Nanaimo Civic Election 2014 Hot Issues

The Nanaimo Civic Election will be held on November 15th and everyone will have an opportunity to vote for the next mayor and council who will sit for the next four years.

So why should you vote? Here are some topics of interest:

Many people are under the impression that the WTE incinerator will not happen. The reality is that the incinerator location issue is too hot of a topic to have around election time so it has been shelved until after the municipal elections are over.

Metro Vancouver’s plan to build a new $517-million WTE incinerator will probably resurface and when it does where will they build it? Metro has mentioned that it has committed to stop using the Cache Creek landfill.  What are the alternatives, burn the garbage or bury the trash in other landfills? Will the new package and paper recycling system overseen by Multi-Material B.C. (MMBC) be effective in diverting waste?

Just recently the provincial government rejected Metro Vancouver’s Bylaw 280, which sought to ban garbage shipments out of the region. There are two opposing camps; those who want to recycle and landfill and those who want to burn garbage.  The question is who will win out in the end?

The incinerator folks have lots of clout and this is a great time to stack the incoming mayor and councils in areas that are of interest to them. We know that Duke Point was one of the sites chosen for the proposed incinerator so could we see a slate of pro-incinerator politicos installed?

There are 10 people running for mayor of Nanaimo. Here’s a quick look at where they appear to stand on this issue: N = opposed to WTE incinerator Y = support WTE with zero waste system

Bruni Bruni: N
Kendal Justus Csak: ?
Bill Holdom: ?
Gary Korpan: ?
Alisha Neumann-Ladret: N
Bill Mckay: Y
Roger McKinnon: ?
Jim Routledge : Y
John Ruttan: N
Al Thompson: ?

There are 26 candidates running for council. If the past serves as any reference then there are only three new council seats up for grabs.

As far as Georgia Park goes, will the park get leased out to the new Hilton Hotel? It’s your waterfront park and an important public asset.  Who stands to gain?

Other hot topics here in Nanaimo that people might want to think about include:

Check out Nanaimo Election page — they have a complete list of all the candidates and their contact information so you can ask candidates any questions.

Check out some forums by Progressive Nanaimo. There will be a New Candidates Forum this Wednesday, Oct 22nd at 6:30 pm at the Beban Park Social Centre. If you missed their first two forums you can watch the candidates on youtube. Round One and Round two.

The best thing this current council has done is videotaped all the council meetings and committee of the whole meetings and put them on the City website. They are archived and before the recent blackout because of the election they were live streamed. Make sure you check out some of these videos. It is the best value for your tax money!

Blacked out council meetings

It was announced at Monday’s committee of the whole meeting that ALL future meetings of Nanaimo council (from October 15th onwards) will be blacked out until after the November 15, 2014 civic elections.

Victoria is allowing council meetings to be live streamed and recorded, why not Nanaimo?

We are asking if there is someone out there who would video the meetings and upload them onto youtube for the benefit of all citizens in Nanaimo.

Blacked out council Meetings and Committee of the Whole meeting

  • October 20 – council meeting
  • October 27 – council meeting
  • November 3 – committee of the whole
  • November 10 – council meeting

It is critical the public finds out what is going on. We are not sure why they have called for the blackout on these meetings but there must be something really hot we are about to miss.

Remember, everyone is affected all over the city. Here is a short list of previous issues this council has debated:

  • Downtown: Harbour (was up for sale)
  • South Nanaimo: Collery Dams (park fiasco)
  • Central Nanaimo: Linley Valley  (wetlands destruction)
  • North Nanaimo: Pioneer Park (was up for sale)

That’s the short list for now. We need to stay informed. After the election the videos will be released but it will be too late. We already know that the City will not put Georgia Park on the November 15th ballot, so what else is going to happen during the blackout?

Help us find out. Just send us the link to your video when it is up on youtube in the comment section below or @midislandnews on twitter. Thanks!

BC Ferries needs a Queue System not Signs

At the last council meeting BC Ferries put forward a motion to have three LED signs installed at the Departure Bay terminal for a cost of approximately $300,000. BC Ferries also plans to install similar signs at the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal. That would be a total cost of at least $600,000. The purpose of these signs would be to generate revenue from ads and to tell drivers to shut off their engines, etc.

Unhappy neighbours

The residents in the area gave presentations to council outlining several concerns regarding the proposed installation of these LED signs.  The signs are 9 meters tall and 20 square meters in area. There would be significant light pollution for the neighbours.

BC Ferries only held public open houses on weekdays before and directly after Labour Day.  The neighbouring residents presented a petition against the proposed signs to which Councillor Greves commented, “I don’t think much of petitions, there is even someone who signed this from Ontario.”

In the end, all the councillors opposed the three signs and their size except for Councillor Anderson who stepped out when it came time to vote.

Unsatisfied customers

In July about 100 vehicles meant to be loaded onto the 3:10 p.m. sailing from Departure Bay to Horseshoe Bay were held back while terminal staff gave the green light to vehicles that had arrived later. Some passengers had to wait over five hours. Although BC Ferries issued a refund for the loading error, many passengers were still unhappy. What is the average wait time for people in a ferry line up in the busy summer months?

After this experience, what are the chances these tourists will want to return?

Queue System

At the same council meeting Councillor Bestwick asked the BC Ferries representative: “How many walk-ons are there?  How many people are first time ferry users?”  The BC Ferries rep did not have these stats available. Do they know?

Ferry rates have increased as much as 75% and there has been a decrease in service routes. BC Ferries should be restoring service levels.

BC Ferries needs a queue system to manage lineups, rather than the current reservation system which creates a ‘have’ and ‘have not’ line up. It’s not effective and it’s costly to operate.

In other countries they are using queue systems that are effective and do not require people to line up. BC Ferries needs to think outside the box. Ferry line ups can be eliminated.

What if there were self-serve kiosks set up around Nanaimo or Parksville and tourists could print their own transportation tickets, baggage tags, and then, just like an online order, a person could stay informed through a mobile app when to arrive at the ferry? Just think what an economic boon it would be for Nanaimo. Instead of people waiting in a car for five hours, people could be spending more time in town shopping or eating at restaurants.

BC Ferries could also implement a system where people could order their food in advance without lining up at the cafeteria. People could present a receipt and their food order would be ready.

We live in a modern world; it’s time for some creative thinking.

Budget 2015: Nanaimo RCMP contract

Monday, September 29th is the upcoming eTown Hall meeting where you can ask questions regarding the City of Nanaimo’s budget. The Nanaimo RCMP contract is the second largest budget item.

Policing costs account for 17% of tax dollars collected in Nanaimo. In 2007, there was a 6.7% increase in funding to the Nanaimo RCMP. Currently the City of Nanaimo provides the Nanaimo RCMP with $19 million and that is slated to increase to $20 million per year. In addition, the Nanaimo RCMP has asked for $6.6 million to help upgrade and renovate their police station.

Public Communication
What is the point of using social media when there is only partial information given out. An example below shows a tweet from September 3rd describing the perpetrator of a serious assault incident that occurred on August 17th.

NR pinktie Budget 2015: Nanaimo RCMP contract
Tweet re August 17, 2014 assault

How is this information adequate for the public to be of any help? For this same incident, a Crime Stoppers re-enactment video was later made with the Nanaimo RCMP spokesman narrating. This gives the impression that Nanaimo Crime Stoppers is a division of the Nanaimo RCMP which it is not. There should a disclaimer somewhere so that people are not mislead.

Why has the RCMP come to rely so heavily on Crime Stoppers and other volunteer organizations?

Outsourcing Police Work
Before 1950, British Columbia had its own provincial police force with very few detectives. They contracted most detective work to American companies.  When the RCMP took over the responsibility for policing the province, the BC Provincial Police’s “E” Division was absorbed into the fold.

Here we are in 2014 and there are many volunteer organizations at the RCMP’s disposal. These include auxiliary officers, C.O.P.S. (Citizens on Patrol), Speedwatch, Blockwatch and a few others. The biggest group amongst these is the U.S. based Crime Stoppers.

Crime Stoppers – Who runs it?
Crime Stoppers started in the mid-1970s in the United States as a grassroots organization with the idea of helping small-town police forces that had few resources at their disposal. The U.S., unlike Canada, has had a long history of vigilantism and DIY justice – posse groups hunted down alleged wrongdoers (including runaway slaves) and lynched them.

The idea is that an ‘informer’ contact Crime Stoppers with information about criminal activity.  The person who passes along information is protected by the rule of informer privilege so if the case goes to court, the tipster will (hopefully) remain anonymous. According to the Supreme Court of Canada, the identity of the informer is supposed to be unknown to everyone including the Crime Stoppers’ agent who receives the call.

On the Nanaimo Crime Stoppers website, it states “A Tipster’s ‘Anonymity’ is protected by law, in a Supreme Court of Canada decision known as R. v. Leipert.”

Despite this rule, Crime Stoppers exercises its own judgement when passing along the information it receives. In the case of Richard Leipert, the Greater Vancouver Crime Stoppers Association provided the entire tip sheet to the trial judge who viewed the document and then redacted certain information before passing it along. Last May, it came to light that a similar situation arose in Miami, where it was revealed that the Crime Stoppers there emailed the tipster’s information to the prosecutor.

When a detail as innocuous as the time of the telephone call may be sufficient to permit identification, it doesn’t make sense why all that information was being recorded by Crime Stoppers in the first place.

Police Work or Public Relations?
Why would the RCMP have a member working at a store opening? Could the store not hire its own security for the event? Is this the best use of our taxpayer dollars?

CabelasCop Budget 2015: Nanaimo RCMP contract
RCMP at Cabela’s store opening

Vigilantes on Vancouver Island
When the police keep promoting volunteers as crime fighters, it’s no wonder that some people have been motivated to solve crimes or investigate them as they see fit.

NR socialmedia Budget 2015: Nanaimo RCMP contract

Will Vancouver Island go the way of Montreal where the Mafia had its own helpline? On March 14, 2014, the Charbonneau Commission heard the following recorded conversation between Terry Pomerantz and Mafia boss Vito Rizzuto. Pomerantz phoned him after he realized his brand new Cadillac Escalade was stolen. Apparently, Rizzuto had the vehicle recovered and brought back to Pomerantz the next day.

Inverted Pyramids Topple
Why does it appear like the RCMP has few resources to do the actual ‘work’- are all of the funds going to support the top ranks?

We are starting to see the introduction of private prisons in BC for the first time. How long will it before Harper makes the RCMP obsolete? It will be a sad day when the RCMP is gone from small towns. It was a great idea to have a cohesive unit working to solve crimes across the country.  With only so many tax dollars to go around, isn’t it just a matter of time before a private company is going to move in?

Nanaimo tax increases & budget: town hall meeting

This Monday, September 29, 2014 there will be an hour long eTown Hall meeting starting at 7:00 pm where the public can ask questions about the City of Nanaimo’s budget.

Here is a look at Nanaimo’s tax increases. According to the City’s finance manager the 6.1% increase in taxes for 2017 is for the $80 million dollar water treatment plant and the 6.5% increase in 2007 was for extra staff at the RCMP. The $100 million conference centre costs have been spread out.

TaxIncreases Nanaimo tax increases & budget: town hall meeting
Nanaimo Tax Increases from 2005 to 2018

What is our biggest expense? You can see that wages and benefits are the largest portion of the pie chart below, at 47%. The second largest expense is the RCMP contract at 17% of the total operating expenses. The policing contract costs Nanaimo taxpayers just over $19 million per year and will increase to $20 million next year.  Since 2008 it works out to an increase of almost $7 million.

Expenditures2014 Nanaimo tax increases & budget: town hall meeting
City of Nanaimo Expenditures 2014

Service supply contracts account for the third largest City expenditure.  One of the problems is that the City has sole source contracts.  Without allowing other companies to bid, taxpayers are not getting the best deal and this leads to inflated project costs.

Taxes are projected to increase every year over the next five years ranging from 1% to 5% for asset management of roads, sewer, and water.

OperatingCosts Nanaimo tax increases & budget: town hall meeting
Operating Costs for Nanaimo

You can see that the debt has increased significantly since the City took on building the convention centre. This space unfortunately has been underused with empty retail spaces. The City built a new administration building in 2011-2012 at a cost of about $18 million.

DebtperPerson Nanaimo tax increases & budget: town hall meeting
Debt per Capita in Nanaimo

Below are some projects scheduled for the next 5 years. You will notice that the Colliery Dams project is not listed. If it goes ahead this will be another multi-million dollar project, and to date taxpayers have spent $2.4 million in consultant fees.

Projects2014 Nanaimo tax increases & budget: town hall meeting
Nanaimo Projects 2014

Other items that are not included in the financial plan are the Port Theatre expansion, waterfront development, property acquisition, recreation or heritage planning.

One problem is that there has been no accounting of the total cost of ‘aiding’ developers. Two new hotels in downtown Nanaimo will receive 20 years tax free.  Nanaimo City Hall bloggers have estimated that the new Hilton Hotel will cost taxpayers over $21 million dollars. What about the other hotel next to the conference centre?

In other instances, developers wanted fines waived, or free pedestrian crosswalks like the one on Terminal, or sidewalks in industrial areas or water and sewer hook-ups like those in Linley Valley and Upper Lantzville.

On a side note, Councillor McKay asked council for $10,000 for the upcoming Zero Waste Conference. There were no grant applications filled out, and no request for public funding was made by the organizers. But council approved the request anyway.  Even Councillor Greves joked “are we writing a cheque to McKay?” Yet at the same time other non-profits had filled out applications for small amounts of money and were turned down. Very strange.

People complain we don’t have money to purchase parks or support the arts but if we look at the generous handouts that select groups and individuals are getting, it is not an even playing field.

The City of Nanaimo has an annual operating budget of $160 million. The target is to present the 2015-2019 financial plan to the new council in December 2014. Go ahead and ask your financial questions on Monday, September 29, 2014. Call 250-754-4251 or tweet @cityofnanaimo, facebook cityofnanaimo, and get some answers.

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Save Georgia Park in Nanaimo – act now!

Several major concerns were raised by some councillors and the public about the land deal for the proposed Hilton Hotel which will occupy 10 and 28 Front Street and use up 60% of Georgia Park.  City staff has recommended that the City lease the park to the developer at no cost for an estimated 80 years.

Four key requests from the developer for the new Hilton Hotel are:

  • Increase in density (doubled the building area) [approved]
  • Increase in height (from 25 to 35 storeys) [approved]
  • Purchase the laneway for $475,000 [to be approved at September 29 council meeting]
  • Lease 60% of Georgia Park [to be approved by AAP or referendum or council]

While some councillors mulled the idea of a referendum on the issue of ‘leasing’ the park, Staff said that a referendum is not required, it’s too late to bring it forward for the election and even if a referendum was held, the City wouldn’t necessarily base their final decision on it.

Here is how it went down at the last council meeting on September 8th:

Bestwick:  … the park portion must go to referendum..?
Swabey:  … it would be up to council if you want to go to referendum or AAP [alternative approval process]
Johnstone:  … the laneway was not designated for traffic…
Staff:  … lane was dedicated in 1937 … to provide access to rear of a building…
Johnstone: …but for this particular purpose?
Staff: …the applicant is proposing to purchase the lane and consolidate it with the lot
McKay: … when disposing of a roadway there is no requirement for elector assent…am I correct?
Swabey: … there is no requirement for electoral assent
Kipp: …we do have to go to the public…my key thing is anytime we dispose of parkland we go to referendum and I don’t like AAP…I am concerned that we are selling the laneway before we give them the parkland…it’s not in the right order…
Pattje: …we are getting something that has four portions to it but in three separate portions; last week we had the height and  density. Today we have the laneway.  Next the parkland…which should go to referendum…all connected…like Kipp said it’s [backwards]…
Swabey: … the lane purchase if we authorize it tonight wouldn’t be closed…
Ruttan: …What is our pleasure at this point?
Bestwick: …if this laneway doesn’t pass 3rd reading tonight we can bring it back? …
Swabey: …if you turn down the bylaw [sale of the lane] tonight then the applicant would have to go back to the drawing board…
Ruttan: …motion seconded  by Anderson…motion before us is to [sell laneway] passes third reading.

In favour: Councillors McKay, Anderson, Johnstone, Bestwick, and Greves and Mayor Ruttan. Opposed: Councillors  Kipp, Brennan, and Pattje.

Discussion continued after vote passed to sell laneway:

Kipp: …throughout this process I never received a financial analysis.  What are the development cost charges; what is the taxation loss/cost, what do they get for lift?… What I have estimated is that this project will cost us $2.8 million in DCC costs; $10 million in taxes; the lift of 10 storeys is worth about $11 million for the extra 11 storeys we approved through rezoning…So what are the social, environmental, and financial components to this project? …
Swabey:  …we have had this discussion many times…
Johnstone: … can this council make the decision to go to a referendum or AAP process?
Swabey: … council can make a motion…
Johnstone: …this is such an important decision…I [will] be putting forward a notice of motion that the issue of the Hilton Hotel be brought forward to the electorate by the referendum process rather than the APP process…
Ruttan: …[warning] you will have to deal with staff to make sure if it works…
Brennan: …I move that the issue of the financial report issues that Kipp mentioned be reviewed by the development review committee.
Bestwick: …as chair of the Development Committee we will put it on the agenda tomorrow…
Swabey: … this request will not affect the Hilton project
Pattje: … I like the ‘sound’ of Johnstone’s motion …I will ask my question for the third time…because I have not received an answer…Why do people think a referendum tagged onto the November 15th election is NOT in the works because it is too late
Swabey: … in order to do it [referendum] and not make a mistake, we have to come up with the question…; we have to advertise…;  hold public open houses and road shows; …but I don’t think we can do it before the November 15th election… a referendum is possible at any time…the cost can be charged back to the developer… I would like to do it right and not have it fail…
Bestwick: … we should speed up the process and have it on ballot November 15th… then we don’t have to charge the developer for the question? ….
Swabey: …  that’s another point I didn’t mention we shouldn’t be doing the referendum until the rezoning is completed…so the [referendum] needs to wait…First council needs to decide on the land use…get on with the [sale] of the laneway and go to AAP… the land use is driving everything.. there is no sense doing a referendum and finding out that the public doesn’t want the park to be sold but you have already approved the rezoning application or vice versa you have to take the land use to a certain point…
Bestwick: …based on what you said then shouldn’t we be doing the referendum first?
Swabey: …the land use is the most important decision it involves the [sale] of the laneway and [sale] of the parkland so you need to be… you wouldn’t want to get ahead of yourself and have the land use to happen and then go out and see if you want to lease the parkland….
Bestwick: ..we don’t decide, isn’t it up to the electorate?
Swabey: … NO – it is up to you the council, even if it goes to referendum it is still up to council on what you want to do, it doesn’t matter how the public votes, it is just your way of gauging what the public thinks, [referendum] it is not mandatory
Mckay: …do we not have to have all the bylaws adopted concerning this project prior to six weeks before general voting day?
Swabey: …I am not aware of that.
Brennan: …point of order…this is a notice of motion… not the time for discussion. No one has any answers.
Ruttan: …Where are we? [laughter]

Questions raised by public:

Public: …will the sale of the laneway be considered prior to the lease of the parkland?
Staff: …we have had 3rd reading of selling the laneway already and it passed tonight.  So the laneway will be consolidated with the property. That will get final adoption by the next council meeting. Then we would bring forward the draft lease agreement for Georgia Park. Then council would decide if it is to go to AAP or referendum.

Public: So the sale of the laneway would be passed before the lease of the park would be approved?
Staff: Yes …

Public: So if the lease of the park falls through and the developer cancels the development then we will have increased the size and value of his property by the sale of the laneway, and by passing rezoning increases of floor and height areas? Would there be a covenant that would revert back to what it currently is if the development doesn’t happen on this property within a specified number of years? We have increased the value of the property.
Staff: …no sunset clauses, not possible.
Public: … not a good deal for us …

The City of Nanaimo could just as easily add the laneway to Georgia Park and make the park bigger. The terrible news is that we are about to lose 60% of a public waterfront park.  Let us Save Georgia Park. Parks are for the people.

This is an election year— email mayor&council@nanaimo.ca let them know you want to keep parks public and/or start a petition and help Nanaimo Save Georgia Park.