing of the resolutions which you feel Council should address in its new term.  Let’s hear your ideas…