Be Afraid…. Be Very Afraid…
Ron Bolin: August 15, 2017
At its regular Council meeting last night Council agreed, as I suppose it had to, to the borrowing of $6.2 million dollars to fulfil contractual obligations which it had already made by way of secret in-camera meetings for the acquisition of new automated garbage trucks at about $380,000 each, plus 72,000 assorted garbage bins for $4,500,000.
Two issues stand out in this acquisition that should attract taxpayer’s attention. The first is that Council feels that an expenditure of this size and significance to the Householders of Nanaimo who will be impacted by their decisions does not require public participation:
- Council did not feel it necessary to make this decision in an open public and well-advertised meeting. Instead, it was made in an in-camera meeting on March 27 of this year, the minutes of which became available only a few days ago. The decision to borrow the funds required was made at a 9:30 am Finance and Audit Committee meeting last Thursday, August 10. The item was approved in that meeting and was posted in the addendum to the August 14 meeting and was thus too late to allow for regular delegations. Instead, it was necessary to request permission from Council to speak to the matter at all. This does not smell like procedures which inspire public confidence in City decisions which have significant financial and operational consequences for the public.
- Upon later questioning the limit of Council authority to proceed on major new programs in-camera, I was rewarded with blank stares. This is why you should be afraid. Council and Staff seem to feel that their authority over issues and expenditures is absolute. If they can make such significant decisions without the participation of the public in an open meeting, what can’t they do?
For the problems and risks with an automated garbage collection system, you may wish to take a look at the following. It appears that Toledo, Ohio gave up and turned the program over to private contractors. I hasten to add that while there are similarities with Nanaimo, there are also elements which differ.
This does not mean that our system will fail. Somehow programs established by government rarely fail. But it certainly will be more costly, and I remain unconvinced of the risks to some, if not many, of our citizens.
There was also some confused and confusing discussion last night of an existing program whereby homeowners can get city staff to move the bins between the home and the street. The details of the program are not clear even to our Councillors. I know that when I asked about problems for our household associated with the new system I was told by Staff that a staff member could come to the house and evaluate our situation for inclusion in the program. I declined to do so as I felt that it was too subject to the possibility of conflict of interest or special favour. I do look forward to a description of all the conditions that must be met and how they are to be evaluated dispassionately. I suspect that once the program becomes known that there will be many more applicants for the service. If you find that the 80 pounds of bins plus your waste of all types each pickup cycle is too much for your circumstances you should request access to the program.
It was also admitted last night that there is at least one household that has opted out from City waste collection and has hired a private contractor who presumably takes all of the household waste rather than just the specified materials taken by the City program.
There is a lot to learn not only about the new $7.5 million dollar solid waste collection system at the City, but about the entire waste stream in which we are all swimming. That stream is managed by a wide variety of mechanisms and services each of which plays a separate and incomplete role, despite the fact that it is citizens who pay for all of them in one way or another. We owe it to ourselves and particularly to our children and grandchildren to get a grip on this entire wasteful and costly problem.
Do your diligences… or they will do you…
I look forward to your comments and suggestions which can be entered below…