Top 12 posts for first half of 2014

Reflecting back on the first half of 2014, what happened on mid Vancouver Island?  Here are the top 12 posts for the first half of the year:

Diver Lake riparian bylaws broken but fines waived
Nanaimo taxpayers lose out with no bidding process on exclusive water works deal
Outrage over empty schools in SD68
Recycling in BC with MMBC: taxpayers pays twice
Yellow Flag Iris: Silent killer choking Buttertubs Marsh
SD68 budget: 44 full-time jobs to be cut 
BC Ferries increases fares: a slow death for coastal communities
SD68 in BC Supreme Court for all the wrong reasons
Nanaimo Recycling Exchange faces closure
Nanaimo providing water to Lantzville especially for Foothills Development
Four schools close in Parksville and Qualicum SD69
What can Nanaimo learn from Spokane’s experience with waste to energy

Other news items that are being watched are the construction of Linley Valley Drive and the option to purchase parkland in Linley Valley.

Some community healing took place in January with the Ka Na Ta Conversations.

Healthcare is in trouble; Nanaimo was ground zero for the new Care Delivery Model Redesign and patients are suffering.

Mid Island news will be back here at the end of August.  Have a great summer.

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Experimenting with chocolate in a Nanaimo kitchen

Everyone enjoys a good story and a sweet treat.  Here is the famous Nanaimo Bar story:

After World War II, recipes for sweet unbaked desserts such as refrigerator squares became widespread when butter and sugar were once more available.

By 1950, ingredients such as marshmallows, sweetened condensed milk, and crumbled cookies became well-used. This era also saw confections made with brands such as Bird’s custard powder, Baker’s chocolate, Fry’s cocoa, and Tropic coconut.

The bottom layer was inspired by two recipes: ‘Chocolate Quickie Square’ submitted on April 18, 1947 by Mrs. Lois Light of Vancouver,  and a 1948 recipe ‘Unbaked Chocolate Cake’ submitted by Jean Haines of Wildwood (north of Powell River). This recipe was reproduced in the 12th Edith Adams Prize cookbook.

NanaimoBars Experimenting with chocolate in a Nanaimo kitchen

As the recipes were shared and tested, a new dessert began to emerge. The women of the Nanaimo Hospital Auxiliary invented a new frosting, and capped the dessert with chocolate.

The first known recipe for Nanaimo Bars was submitted by Mrs. E. MacDougall for the 1952 Nanaimo Hospital Auxiliary cookbook. She called it ‘Chocolate Slice’.

The recipe for Nanaimo Bars appeared later that year in the 14th Edith Adams Cookbook. Read more about the Nanaimo Bar Story and follow the Nanaimo Bar trail.

Harrassment at Nanaimo Council continues

The Nanaimo Council meeting on Monday, June 23rd saw the re-appearance of Sign Man going on attack. Why is this of concern? What are the patterns of behaviour? How does this effect  the public at large?

Two speakers, who were both visual minorities, made a presentation for a boathouse on Nanaimo’s waterfront.  Behind them sat the Sign Man who waved signs throughout their ten-minute speech to Council.

Afterwards, other delegations spoke in favour of the boathouse proposal. During that time, Sign Man was very specific about who he harassed. There were no signs held behind any of the Caucasian males who came up to the public podium but one female speaker was targeted.

Prior to this, Sign Man didn’t hold any of his signs behind the RCMP Superintendent or the Fire Chief during their respective reports to council. Nor did he hold any signs when delegations came to speak regarding a residential development in Chase River.

Twice, the Mayor commented with a laugh that he was ‘glad’ that the RCMP Superintendent was on hand to quieten the homeowners from Chase River, although there was no incident.

It was after the RCMP Superintendent left the meeting and the boathouse presentations began, that Sign Man went into action and began waving his signs behind the two speakers at the public podium. Not once did the Mayor or any council member ask Sign Man to end the harassment.

Is there a pattern to the attacks? The following is a guess as to how it is all planned out:

1. Sign Man is told where to sit and who to harass at Council meetings (and what messages to write on the signs).

PRoTrofffeeder Harrassment at Nanaimo Council continues
Sign Man behind public podium waving one of many of his signs behind speaker;  “professional trough feeders”

2. Another member of the group is appointed to come to the podium to make comments to back up Sign Man’s points.

SignMan4 Harrassment at Nanaimo Council continues
Councillor Brennan tried to stop McGrath as he made personal attacks against woman pictured above.

3. Harassment is further carried out on social media and the internet.SignMan1 Harrassment at Nanaimo Council continues

SignMan2 Harrassment at Nanaimo Council continues
A reference to Councillor Anderson who is the only visible minority on council.

4) Finger pointing and accusations are reiterated in local mainstream media in the form of letters to the editor or as op-ed articles.

If there was a delegation who turned around and confronted Sign Man, what would occur?

Snuneymuxw and Save Cedar Schools Coalition and SD68

The Snuneymuxw challenged School District 68 in BC Supreme Court over the closure of the only high school in Cedar. Unfortunately,  the court ruling came down yesterday and Chief Justice Christopher E. Hinkson ruled in favour of SD68.  Justice Hinkson was appointed by Prime Minister Harper on November 7, 2013; halfway through the case. Consequently, Cedar Secondary School is scheduled to close permanently June 30, 2014.

This court case was an opportunity to enshrine into law the need for local school districts to consult with local First Nations governments which have students participating in the public school system.

The judge ruled on the process used to prepare SD68′s 10 Year Plan. The ruling says nothing about the wisdom of the 10 Year Plan. The judge’s ruling will do nothing to fill up the half empty mega-elementary SD68 is planning for Cedar, nor turn it into an arts-focused school that will be the envy of others in the District.

Proposed $65 million mega-secondary school
The ruling will not bring about provincial funding necessary for the proposed $65 million Nanaimo District Secondary School (NDSS). That is the reason why SD68 wanted to fill up John Barsby Secondary in the first place, to get provincial funding, and then Barsby would be shut down and sold off after the new mega NDSS is built.

Very soon, SD68 will start pitching their vision and plan for the new mega NDSS to fit approximately 2,000 students. This will be just in time for the up-coming school trustee elections in November. They will try to convince you that all the closed up schools in the south end will somehow be worth it and ask for another mandate to turn their vision into reality.

Will you be buying what they are selling?

The reaction of Save Cedar Schools Coalition is the fight is not over. School District trustee elections will be held in November 2014 and there is still a chance to reverse SD68′s decision of closing Cedar Secondary.

Remember: School Districts are Corporations
The school district is set up as a corporation. Its main priority is not education but to make money. How is this done? Through land deals such as building schools and selling property.

The new scheme is building mega schools. Closing smaller high schools and elementary schools and replacing them with mega schools is not the answer.  This leads to more problems such as traffic congestion and less community building.

Keeping our children educated in our community should be a priority.

Nanaimo’s Sponsorship Program and Conflict of Interest

Nanaimo Councillors voted unanimously to start a sponsorship program at the last council meeting.  What is a sponsorship program? Who will benefit? Is there a possibility for conflict of interest?

Councillor McKay, who works in the sign business, put forward a motion which would allow him to be placed on the Sponsorship Subcomittee for Nanaimo.

What is a sponsorship program? The City of Nanaimo pays for advertisements in various forms to promote the City or announce new services or policies. On highways there are signs informing you which level of government contributed to a road improvement. At a sporting event, there are often signs and billboards bearing government logos.

Who will benefit? The advertising companies receiving public funds, will benefit.

The following is the motion that was voted on:

Nanaimo’s municipal sponsorship program is to develop a policy for the sponsorship process:

  1.  Approve the development of a sponsorship policy for the City of Nanaimo.
  2.  Support the creation of a 6 member sub-committee drawn from the Parks and Recreation and Culture Commission (PRCC).
  3. Direct staff to present a draft policy to the above named commissions for feedback and recommendations prior to bringing forward to Council.

Discussion on the motion:

Mckay: “I would like to make a friendly amendment under item two that an additional position be added.  A member of council.”

Ruttan: “…What is the intention of the committee? We have three members of council, currently sitting on the committee; Johnstone as chair [PRCC]; she is involved in this.”

Staff:  “Three members of the sub-committee could be members at large, not necessarily from council.”

Ruttan: “…McKay’s amendment is to include an additional position [a council member].”

Pattje: “What if it turns out to be that one of the two members who sit on the culture committee or any of the three that sit on parks and recreation are selected in the the six, would you still want to have another council member?”

McKay:  “Yes.”

Pattje: “For what reason?”

Mckay: “I would like to be involved with it, and I am not on any of those committees.”

Kipp: “It is called a six member sub-committee… would this be an adhoc committee? Is that the correct name?…”

Staff: “…it would be like an adhoc committee…”

Kipp: “So this is like a sub-committee that would be ongoing…”

Bestwick: “…section 3 states, ‘Direct staff to present a draft policy’… Is the policy that is going to be created to be done by staff or committee?…I am confused about the order of this.”

Staff: “The idea is that the adhoc committee would help draft the policy, and then it would go through the commissions and then to council…”

Bestwick: “So we are not directing staff to create a policy but getting the adhoc committee to come up with the sponsorship policy…”

Staff: “The idea is…to work the policy through…”

Greves: “I understand that Mckay said that he would like to be on this committee, so this is
what we are voting on? Not ‘a councillor’ but ‘Councillor Mckay’—that’s what we are voting on?”

Ruttan: “No, it is my understanding that it was to include a member of council on it…Mckay is interested in sitting on it but there may be others as well…”

Bestwick: “…we approved the friendly amendment without voting? …So now we just need to identify who that Councillor is that will sit on this committee?”

Staff: “…a motion can be made another time on who sits on the committee.”

Ruttan: “…the motion isn’t name specific…”

Brennan: “I am not entirely convinced that we need to add another position on this committee for the sole purpose of having a Councillor on it…A broader discussion with the community [is needed] to bring back recommendations to council…”

Mckay: “I understand that other members of the two committees would be eager to get involved in this project and I would as well. I am volunteering for the position. Other than doing this, I can’t think of any other way I could be involved with this. That’s why I proposed a [friendly amendment to the motion to add a councillor].”

Ruttan: “The challenge is that this is your motion and you had the opportunity to think about it and there are others who haven’t thought about this and may want to think about it…”

Next, Council approved the motion and McKay’s amendment:

Bestwick: “I would like to move that Councillor Mckay be appointed to the [Sponsorship] sub-committee.”

Ruttan: “I would suggest that we want to give everyone the chance at this…I think the process needs to be a little more open…”

Kipp:  “…in the local government act their are a number of Councillors attached to standing committees. Now this is being named a sub-committee and it doesn’t have a council attachment to it…”

Hewitt: “…My recommendation it to change the name to a ‘task force’ because its purpose is to address a specific task [policy of sponsorship]…”

Ruttan: “…no objection to the name of the committee…”

Kipp: “…it should be called an adhoc committee and…report back in a certain amount of time to council…[McKay] has made a number of presentations regarding sponsorship at various government conferences so he is well versed in it and he brought this forward so…”

Johnstone: “…McKay has a great passion for sponsorship and has served on panels and has made exceptional presentations and our community can be proud of, I will support that motion [that McKay be added to the Sponsorship Committee]…”

Pattje: “Question to staff, sponsorship involves advertising and a lot of it, I would imagine.
Councillor McKay is employed in that field [advertising]. Does that present any problems? As far as conflict [of interest] is concerned?”

Swabey: “That would be up to Councillor McKay, if he thinks that he has a conflict [of interest].”

Ruttan: “Okay, the motion is to vote on Councillor McKay being placed on the [Sponsorship] committee.”

All councillors were in attendance. The motion passed unanimously.

Why doesn’t the City of Nanaimo have a clear policy on conflict of interest for council members? They just spent approximately $100,000 on consultants to define what are councillor roles and responsibilities.

If it is left up to a councillor to decide if they have a conflict of interest, then Nanaimo taxpayers are in trouble.

Diver Lake riparian bylaws broken but fines waived

Wetland areas in Nanaimo are under real threat:

Now, at the end of Diver Lake, site preparation has begun for a commercial building at 2569 Kenworth Road.  The developer was fined $20,000 for removing 19 trees and disturbing the riparian area without a permit.

2569 Kenworth Road:
The developer for 2569 Kenworth Road asked for Council to authorize a development permit for a 3 level, light industrial/office facility with four variances, approved by Council:

  • reduce the watercourse leave strip to 5.5m
  • reduce the required front yard setback to 0m
  • increase the maximum allowable building height to 18.44m
  • reduce the required number of loading spaces to 2

At the last council meeting on June 9th, Councillor McKay put forward a motion that the fines of $20,000 be reduced to $0. Here is how it went down:

Councillor Kipp added an amendment to the motion, to re-assess the trees that were removed and the affected riparian area.

Below, outlined in yellow is the property under development at the end of Kenworth Road. 80% of the lot is wetlands.

Kenworth Diver Lake riparian bylaws broken but fines waived
Nanaimo Diver Lake Development on Kenworth Road

Discussion occurred:
Swabey: …We should be consistent.  If we fined someone in Departure Bay for taking down trees before a building permit was issued… so maybe we should refund them?

Kipp: I said do a reassessment, I think we run inconsistent but that’s okay…

Ruttan: What motion are we dealing with here? Should we not deal with this in a separate motion…?

Swabey: Absolutely.

Bestwick: …The design panel approved this project ….This is the second time we have had an applicant remove trees before receiving a development permit…On both occasions they indicated that they were given verbal permission, but don’t have a written permit… Hopefully we can clean some of our communications so we don’t find ourselves in this situation…these trees are coming down anyways… it seems a bit heavy handed…

Brennan: …This is the first application that uses the no net loss principal…followed the green design….Compliments to developer and staff…

Ruttan: …This is an important project for Nanaimo; we are trying to bring hi-tech business to Nanaimo…

Johnstone: I support this project…

Pattje: I look forward to the finished project…

Then there were comments on Councillor Mackay’s motion to waive the developer’s fines:

Pattje: I heard from the application that the fine was $10,000? What is it?

Johnstone: I won’t be supporting [waiving the fines for the developer] I believe staff acted on Council’s direction and we have riparian rules… I think it is setting precedence and I don’t think we should remove the fine.

Kipp: I talked to the proponent and they said they talked to one department in the city and they went through the development review and were told ‘oh, yeah, go ahead and prepare your property’ and then…the Bylaw Department enforcement [levied] a fine…This is typical to the one we heard before like, the one at the town centre. They had the go ahead but it wasn’t [in writing]…Is there an appeal process?

Swabey: You are witnessing it.

Kipp: … I am asking that we have staff review this [complaint] and find what’s going on where the trees were removed…

Ruttan: …I have a problem making a decision that is knee jerk…

Greves: We shouldn’t be making motions on the fly, it comes right out of the blue…I do my homework, I am reading the agenda and now it is a whole different matter…I have been staff and if council started to second guess me as staff, my morale and that of the staff that I work with, would go right down the tubes. Staff is well aware of the riparian rights and trees and I don’t see any developer in front of us asking for this [to waive the fines]. I don’t know where this came from…This is out of the blue… I don’t see any reason for this whatsoever, we should just carry on…and I am totally not in favour of this motion.

Kipp: ..This is where we bring our information forward…We bring issues to the table…This is a debate that we need to have…We have had a couple of removals in the past that have caused us trouble…

Ruttan: …What is the motion?…

Bestwick: …When I think of the location…we know the trees are coming down anyways…

Brennan: This is not an appeal process…there is no developer here before us telling us that they think that the [fines] are unfair and improperly assessed…All we are hearing is hearsay… it is unfair…we don’t have all the facts…If I were the developer I would come to council and stand at that podium and address the issue…Developers are not a timid bunch… We are making a mockery of this [bylaw] process…I think we would be setting a very strange precedent by calling this [an appeal process]. What is going on here?… This is not an appeal process…

The vote on waiving the developers fine was approved.  Opposed: Johnstone, Brennan and Greves. In favour: McKay, Kipp, Bestwick, Pattje, and Mayor Ruttan.   Anderson was absent from the meeting.

Dedicate park land or provide cash
Another motion that passed the same evening concerned future park planning.  Staff will no longer be required to bring a Cash-in-lieu of Parkland Dedication Report for Council’s consideration. From now on, City staff will make this decision themselves.

If an owner plans to subdivide a lot into more than 3 lots, then they have to either dedicate parkland or provide cash-in-lieu equivalent.

Is there not any  planning for future parks and saving riparian areas? Where is all the money that is collected for future parks going—into a general fund?

The small parks at Diver Lake cover the location of old mine shafts.