Tag Archives: nanaimo

Killing the COW; Nanaimo Tax increases; homeless youth

Nanaimo Council voted to hold future Committee of the Whole (COW) meetings at the SARC building rather than the Vancouver Island Conference Centre.  Why? To save some money and to avoid the public eye as much as they can. Who knows when they plan to shut down the videos. This is a step backwards for public engagement.

COW meetings will now take place in the Service and Resource Centre boardroom (SARC) located at 411 Dunsmuir Street.

Voting in favour of moving future COW meetings to the SARC boardroom were: Councillors Hong, Yoachim, Bestwick, Thorpe, Fuller, and Kipp.

Opposed to the move were: Councillors Brennan, Pratt and Mayor McKay.

Concerns from Council watcher

A regular council watcher gave a brief presentation regarding concerns with moving the COW meetings to SARC. Apart from the fact that VICC can accommodate 200 people compared to 25 in the SARC boardroom, other concerns with the new location include:

  • COW meetings will no longer be live streamed on Shaw TV
  • lack of adequate camera/recording equipment in SARC
  • difficult to hear councillors in the new room
  • poor sight lines in the new location

The delegation also questioned how much money is actually being saved by this move.

Council discussion

Fuller: …what about the other three cameras [for the boardroom]? …Are we doing that?

Staff: …we have not identified when they will be installed…

Fuller: …there is one camera now…we just have the backs of councillors shown…

Thorpe: …The structure of the COW meetings have changed from being a committee to actually dealing with Council issues. In fact they deal with all Council issues at COW meetings with the exception of bylaws …I’m not convinced that the savings is much…

Kipp: …half the time I don’t want to be recorded when my emotions get the best of me…the official record is the written record…the cost here [VICC] is expensive…we need to be informal…

Hong: …when we get presentations then we should just defer them to Council meetings so  they can get on TV…

Brennan: …I prefer this setting …it allows more people more to get involved…

Pratt: …We don’t use our COW meetings properly…will we get some changes to procedures?…not sure that we will…the public is going to become very frustrated…

Bestwick: ….I have been advocating that COW meetings be held in tighter locations for a long time…I prefer not to wear a suit and tie…the audio problems can be addressed …cost savings over the years could be $250,000…Parks and Rec is looking for a new venue to hold meetings…

Fuller:..We are subsidizing this place anyway. How much is actual savings? Should we remove the food portion and save $5,000? That would be a savings…to cut the food.

Staff: …this space could be used by someone else for rental…With regards to food…we can look at how we can streamline that…

Pratt: What are we spending to upgrade the SARC boardroom?

Staff: …$80,000 for the upgrades so far….$7,000 for another camera…for another angle

Bestwick: …public hearings could be heard at SARC…we are paying twice by meeting here [VICC]…

Yoachim: I agree with Councillor Bestwick. I support this move…looking forward to ’roundtable’ conversations….

Pratt: Are we paying twice by meeting here?

Staff: We rent this building…get invoiced by the operator…you could say you’re paying twice…but we own the building…

Kipp: At the RDN we never record anything and we never have for years or decades…we pay a huge percentage of their costs…I would like to see some analysis of both venues…

Thopre: … we might not need to record COW meetings in the future…I would love to see more informal meetings…

McKay: …I hate the boardroom at SARC —it’s very cool, very grey on grey…trying to hear councillors is impossible when the air conditioning kicks in…Public participation is growing…don’t support the move…

Kipp: …what about using the empty 3rd floor [in SARC] it cost us $14million to build and is horribly designed…

Fuller: …committee meetings could be recorded…

No homeless shelter for Nanaimo youth

Last week a brave young homeless youth spoke to council about concerns that over ten youths between the ages of 12 and 16 were living in the bush. They were being turned away from homeless shelters because of their age. The homeless shelters in Nanaimo are not permitted to take in youth because of regulations.

Council decided to strike up a committee to look at the youth homeless issue.

At the December 12th council meeting, Council agreed to commit a maximum of $75, 000 for additional staff and beds. Staff said it would take approximately two weeks to get something up and running for the homeless youth in Nanaimo.

Let’s hope no young people die on our streets this holiday season. It is extremely cold outside at night and there needs to be action taken immediately. These young people cannot wait two weeks for staff to get their act together.  Listening to this homeless crisis were three senior staff  who are collectively earning over half a million dollars. Let’s see some action for our money.

Question Period

Some good questions were raised:

Will Nanaimo take over ownership of the Island Highway that runs through town?

Why is the City hiring a new communication specialist? What is the purpose of this and the costs? Who is going to be hired, Mark McDonald? Is his role expanding?

Will police and fire services, which were excluded from the Core Services Review, be looked at next year?

The $200,000 for an affordable housing strategy – is that going to be another consultant job?

Staff was short on answers as the CAO was away. Maybe next meeting the person will try asking questions again.

More than 2% tax increase

Get ready to dig deeper into your wallet. Overall taxes are to increase more than 2% in 2017, when you include the increased user rates:

  •  5 % increase for sewer
  • 7.5% increase for water
  • 2% increase for garbage collection

These increased rates are effective January 2017. The average homeowner will have user rates of over $700.

Quote of the night

The Good Ol’ Days: In 1951 Nanaimo’s population was 8,000 and they held council meetings in a backroom of City Hall and there was no video recording. [Kinda like present day RDN meetings].

Future COW meetings at SARC

No More Nanaimo Council COW meetings at VICC?

Nanaimo council will vote Monday, December 12th to stop holding COW (Committee of the Whole) meetings at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre. Instead, Council wants to hold COW meetings in a board room at City Hall.

The PROBLEM with this move is the boardroom at City Hall is too small – it only seats 25. By the time all the council and staff get seated there is very little room left for the public. In comparison, Vancouver Island Conference Centre (VICC) has a public gallery that seats 200.

New hot topics are first heard at COW meetings. These meetings can attract a large number of people.

If Council really wants to be helpful then why not change the start time of the COW meetings to 6:00 pm?  COW meetings start at 4:30pm. This is too early for most working folks.

Why move?

The two main reasons given as to why Council wants to move the COW meetings to a small board room are:

  • councillors would like a less formal place to meet
  • to save money

Council wants to sit around and have a ‘fireside chat’ about how to spend our tax dollars without the public being able to watch. Keep in mind those mind bending decisions are made long before councillors come to the council table. No one is fool enough to think that any COW meeting will generate novel new ideas.

How much money can be saved by moving COW meetings? The City has reported that $21,000 a year could be saved.

Council spends approximately $20,000 a year on catered meals for their meetings. Can they not pack a snack? Many would do well to go on a diet.

User Rates Increase 7.5%

This week Council approved a 7.5% increase in user rates for garbage, water and sewer. That will be about $480 extra a year in taxes for the average taxpayer. The rate hike does not include the cost of the new automated garbage trucks coming soon. Be ready, because more rate hikes will be coming again.

Council just voted to spend $325,000 for the Rogers Hometown Hockey Event. They are still looking for sponsors.

We are paying over $1.2 million a year for the VICC whether we use it or not.

If Council was really serious about saving money they should look at the millions spent every year on consultants.

Is this COW move really about saving money?

$118,000 expenses

Council has a total of $118,000 available to spend on expenses. This is up from $75,000 from previous years. Council needs to reduce their expenses by half; $50,000 maximum for the entire Council. It’s time to tighten their own belts.

According to the News Bulletin, Councillor Hong is leading the pack with $8,010 in expenses this year. Last year the Mayor was once the highest spender on Council, with $28,000.

Save $83 million

Just before Christmas when most of Nanaimo is drunk on eggnog, do you think Council will approve the Events Centre / Multiplex for $83 million?

Nanaimo Tourism Corporation; Legacy Projects; New Waterfront Plans

Nanaimo Council was busy for most of Monday night discussing the end of Tourism Nanaimo and the start of a new organization. This new organization will be referred to in this article as Nanaimo Tourism Corporation (NTC), for lack of a better name.

Before the NTC is up and running, tourism services are going to be split up between DNBIA and Tourism Association of Vancouver Island (TAVI). Also, there is a bid out for the marketing and tourism services for the VICC and the City’s tourism services which closes at the end of November. The City will see what quality of bids they get.

The Public Speaks:

A total of six delegates spoke about the new direction of tourism—five spoke on how they didn’t want the DNBIA to run the tourism visitor centres in town and one spoke about the proposed NTC and its structure.  Here is some of what they had to say:

Speaker 1:  We are not happy with how DNBIA is spending our money. You are recommending that all the Nanaimo tourism centres be transferred to the DNBIA for an undisclosed amount of money. Is the DNBIA the best to look after tourism services? We are not happy with DNBIA and the $230,000 to be handed to DNBIA. Expanding the DNBIA reach is not what we had in mind when we spoke here last month. The DNBIA have received millions. Where is the accountability?

Speaker 2:  I’m disappointed with DNBIA. Get some VIU students to run the tourism centres or look at other alternatives.

Speaker 3:  I’m not happy. Downtown Nanaimo looks like a ghetto right now with the burned out building around the corner. DNBIA  is already under question. We don’t see a lot of improvements for our money.

Speaker 4:  All of Nanaimo needs promoting. Not just downtown. We need a different group to promote Nanaimo. Not the DNBIA.

Speaker 5:  DNBIA is not handling the money very well. Now more money is going to the DNBIA! What are they doing now? The $10,000 we pay in taxes on Victoria Crescent needs to be spent in a better way. I have never had a phone call or visit from the DNBIA. This city needs tourism. We need to get the best value for our money. We need those funds going to our street.

Speaker 6: This report recommends that tourism centres go to DNBIA and destination marketing goes to TAVI and another group unknown yet will look after marketing of VICC and then another group will look after the Municipal and Regional District Tax (MRDT.) There is no mention of what happens to social media and the Tourism Development Fund and production development and the VICC and sport tourism and the MRDT funds. Any new plans should include the integration of these funds.

What is our next our step? We are worried. We have not discussed splintering things off.  We are worried we will be stuck for two years with no plan. We need assurances that we are going in the right direction. We need the right mix of people in the [proposed Nanaimo Tourism Corporation].

Council discussion:

Brennan: Is there a clear understanding of what is happening?

Staff: …there is some confusion…we have moved quickly and we are explaining it again here tonight…

CAO: …we are not going to get consensus on this…we are coming up with a process …best options…

Brennan: ….We are doing committee work here tonight…we should put the brakes on this and get some degree of buy-in from the people most involved…

Kipp: …we did this five years ago…get the experts going on this…get a strategic planning committee…

Bestwick:…let’s get on with it…I don’t understand why we need visitor centres…that’s why we have Google…let’s get automated…

Hong: …tourism industry wants stability…

Yoachim: …let’s get this rolling…

Brennan: …the experts came and said they need more time…

Fuller: …only one expert came tonight…let’s get this committee going…

McKay: …the City is only one stakeholder…there are many other stakeholders involved…look at the Whistler tourism model…we need Maureen Douglas…if she is available?….she should run this…as a facilitator…

Councillors Brennan, Mckay, Pratt, Thorpe opposed the half-page long motion to set up the new Nanaimo Tourism Corporation.
Councillors Fuller, Yoachim, Hong, Kipp, Bestwick approved the new Nanaimo Tourism Corporation and it passed.

A multi-phase process was proposed over 15 months but this new NTC could happen sooner. The Communications Manager provided Council with a working timeline.

Legacy Projects – temporary ice rink

Councillor Bestwick made mention that Nanaimo needs some legacy projects.  This week it is a temporary outdoor rink and activities for as high as $500,000. Next week the Events Centre for as high as $83 million.

Council waited until 11pm at night to put the temporary ice rink at Maffeo Sutton Park to a vote. Everyone approved it except Mayor McKay.

Rogers HomeTown Hockey Event

The Rogers Hometown Hockey Tour will be in Nanaimo for two days in 2017— Saturday February 25th: 12pm-6pm,  and Sunday February 26th: 12pm-7:30pm. One part of the event requires a temporary ice rink. The other part of the event is having Swy-A-Lana Lagoon transformed into a floating platform for a variety of activities.

After the event, the floating docks used will be moved to the Brechin Boat Ramp, Brechin Rowing Dock, Diver Lake Park and Colliery Dam Park. The project cost of the docks is $271,000. The cost of the temporary ice rink is $325,000.

Council discussion

Yoachim: … we spent $8 million on Colliery Dam what legacy is that…we need a positive family event experience…many people are excited about this…My family will enjoy this…

Fuller: …this temporary ice rink will take the pressure off of Frank Crane Arena…I like the idea…  I remember going to school in Toronto…skating outside of City Hall…I left the Maritimes…I can see opportunities for kids…to get that enjoyment…with global warming…do this once and if it goes well then every year…

McKay: … wish we had a budget for this… there is no budget for $325,000…I love to skate outside …spending $200,000 and all we have left over is $57,000 worth of mats …that we use for two weeks…

Bestwick: …this temporary ice rink will give us more positive  exposure…attract people downtown…we have made little investment in our town….we don’t invest in ourselves… …we will be able to say we did something that no one else has done…they estimate we will get $1 million in ad revenue…we didn’t have a chance to put forward a budget…think of the legacy we will leave behind…cool and fun…

Brennan:…I support this…I think it is a very good lesson on how NOT to plan an event…too little time to put this together…hope we get lots of people out for this…My family will have fun with it…

Hong:…we missed Slide The City…this City needs some fun…can we use the rink for Canada 150 [in July]?

Pratt:…I like the idea…we could build on this…I used to skate on ponds…I support it..

Thorpe:…exciting change…plus with the Events Centre…

Kipp:…it sounds like a lot of money but it’s not… we spent $357,000 on soil…

It was suggested that 8,000 people are expected to come down to Maffeo Sutton Park for the Rogers HomeTown Hockey Event.

There was one speaker who waited until almost 11pm to speak about their concerns that the City of Nanaimo was neglecting its basic core services such as recycling and filling pot holes, while focusing on one time events.

Will we get a referendum?

Odds are very high that Council will vote to approve the Events Centre (Multiplex) in December when everyone is busy holiday shopping.

Recently, former mayor Gary Korpan wrote a letter to the Nanaimo News Bulletin and advised that taxpayers need to hold onto their wallets tightly because a sports multiplex/events centre won’t generate revenue for Nanaimo. In fact it will require taxpayer subsidies (much like the VICC).  Mr. Korpan quoted former Councillor and professional hockey player Larry McNabb who himself opposed a sports events centre, “…hockey is a great game but I ain’t putting Nanaimo taxpayers in the poorhouse.”

Here are the results of our poll on twitter:

Council seems to be on its own course. Deaf as a post. Let’s hope they don’t put us all in the poorhouse.

Emergency Plan

A consultant will be hired to work with staff to develop and implement a business and emergency continuity plan. The cost of the plan is expected to be upwards of $125,000.

Why do we need to hire so many consultants when over 750 people work at the City?

Events Centre, Nanaimo marina woes, Bike Park, Bastion Bridge, Illegal suites, Harbour City Theatre

On Monday afternoon, November 14th, Nanaimo Council held a COW (committee of the whole) meeting where new hot topics were heard. It was a full house.

Topics heard were:

  • Plans for a new $83 million Sports and Entertainment Events Centre “Events Centre” downtown
  • Nanaimo marinas facing high lease rates
  • Stevie Smith bike track at Beban Park
  • Bastion Street Bridge replacement
  • Illegal suites – what to do?
  • Harbour City Theatre update

New $69M-$83M Events Centre

As of Monday, Nanaimo City Council has spent more than $240,000 on studies to find out if a new Events Centre is a good idea.

In four weeks a Toronto architect firm Brisbin Brook Beynon (BBB) drew up a proposal for an Events Centre. They have suggested two possible sites downtown.

  • Howard Johnson site at Comox Road and Terminal Avenue
  • 1 Port Drive site on the south downtown waterfront

More reports will be presented to Council on December 19th.  At that time Council will vote whether to approve the Events Centre.

The public can give their  feedback until December 18th online at mailto:eventcentre@nanaimo.ca or mayorandcouncil@nanaimo.ca. OR in person at Beban Park Social Centre during the following open houses held on Thursday evenings from 6pm to 8pm:

  • November 24
  • December 1
  • December 8

In the meantime, Joe “T” Taxpayer should think of some good questions like:

  • Why don’t we get to vote on spending this BIG amount of money?
  • What about the ferry traffic and public transit?
  • How much will our taxes go up with this new project?
$63M-$83M proposed Events Centre downtown Nanaimo
$63M-$83M proposed Events Centre downtown Nanaimo – to be approve in Dec.

Nanaimo Port Authority fees too high

A group of marina operators waited patiently until the end of the evening to present their concerns. They complained that the Nanaimo Port Authority (NPA) rate scheme is among the highest in Canada.

The main speaker outlined the problems they are facing. In a nutshell the speaker said:

The Nanaimo Port Authority (NPA) is charging rates which are based on assessed land values. This makes their lease rates prohibitively high. In contrast, the province of BC manages certain areas of the Nanaimo harbour (see map below) and these rates are based on income.  Those marinas governed by the province have significantly lower fees.

Marina operators cannot recover lease increases by passing on NPA fees to consumers and as a result it is driving business out of Nanaimo.

One marina’s NPA fees increased from $17,000 in 2009 to $96,000 in 2013; a 450% increase. Another marina saw their rates increase from $33,000 to $112,000.

Nanaimo Marinas going broke - different rates
Nanaimo Marinas going broke – different rates

The NPA met with marina owners in October 2016 and said rate increases were directed by Ottawa. A meeting is going to take place in Ottawa on November 22nd and hopefully things can be worked out.

The delegates said they prefer an income approach because it is driven by what the customers can afford rather than the upland value to determine water lot lease rates.

A proposal was made by the group that because the federal government is interested in off-loading Port properties, all parties concerned in Nanaimo should get together and form a non profit society to become official stewards of the Nanaimo waterfront.

The suggestion was to create a NANAIMO HARBOUR AUTHORITY (NHA). Marina operators would pay lease fees to the society keeping the money in the community.

Councillor Brennan made a motion that Council send a letter to the federal government supporting the marina operators’ concerns. This motion passed unanimously.

Stevie Smith Bike Park

Council approved up to $200,000 in funding for the Stevie Smith Community Bike Park at Beban Park.

The cost for this project is estimated at $412,619. Gyro Club of Nanaimo and the Stevie Smith Legacy Foundation have contributed $233,407 to the project with many groups volunteering their materials and time. The Stevie Smith Community Bike Park is scheduled to open next year. Unfortunately, it’s one of the last treed areas in the park.

New Bike Park to open next year in Beban Park
New Bike Park to open next year in Beban Park

New parking meters downtown

Goodbye to the old parking meters. Next week there will be new multi-space parking machines and no more two hour free parking areas.

The downside is you will have to enter your licence plate number to get a parking ticket. That means that the people at the City can monitor your movements downtown (if they need to).

The good news is there will still be free parking in the evenings and weekends on the street.

Bastion Street Bridge: repair or replace

A presentation from staff was made to council on repairing or replacing the Bastion Street Bridge. City staff recommended repairing the bridge. Bastion Street Bridge was built in 1936 and reconstructed in 1978/79 and in 2014 a repair report was done.

Options presented were:

  • rehab & seismic retrofit *recommended
  • rehab only
  • bridge replacement
  • bridge replacement in 10 years

The cost to repair the bridge was estimated at $1.85 million not including the lighting.

Council discussion:

Councillor Bestwick: Is there a bridge safety branch? (cynical eye roll)

Staff: no

Councillor Hong: When is the province going to replace the Pearson Bridge?

The CAO commented that she needed to speak to the CFO (about money matters?) The topic was tabled based on her request.

Illegal Suites

Councillor Fuller said that trying to find housing in Nanaimo for the homeless is next to impossible and that 45% of people in Nanaimo are living in poverty. That was why he was putting forward his motion on illegal suites.

A report on illegal suites is scheduled to come out next Spring. Council decided to hold off on the motion for three months.

The motion was voted on in two parts: Councillors Bestwick and Hong opposed the first line of the motion and the second line of the motion was opposed by Councillors Hong, Bestwick, and Thorpe.

Council discussion:  

Hong: …can’t support it…what is a formal complaint? When someone dies? We are talking about old housing around VIU…zoning is zoning breaking bylaws…we have to come up with the rules first…

Kipp:…fire dangers…fire report?…we don’t educate the public…give people time to fix buildings…

Brennan:…zoning issue…can’t have secondary suites in duplexes in the bylaws…

Thorpe:…secondary suites are money makers for these people…

Yoachim: …look forward to new CSO (Chief Sustainability Officer) Is it a lady?…to take up this topic…

Recycling Contamination

People want to recycle. The problem is it is a pain. You can’t put your plastic bags, glass or Styrofoam for curbside pickup. Don’t put it in the garbage either. You have to take it to a recycling depot:

  •  Nanaimo Recycling Exchange on Kenworth Road
  • Regional Recycling on Hayes Road and Old Victoria Road

How much extra traffic is caused by people having to drive to recycling depots? This new MMBC recycling scheme is a failure and will cost towns enormously in the future.

Harbour City Theatre fills seats

Harbour City Theatre gave a presentation to Council on their progress. They are filling the seats thanks in part to volunteers who work 145 hours a month on productions.  Attendance rates are up significantly from last year with 720 attendees per month this year compared to 474 last year.

Harbour Theatre at 25 Victoria Rd, Nanaimo
renovated Harbour City Theatre at 25 Victoria Road, Nanaimo

Privatization of City Jail? Brechin Hill ravine, illegal suites

Last Monday’s Nanaimo Council meeting was like an Abbott and Costello comedy show. The meeting got off to a rocky start, once again hung up on points of procedure. Was it a motion?  Was it an amendment to the main motion? Was it a procedural bylaw? Should the council hear the people now or later?

This Council has been meeting for two years. Why the confusion? Are they trying to run out the new City Clerk?

Objection to hearing from public

Councillor Bestwick asked if they could vote on the jail guard motion right away. Mayor McKay said we usually hear from delegations on the agenda first and then vote on the motion after.

The CAO commented that since this was only a procedural bylaw, it was not necessary for Council to hear from any speakers before they vote on it. Councillor Brennan made a motion to table Councillor Fuller’s motion until they heard from all the speakers.

There was so much confusion, at one point the CAO stood behind the City Clerk. The whole event was very painful to watch.  Council eventually decided to hear the people right away rather than at the end of the evening.

Mayor McKay called the vote and all voted in favour of hearing the speakers except Councillor Bestwick who objected. What?! Bestwick objected to hearing from the public?

Four City jail guard positions cut

Two weeks ago, Nanaimo Council voted to cut four City jail guard positions. On November 7th Councillor Fuller put forward a motion to have a female guard on call should a female detainee be present, and only if there is a male guard on duty. The cuts would still stand; there would be one guard working at any time. Fuller’s motion also proposed to monitor the situation for 12 months.

Fuller’s motion failed to pass. Supporting the motion were Councillors Fuller, Hong, Kipp and Bestwick. Opposed were Mayor McKay, Councillors Pratt, Thorpe and Brennan. Councillor Yoachim was absent that evening.

Councillor Thorpe mentioned that he had previously put forward a motion to retain safe staffing levels but it was defeated.

The councillors who voted against Fuller’s motion said it didn’t go far enough to address gender guarding issues and that staffing levels of two guards need to be kept in place for a safe work place.

12 delegations speak

There were 13 people on the agenda regarding the job cuts at the City Jail. Ten delegates against the cuts, two spoke in favour of the cuts, and one arrived too late to speak.

Speaker 1:
Reconsider changing your vote. Gender specific guarding is a standard in guarding. Council has put a price tag on human dignity. This will have a negative effect.

Speaker 2:
By cutting down the guarding you are not living up to what you have in the Strategic Plan. This issue has been gone over before in the last 12 years.  We find ourselves back in front of Council for the third time in 12 years. First in 2004, 2009 and again in 2016 regarding this issue. Many questions I have sent to council in the last three weeks have not been answered. I am requesting that you reconsider the motion to end Gender Specific Guarding and redo a motion to uphold gender specific guarding in perpetuity within our City.  If these job cuts go ahead, the most you would save is $30,000.

Speaker 3:
My daughter was in lock up. She committed no crime. People need dignity and respect.

Speaker 4:
We must honour the concerns of these women. The brutal reality of addictions is that some people end up in a City jail. Saving some money is not the point.

Speaker 5:
I ran a home for street youth. I don’t want to be guarded by a male.  If there is only one guard on duty per shift then there is no chance of oversight.

Speaker 6:
We have women in jails that have suffered abuse and need respect.

Speaker 7:
Gender guarding makes a difference for these women. Prevention and intervention are important but there are many young girls who are marginalized. This is a step backwards for us.

Speaker 8:
Councillor Fuller’s argument that no other community provides same sex guarding is not an excuse for providing protections for women. Many wonder how low the council will go to save money. This is an unpopular move. Rescind the vote on these job cuts.

Speaker 9:
The whole argument about having women guarding women is overblown. Everything is on video. The real problem is abuse of power. Having women on guard doesn’t stop abuse.

Speaker 10:
In March 2009 this same issue was brought up. At that time Councillor Fuller made a presentation to keep gender specific guarding. In an effort to save money we are making cuts to the most vulnerable in our society. Let us hope this council will see the error of removing gender specific guarding.

Speaker 11:
I ran the numbers by the City. The number is not accurate. How can you possibly save $360,000? We could add two guards for $60,000. Staffing levels will not be safe with only one guard on per shift. In 2009 Fuller supported gender guarding and now he doesn’t.

Speaker 12:
Gender is complex now. In which cell would they put a transsexual? Rights are not gender specific. Gender specific guarding could be legally challenged. Stand by your decision, Council.

It’s not about saving money

Councillor Pratt raised some interesting points in the evening. Here is some of the discussion:

Pratt: …one employee?…They have to do surveillance and clean cells and get food. How do you provide surveillance when you have do other things?

CAO: …CUPE has provided us anecdotal information and we need data…

Pratt: … I believe in anecdotal information. No one is being served well with just one guard on duty…

CAO: …we have processes to deal with workloads that will trigger an investigation…

Pratt: …What is the savings with this? We need to look at all the pieces of this.

CAO: I know you would like a magic number of how much money we are saving but we don’t have that. We are not looking at a huge cost savings.

Pratt: That is what I am afraid of.

Privatization of City jail guards

Is the BIG plan to contract out the jail guard jobs? No one on council dared to talk about contracting out.

Councillor Hong said in the meeting that Nanaimo could be a role model for other City jails. Does he mean that Nanaimo will be the first City to contract out City jail guard jobs? What precedent would that set for City jails across Canada? What would that mean for other prisons?

Apparently, the City has not replaced full-time female guards who have resigned or retired. They have been only using casual staff. Why is the City so gung-ho on cutting these jobs when it’s not about saving money? Why the rush? Unless it’s to give some ‘friends’ some contracts.

Do we want to be like the United States and have a private-for-profit prison system? With free trade agreements such as NAFTA, once a decision to outsource has been made there is no going back.

If the City jail guard jobs are contracted out, do we still need two managers? Why do we cut workers but add more and more managers?

Brechin Hill riparian concerns

Brechin Hill Community Association raised concerns about a proposed development at the top of a ravine on Vancouver Avenue.  Three delegations spoke on the topic.

Speaker 1:
A study on St. George waterway ravine needs to be done. The Newcastle plan was finished five years ago and the plan was to assess the needs of the area. The only thing that has been done so far is to make a dog park in the ravine. Nothing has been done to protect the environment. The proposed 10.4 meter variance is not a minor variance. We need to undertake a study of St. George ravine and find out what is best for this area. The house would sit on the edge of the ravine. We don’t have an environmental planner on staff anymore at the City.

Speaker 2:
As the Chair of Brechin Hill Association, I recommend this development should not be approved. The application was first presented to council in January 2016 and was rejected.  There is lots of wildlife in that watercourse. The regulations say there is to be a 15 metre setback from a watercourse. Riparian areas are special. Please reject this application as it stands.

Speaker 3:
Speaking for the applicant for the new  home development, yes this is similar to the last application.  There has never been any fish in this waterway. There is one building on this site.  The house can’t be relocated. If the society wants a walking trail through there then it will be more interruptions. The house will be back 23 feet from the ravine waterway. We want it to stay green.

Councillor Thorpe commented that he visited the site and didn’t think the riparian area was going to affected because the ravine is so steep and wild. Staff mentioned that the waterway empties into the ocean.

Council approved the building application unanimously.

3425 Uplands Drive 30 unit approved

Last year several people came to speak on this topic with concerns of how a 30-unit development would change their single family neighbourhood. The zoning was changed from R1 to R6 townhome.

Infilling of neighbourhoods needs proper urban design with protections for trees and streams.

3425 Uplands Drive - single family zoning changed -30 units approved
3425 Uplands Drive – single family zoning changed -30 units approved
3425 Uplands Drive - 30 units approved
3425 Uplands Drive – 30 units approved

Illegal Secondary Suites

It was almost 11pm and Councillor Fuller made a motion on illegal secondary suites. There was one delegation on the motion.

Speaker 1:
This is not a good motion. It opens the City to liability. There are 1200 known illegal suites now in Nanaimo. There is no definition of what is life safety.

Everyone voted to end the meeting at 11pm.

The motion will be on the next Council meeting agenda. The motion is:

Secondary Suite Enforcement

Limit the inspection of secondary suites to only those units for which formal complaints have been received.

Not proceed with removal orders for historic or known suites that are in contravention of zoning provided that life safety issues have been addressed.

The Council meetings are just like a comedy show or ball game, “who” is on first?


DNBIA tax revolt, Nanaimo Deep Discovery Centre, Linley Valley urban planning fail

The last Nanaimo council meeting didn’t finish until just before midnight. The bulk of the evening was taken up with the topic of axing the City jail guards.  Other topics of interest were a DNBIA tax revolt, a proposal for a waterfront tourist attraction, street parking ghettoizing a new Linley Valley neighbourhood,  a new $5,000 study on companies that  make things out of wood, and a warning to home owners about leaky sprinkler systems.

DNBIA Tax Revolt

Seven speakers waited until 11:30pm to speak about their objections to the DNBIA (Downtown Nanaimo Business Improvement Association) tax. All the speakers were business owners in Downtown Nanaimo.

The first speaker questioned as to where the tax dollars are going. He said that since 1988 over 300 downtown commercial property owners have to pay an extra business improvement area tax every year.

This year the downtown business owners paid $230,000 and Nanaimo taxpayers matched it with another $230,000 for a total of $460,000. The DNBIA, according to the speaker, is running a $65,000 annual deficit.

He estimated about $100,000 of the DNBIA budget is spent on six events and approximately $100,000 is spent on marketing. The other half goes to wages and administration.

What is left to clean up the deteriorating streetscape? He continued with concerns about drug use, graffiti, panhandling, sleeping and defecation. The speaker complained that the DNBIA has no minutes of their meetings.

The delegate asked the City to redraw and shrink the DNBIA boundary from which they collect taxes. He questioned the voting process as well.

Over 28 years the merchants on Victoria Crescent have paid $250,000 and Victoria Crescent presently looks like “hell” and what about other areas? Our street has paid $10,000 this year in taxes.

2nd speaker:
We started the Victoria Crescent  Association to clean up some areas like the China Steps and have private security.

3rd speaker:
We get no benefit from the DNBIA. After 2008 they changed the tax collection areas.  I’m down by Port Mall and we are in an industrial area. We don’t get any improvements. The value of my vote has a dollar value on it! You can’t put a dollar value on a vote. It’s an old boys’ club.  We have been in business for 40 years. We are forced into paying these taxes and we have no use for it.

4th speaker:
As a small business owner on Victoria Crescent I have to go out in the morning and clean up  the street; we have a problem with panhandlers.

5th speaker:
All you really need is an events organizer. You don’t need four people working at the DNBIA. This thing has ballooned and should be cut down.

6th speaker:
We have lots of street people; yet all we get for our tax dollars are posters.

7th speaker:
I asked them [DNBIA] what could they do to help build my businesses? They don’t like my business model. They wouldn’t let me advertise in their promotions. They do nothing for us. There is no bang for your buck. They spend about 90% on administration and 10% goes to events and activities. In the budget for next year you should question funding these people.

Councillor Kipp said that all they got from the DNBIA was a seven-slide presentation and seven pages with some actions. “Not a lot of meat for a report which cost the City $250,000.”

Kipp put forward a motion to request a report on DNBA spending. The motion passed unanimously.

Nanaimo Deep Discovery Centre

Proposed Deep Ocean Tourist Centre
Proposed Deep Discovery  Centre for the Waterfront in Nanaimo

A group of business people waited until almost 11pm to present an idea for a new waterfront tourist attraction.  They called it the ‘Nanaimo Deep Discovery Centre’.

The main speaker stated that this would not be a museum but an interaction centre that would include ocean diving and First Nations connections to the coast.

The delegation asked Council, “Do we have your support?”

Councillors Bestwick and Yoachim thought a discovery centre sounded like a good idea. Councillor Kipp said he could see a glass tunnel to Newcastle Island.

Councillor Pratt made a motion to refer the idea to staff and for the group to talk to staff about what are the next steps. By this time the CAO had departed for the evening and the COO said that Staff could talk to the delegation further. The motion passed unanimously.

Where will the Nanaimo Deep Discovery Centre go? How will the Nanaimo Deep Discovery Centre be funded? Those are two main questions that the group will look into over the next year.

Linley Valley urban planning fail

A Linley Valley resident spoke to council about parking problems on Cottleview Drive since a new Linley Valley development has been built, suggesting that the City’s urban planning ‘infill’ has failed.

Ghetto housing in Linley Valley
“Ugly” housing in Linley Valley – parking problems

The speaker said that the whole area has become an ugly parking lot. All the homes have paved front yards for parking. The residents are parking on the street. Each home has four cars each or more.

Councillor Fuller suggested that the resident file a complaint because the City only works on complaints.

The speaker said a resident shouldn’t have to complain. At the minimum the City needs to have a bylaw that prohibits campers, motorhomes and boats from street parking. (West Vancouver has a bylaw that doesn’t allow campers, boats, and motorhomes parked in driveways or on the street).

Councillor Kipp disclosed that he was involved in the design of the homes and said it is very tight in that area because the developer gave up some land for parkland. The resident said the area they gave up was a cliff which the developer couldn’t build on anyways.

Water sprinkler system leak

A home owner came to speak to council about at leak in his sprinkler system that he discovered because of corrosion in a brass shut-off valve.

He got his valve fixed but his problem was that his bill for water was $786 rather than the usual $172.

Staff advised the home owner there would have been a bill adjustment had the leak occurred between the water meter and the home.