Councillor Kipp made a motion earlier this year to have council meetings moved from Monday to Thursday nights. Now there is a problem. A BIG problem.
To review, the motion was:
Move Council meetings to the 1st and 3rd Thursdays of each month.
Move Committee of the Whole (COW) Meetings to the 2nd and 4th Thursday of each Month.
The problem is Shaw Cable CAN’T broadcast live on Thursdays because they have other programming obligations.
The proposed change is to have the COW meetings on Thursdays at 1pm.
Mr. Swabey, the City Manager has made the following recommendations, that COW meetings:
be held in Board Room in the City Hall
NOT be televised or recorded
become “committee” meetings and no longer like “council” meetings
If this motion passes on Monday, January 19, 2015 it will be terrible for transparency and democracy in Nanaimo civic politics.
The committee of the whole meetings are very important for all Nanaimo residents to watch. They cover all new “hot” items. This is where people can reach out to the community and city hall when they are having problems. Everything must first go through the COW meetings. Some topics never make it to council meetings.
To rely on the minutes of the meetings is not good because these are not recorded verbatim, have little detail and are not always available.
If the COW meetings are moved to Thursdays at 1pm then who will be able to attend?
Why would the City Manager want to shut out the public? What is the City trying to hide?
These changes could come into effect early/mid March. It all depends on how Council votes on Monday.
Take Action now! Send an email to Mayor and council firstname.lastname@example.org and ask that they keep all meetings recorded and televised as they are now.
On Monday, January 19th the new Nanaimo Council will receive the Draft 2015 – 2019 Financial Plan.
If this budget is adopted it will mean 3.9% increase in taxes for 2015.
The proposed five year financial plan will increase Nanaimo property taxes by 12.8%. This amount will be more because it doesn’t include the taxes for water, sewer, garbage, RDN, schools and local hospital.
City of Nanaimo tax increases 2015-2019
In 2015 Nanaimo residents will pay 14.5% more for the following core services:
Water rates 7.5%
What is causing the tax increases? Staffing is the largest cost including wage and benefit increases for:
City of Nanaimo
Vancouver Island Regional Library
RCMP (3 additional members)
Fire Station staff (4 additonal staff in 2016)
(The City of Nanaimo eliminated 3 management positions savings $359,000) *price of settlements not included
Other reasons for tax increases are because of asset management, debt repayment and inflation.
For a single family home assessed at $350,000 that would mean an increase of $60.84 in taxes. This increase doesn’t include schools, hospital and RDN.
Also, don’t forget the other rate hikes for 2015 such as:
BC Ferries 3.9%
BC Hydro 6%
That would bring the total tax increases to approximately 50% for 2015.
This year has been very eventful. Local elections saw many new people elected to councils and school boards in Nanaimo and other mid island communities. The good news of 2014: part of Linley Valley West was set aside as a park after many years of hard work by local residents.
There is a motion on the Nanaimo Council agenda for the Monday December 15, 2014 meeting regarding downtown Nanaimo parking. DNBIA (Downtown Nanaimo Business Improvement Association) is requesting free on-street parking on Saturdays downtown and in the Old City Quarter for a one year trial period. Also, DNBIA suggested there be free parking in the evenings after 6pm and weekends for all City owned parking lots downtown such as the Bastion Street Parkade (except the Conference Centre parkade and the Harbourfront parkade). **
This is to find out if free parking will increase the number of people coming to downtown Nanaimo on weekends.
In August 2014, plans were made to raise parking rates and put in 500 additional parking meters in the Old City Quarter and on other streets including Commercial Street. This parking plan will cost almost $900,000 to be phased in over the next few years.
Metered parking has gone up from $.50 per hour to $1.25 per hour. Rates have gone up from $3 to $9 for 12-hour parking at the City’s Cavan, Wallace and Wentworth street parking lots. To promote the use of off-street parkades the rate is $.75 for two hours.
The highest demand for parking in downtown Nanaimo is Monday to Friday during daytime hours. The maximum allowable time is 2 hours for on-street parking.
Currently, the City is paying a company about $50,000 per year to collect money from parking meters. The City reports to be collecting about $12,000 per month. There are currently 285 metered stalls.
Will people continue to go downtown during the weekdays as frequently as they do now?
Also, there is the ongoing maintenance of the parkades. The City recently spent $200,000 on repair work at the Bastion Street Parkade.
Unfortunately, the City’s parking rates don’t cover the costs of maintenance and building the parkades in the first place.
What will happen when the new hotels get built downtown? Where will everyone park? Where will the people who work downtown park their cars?
How steep are the challenges for merchants in downtown Nanaimo? Just from scanning the streets, it looks like there are still lots of vacant shops downtown.
Thinking outside the Box
People will go to where parking is free and easy. There is lots of free and easy parking at all the malls in Nanaimo. The challenge will be to offer something different. This requires people to think outside the box.
What about turning the downtown into a pedestrian and cycling zone? What about free bus shuttles from the hospital to downtown or the ferries during the summer? Get people downtown hassle-free.
**Nanaimo Council voted to approve the DNBIA request for free Saturday and evening parking.
On Monday, December 8, 2014 at the Committee of Whole meeting Nanaimo council will vote to proceed with a Sponsorship Program. What is ‘Sponsorship’? How does it work?
The City of Nanaimo would like to make some money. How does it plan to do this? By selling ‘naming rights’ or get corporations to sign a ‘sponsorship agreement’.
Sponsorship differs from gifting. In the past when companies gave donations or provided grants and gifts typically it was understood that no compensation was expected.
In a sponsorship agreement the corporate sponsor expects a return on investment.
At the November 5, 2014 Culture and Heritage Commission meeting, the C&H commission passed a motion recommending that Council approve the Corporate Sponsorship Policy for the City and have staff develop a separate Naming Rights and Advertising Policy.
The Draft document so far suggests that council approve sponsorships over $75,000 and anything under would be approved by the City.
Questions that arise about a Sponsorship Program:
what facilities would be considered for renaming?
would the City be seen as endorsing the products, services or ideas of the sponsor corporation?
would this require a new position such as a Sponsorship Coordinator?
would the City have to hire an outside ‘sponsorship company’?
what about public consultation on naming rights?
NEDCOR (Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation)
Is the City going to task NEDCOR to look into a Sponsorship Program? They are out and about marketing Nanaimo. Taxpayers already pay approximately $1.5 million a year for NEDCOR. Would this be something NEDCOR could handle?
Lessons from Ottawa
It has been about two years since the City of Ottawa decided to get into Naming Rights or the ‘sponsorship game’. Ottawa awarded the Sponsorship Program contract to a company that specialized in public sector marketing. The company receives a percentage—between 10% to 20%—of all the deals.
So far after two years the company has helped the City of Ottawa earn just under $200,000 per year. The City had been expecting millions of dollars in return.
After 11 years of investigation, the RCMP have charged Jacques Corriveau for setting up a kickback system on contracts awarded during the sponsorship program in Quebec. Which brings a cynical question. Are Sponsorship Programs a convenient yet convoluted way of getting away with forgery and laundering dirty money?
Rather than hiring a sponsorship coordinator it would be prudent for the city to first hire an in-house lawyer. It seems ludicrous that the City has no legal council on staff when everything has to do with the law. In the meantime, Nanaimo taxpayers have paid millions of dollars in lawsuits that could have been avoided in the first place.
On Monday, December 1, 2014 the new Nanaimo council will be sworn in and will sit for the next four years. Also, on Monday night there will be 7 councillors appointed as Directors to the Regional District of Nanaimo.
New Nanaimo Council Seating Plan:
Last year at the December 9, 2013 council meeting a report was received from the Governance Review committee regarding proposed new changes for how meetings would be run.
One of the recommendations was to change the seating arrangement in order to improve dialogue between Council and City staff during meetings.
The new changes would cost approximately $4,000. The seating changes were approved unanimously at a recent council meeting. Are these changes necessary?
The proposed new seating arrangement is typical of what is found in most other cities. It is not too clear from the drawing where the media would sit. Having the podium more central and moveable and wheelchair accessible would be a good idea as suggested at the last council meeting.
Group dynamics may improve with the seating changes. Research has shown that if councillors want to be favoured by the Mayor who sits in the middle, then they are advised to sit on the Mayor’s right.
The big question is how will the new council engage the citizens of Nanaimo. Somehow the public has to be more involved in local politics. We have seen how crowds can get angry and out of control quickly when issues are sprung on them.
The public’s conduct in council chambers is something that must be addressed. Can people clap? Can people bring signs? Can people wear hats, masks, wigs? The rules should be clearly stated at the beginning of every council meeting and adhered to.
All councillors should be familiar with Robert’s Rules of Order. It outlines how meetings are to be conducted. The Mayor should reserve his comments and voting until after all others have finished so as not to bias the direction of the discussion.
For many members of the public it is very intimidating to speak about their concerns before council and to have people waving signs behind their heads is unacceptable.
Unfortunately, Mayor Ruttan condoned Sign Man. Frequently, Sign man has waved offensive signs behind the City Manager and behind delegations as they make presentations.
As pointed out in a previous post this activity is all part of a larger group on social media and letters to the editor in mainstream media. Any councillor who they do not like is also a target.
In the local papers it was reported that Councillor Brennan used social media on election day when then there was to be a blackout. It has since been reported that Elections BC has ruled that since Councillor Brennan removed her social media posts when asked that she was in compliance.
When politians don’t follow the rules people have no patience. For those politicians that stand up for unions, arts and the LGBTcommunity or minorities they need to be extra careful and watch their step as far-right religious groups will have no mercy with them.
The new social media civic election rules were introduced in May of this year and will not be around for the next civic election in four years. Lawyers have stated this social media rule is flawed because other people can ‘tweet’ out a candidate on election day, other people can ‘facebook’ a candidate; there is no limit. It is a ridiculous rule that is severely flawed.
For people who aren’t given a ‘suggested list’ of who to vote for, voting is not an impromptu activity. Far too many people in Nanaimo arrive to the polls with a ‘suggested list’ to which they have no clue as to whom they are voting for.
Over the next four years a lot will happen. The core review will cost at least half a million dollars, city staffing levels will be gutted, there may be an incinerator and a coal mine in Cedar. There could be 70,000 Chinese ‘tourists’ move into a new hotel downtown, and a possibility that the conference centre will be sold for a $1.