re: September 28 Council Meetings

Ron Bolin: September 27, 2015

Letter to Mayor and Council sent to Council, Sept. 27, 2015

Mayor McKay and Councillors:

I offer the following comments about tomorrow afternoon’s meetings for your consideration:

Core Services Review Steering Committee

It is fervently to be hoped that the Core Services Review Steering Committee will be recorded and thus available for all citizens. Done well, the Core Services Review is capable of setting our Ship of State on an even keel. Mishandled it will only exacerbate the existing turmoil.

Committee of the Whole Meeting

  • This meeting proposes the adoption of several major budget expenditures which, in my opinion, cannot be demonstrated to be so urgent as to obviate the need for the evaluations to be undertaken in the Core Review. Budget pre-approvals which are not demonstrably urgent are a betrayal of that process and should not be granted prior to the public participation promised in that project.
  • (4) Adoption of Minutes: It should be noted that the minutes that are being adopted, ie. are being provisionally presented for the first time, are more than two months old.   This is very poor practice.   Provisional minutes should be available within a very short period of time following a meeting, even if their final adoption comes later. This provides a short form of the record which simplifies the long form of the record, i.e. the video record.
  • (8-a) It is not clear to me whether the Management and Operating agreement which is up for approval tonight is done at the end of a five year period or is starting a new one, i.e. how time critical this decision may be.
  • (8-a) It is not clear why all of those expenses related to the Nanaimo Museum which are mentioned in the Agreement to be met by City taxpayers over and above the proposed grant are not included in the grant in any way. The cost to taxpayers is significantly higher than the amount of the grant, but is not associated with the Museum. Should not all such expenses related to the use of the property be accounted for? Do we offer such services to the commercial tenants of the VICC? Please note that this is a question involving accounting for a project and not one which questions the value of the expenditure.
  • (8-b) I fail to understand the urgency of this multimillion dollar project which so quickly ignores recent expenditures in this area and further may simply be trading in medical costs by City employees for those of aging citizens who may be expected to schlep larger and heavier waste bins up and down the hills on which their homes are perched. A plan such as this which involves assumptions, not only about the City program, but about the treatment of waste along a spectrum of decisions in a time when drastic change is in the air should not be rushed. The plan is not complete and requires significant public input.   This can be done without prejudice to long term project goals.
  • (8-d) It would be useful to have input from the insurance industry concerning their views on this subject. It has been said that to be a difference, it must make a difference. What mechanisms would be recognized by the insurance industry to reduce the cost of fire insurance to residents either of the City as a whole, those currently served by a time relevant service area, or those served by any new facility. Is there a way in which the addition of public services can reduce private insurance expenditures to offset the cost?
  • (8-e) From the report:

“Current Business Model In-house parking services commenced 2013-MAR-01. This transition included the hiring of a Parking Manager/Assistant Manager Bylaw Services; three bylaw enforcement officers/patrollers; one Parking Clerk; and the transfer of one bylaw officer from the existing Bylaw Services Department. The total staffing of Parking Services is six full time employees.”

It would be useful to have a clear understanding of the result of a move back to an external contractor on these current in-house positions? How many, if any, of these positions will remain? What would be the probable result of any union grievance in the loss? What is the anticipated growth in the cost of in-house personnel over the 2016-2020 period vs the estimated cost for external contractors?   Are benefits calculated into the cost of external contractors? How does the acquisition of license plate detection equipment fit into this examination? The granting of “gate keeper” discretion rather than strict adherence can create problems which I understand were associated with the “Commissioner” service provided before the last external contract. Has this factor been accounted for? There is a lot of information in the report which has not, in my estimation, been critically explicated. In general, well defined external contracts are easier to modify than internal contracts.   Hopefully you will be able to reduce my confusion before making your decision.

General Suggestion:

It might be useful in future reports involving financial information and estimates that our Chief Financial Officer check the figures and the information on which they are based and sign off on them. The extent to which this may already be done is unclear.

Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to your actions tomorrow afternoon.

Ron Bolin

I look forward to comments from the readers of this blog which may counter, endorse or improve upon what has been written.