Friday, 24 October 2014

Free Symphony Sat. Oct. 25


City Council Meeting 10/27/14

  Nanaimo City Council Meeting

Monday Oct. 27, 2014
7:00 PM Shaw Auditorium
Vancouver Island Conference Centre

        Democracy Is Too Important To Leave To The Politicians
        Do Your Civic Duty By Getting Informed and Getting Involved

        If you say: " I'm too busy just trying to keep it together to get involved, consider that perhaps, if you were more involved you might not be having so much trouble keeping it together "!

        You can view this Council Meeting Agenda here - - -  Agenda .

        If you can't attend council meetings in person (preferred) you can watch regular council meetings on Shaw cable channel #4. You can also watch the meetings live on the city website using this link. 

        The regular city council meetings are the only ones broadcast live on either Shaw Cable or streaming video from the city website. The Committee of the Whole meetings, while not broadcast live are recorded and can be viewed on the city website HERE.

         Some Council Decisions You Might Want To Think About

        The city just agreed to pay an outside firm nearly $25,000 to review the city website's content and set up a navigation structure. Our IT head gets paid about $150,000 a year and IT staff are paid at least $37.00/hr. and yet they can't properly set up the city website?

        The city paid a consulting firm $75,000 for the purpose of reviewing and developing governance-related policy, structures and processes. (In other words to tell the city manager and mayor how to do their jobs). A recommendation that came out of this report was the hiring of Alison Habkirk (an associate of Jerry Berry) at a cost of $8500, again to tell city management and council how to do their jobs.
        Council decided to spend $120,000 to install a public toilet at Diana Krall Plaza.

        Council decided to spend at least $200,000 on the old theatre on Victoria Rd. when a $20,000 solution would have done, until it is decided what is to be done with the building long term. Two engineers have raised questions about the seismic standard of the building, but staff seem content to ignore the concern.  

        By deciding to bring downtown parking enforcement 'in-house' which was supposed to save tax dollars, we are now going to lose $140,000 in the first year.

        We are paying over $60,000/yr. for downtown parking attendants (meter maids).

        We gave a $300,000 tax exemption to the bar operating in the old train station. This exemption was originally thought to apply to the area of the train station used as a train station and not the area operating as a pub.   

        Council decided to spend $170,000 on an electric Zamboni, when a propane fueled one costs $80,000 and does the same job.

        Council decided to spend thousands of dollars to implement a policy of banning the sale of bottled water at civic facilities.

        Council decided to add another $700,000 to the $844,000,000 financial plan to pay for a communications person (spin doctor), do you think that is a good use of YOUR tax dollar??

        Two years ago they decided to spend $16,000,000.00 on a new staff office, an amount equal to YOUR tax increase for 5 years! 


        Rex Murphy - Ottawa Shooting

        Note: Email subscribers may have to visit Nanaimo Info Blog to view


        Thursday, 23 October 2014

        Honour Soldiers At Cenotaph This Week

        Public invited to honour soldiers killed this week
        "We believe our downtown Cenotaph is a fitting place for local residents wishing to honour Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent following the tragic events that unfolded in Ottawa and St-Jean-sur-Richelieu earlier this week.  Our thoughts remain with the families, friends and fellow soldiers who knew and cared for these men.": Mayor John Ruttan

        Nanaimo residents wishing to honour Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, of the Argylls of Canada-91st Canadian Highlanders and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent of the Joint Personnel Support Unit at the Integrated Personnel Support Centre, both killed this week during acts of terror against Canadian Forces personnel, can do so by leaving flowers at the base of Nanaimo's downtown Cenotaph in Dallas Square at the corner of Church St. and Front St..

        Flowers may also be left at the Royal Canadian Legion Branches #10 at 129 Harewood Rd. or at #256 at 1630 E. Wellington Rd.


        Linley Valley Acquistion Completed

        At the Oct. 20 City Council meeting, staff were authorized to complete the acquisition of the final two properties associated with the Linley Valley Parkland Acquisition Program. Direction was given to acquire 5600 Vanderneuk Road and 3842 Stronach Ave. for a total price of $2 million. The lands are a combined 50.4 acres in size and will transfer to the City on October 29, 2014.

        In total, 177.5 acres of new parkland will have transferred to the City by the end of October 2014 at a cost of $5.66 million.  The Linley Valley park system will expand to 405 acres as a result of this year's acquisitions.


        Wednesday, 22 October 2014

        Nanaimo New Hotels Real or Fantasy?


        News Bulletin reporter Tamara Cunningham reports that there is still no building permit issued for the hotel downtown adjacent the conference centre.

        This is the project we were assured would be underway last spring, and when that did not happen we were told it was on for October. This is beginning to sound all too familiar, and it seems we've heard this song before.


        You may recall the premise for offering a 10 year tax exemption to builders of hotels and motels in Nanaimo was to prop up our ailing/non-existent convention business. Since neither this hotel nor the proposed 'Hilton' project can do anything to bring conventions to Nanaimo, taxpayers do not have to be offering up a ten year tax exemption.

        It should be rescinded immediately and taken off the table, should the SSS Manhou group renege on their part of this deal.


        What safeguards do the Nanaimo taxpayers have against issuing building permits for this hotel project, which can be stratified, if after the sale of units and construction of the building, it turns out to be a residential strata project which is never fully occupied?

        For that matter what safeguards are in place to make sure the same thing can't happen with the 'Hilton' project at Georgia Park?


        Hospital Area Improvements

        Information Meeting Oct. 28th
        Woodlands Secondary Cafeteria

        Members of the local public encouraged to attend

        The City of Nanaimo is planning improvements to the transportation network and underground utilities in the Hospital area.  The planned works include: a new sidewalk on Boundary Crescent from Townsite Road to Graham Crescent; a new dedicated cycling facility on Bush Street, Pryde Avenue, Townsite Road, Boundary Crescent and Boundary Avenue; upgrades to underground utilities (watermains, sanitary sewers and storm sewers) on Townsite Road, Boundary Crescent, St. Patrick Crescent, Beaufort Drive, Lorne Place, McDonald Crescent, Waddington Road, St. George Crescent and Seafield Crescent; and improvements to crosswalks on Townsite Road, Boundary Crescent and Boundary Avenue.

        A public information session will be held in the Woodlands Secondary School cafeteria on Tuesday October 28th from 4:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.  Anyone who is interested in the project, lives in the project area or works nearby is encouraged to attend.


        Intersection Upgrade On Hold

        Highway 19A/Northfield and Boundary Intersection

        A project to undertake upgrades to the intersection at Highway 19A/Northfield and Boundary are currently on hold as the City pursues options to address a funding shortfall of $800,000.  The shortfall is the result of higher than expected costs associated with the active railroad crossing, scope of the storm infrastructure required, earthworks and paving.

        Working in partnership with the Ministry of Transportation, the City has developed an intersection improvement concept that seeks to make the intersection safer and operate effectively for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists.  To complete this concept, the City has budgeted approximately $1,000,000.  The Ministry of Transportation has cost shared 50:50 on the design, which was completed in the spring of 2014, and committed to a cost share of 50:50 on construction costs up to $1,000,000.  ICBC has also indicated that they can contribute $95,000 to the project.   

        The revisited cost of the upgrade is estimated to be approximately $2,900,000.  To secure the additional $800,000 in funding, the City will pursue grant opportunities and a review of the cost share agreement with the Ministry.


        Tuesday, 21 October 2014

        Proud Gandpa

        The best thing about having my own blog, is being able to pull out the family pics and show them off. Seems like only yesterday this young lady made me and the missus 'Grand' parents.

        Over the Thanksgiving weekend we were able to visit with Amelia for the whole weekend as she was able to sleep over for three nights!

        The sun was cooperating on one day, so off to McNabbs corn maze where this picture was taken of this pretty young lady sporting here first new tooth checking out the pumpkin patch after wandering around in the corn maze.


        The Same Mindset That Gave Us Colliery Dam

        Blind Faith That 'Staff' Is The Final Word

        At last nights City Council Meeting Mr. Dan Appell, an engaged member of our community appeared before city council and presented a very credible option that could greatly improve the intersection of Northfield Rd. and the Island Highway.

        His presentation was complete with graphics that offered a visual aid to his presentation which to several city councilors seemed to present an option worthy of more consideration. Before Mr. Appells' presentation Councilor Kipp had voiced his concerns that the design as presented by staff still had room for improvement.

        Councilor Kipp brought a motion that would have asked city staff to give an evaluation of Mr. Appells design and he and Councilors Bestwick and Pattje supported his motion. However the balance of council did not with Councilor Brennan being the strongest advocate against asking staff to evaluate the alternative design plan. Councillor Greves and Anderson pretty much echoed Brennan's reason for opposition although they did not advocate as strongly.

        Her argument was a familiar one which seems to be based on the notion that it would be a waste of city staffs time to evaluate a plan put forward by someone who doesn't have the 'pedigree' that says their ideas have merit. A similar argument was made sometime back to discredit Mr. Gales' professional opinions as they related to the Colliery Dams. 20/20 hindsight tells us we could have saved ourselves a whole lot of expense and grief had we listened to him.

        This argument would seem to mean that our Strategic Plan is worthless as it is based solely on the opinion of a few hundred people, none of whom had to present credentials to give credit to their opinion.

        There are several parallels between last nights Council decision and the decision made which set off the whole Colliery Dam Debacle complete with $2.5 million spent and still no solution to the perhaps non-existent problem. Of note is the fact that basically the same three councilors could see the merits of the options being put before them, while the balance of council seem willing to put blind faith in the opinion of city staff. A stand which gives the appearance of a united Council with confidence in their ability to govern well, which in fact does not always lead to good decisions. Colliery Dam is a prime example.

        The familiar split at the Council table was obvious once again as only Kipp, Bestwick and Pattje were asking staff to offer an evaluation of Appells' presentation with the balance of council demonstrating their blind faith in staffs' opinion.

        An Observation From Years Of Watching

        There seems to be this notion, that if our professional staff have worked on some project that their conclusion is in fact the best option, which clearly is sometimes not the case. Colliery Dam is the only example of that I will offer here, but several other decisions of late come easily to mind.

        With Colliery Dam our professional staff, armed with supporting professional opinions told City Council that 150 people could die and severe property damage would result when Colliery Dam catastrophically failed as the result of a seismic event. Council and staff were told it could cost as much as $30 million to replace the dams and the city councilors would have the loss of life on their heads if the dams failed. We were told the dams were in such frail condition complete with crumbling concrete evaluations that both dams could fail in a matter of minutes sending a wall of water crashing through Harewood taking out day cares and John Barsby School. Remember?

        Turns out Mr. Gales opinions were correct after all even though his pedigree was discredited by both Brennan  and Greves at the time. Their faith in staffs' professional opinion does not always lead to the best decisions.

        Did this council just make a similar error and brush aside what could provide a vastly superior intersection, which could even save some tax dollars? One of Mr. Appells comments was the fact, that safety could be greatly improved by simply doing some re-painting at this intersection.

        Councillor Pattje made the point he was not looking for a full blown evalution of Appells' option but rather a brief critique of what he presented to Council. Bestwick noted that this plan is on hold for more than a year pending funding options, and he couldn't see what we had to lose by taking a look at Appells option.

        This is not how good decisions get made.


        Monday, 20 October 2014

        Nanaimo Election Candidate Information

        A Concerned Citizen has put up an excellent resource if you are looking for information on Mayoral, Council or School Trustee candidates in the upcoming election.

        The site has links to the candidates websites where available and lists all 10 Mayoral candidates, 26 Councilor candidates and 23 School Trustee candidates.


        City Management Wages - Justified?

        Given Current Economics Are These Wages Justified?

        The argument made that you have to pay the best to get the best is often used to support high wages for senior managers at the City of Nanaimo. The question of course not asked is 'how do you know you are getting the best when you don't go to open competition'?

        If memory serves, long serving City Mgr. Mr. Berry basically learned on the job and was never employed in any other city. His successor Mr. Kenning was promoted from within with no open competition when he assumed the role of City Mgr. and now we have Mr. Swabey filling that role having succeeded Mr. Kenning. None of these managers have ever been in the position of city manager in any other city and did not have to compete for their positions.

        How do we know we are getting the best when we are clearly paying salaries that should guarantee we are getting the best but are not going to open competition.

        On the question of justified wage levels, given the economic realities from 2008 to date, you have to wonder how a wage increase of nearly $40,000/yr. is justified when someone is already earning nearly $200,000/yr.

        A good question to ask your incumbent Mayor and Council when they are asking for your vote this November.


        Sunday, 19 October 2014

        From the Campaign Trail

        Instant Oatmeal and 10 Second Clips!
        What do they have in common?

        Now that I am a candidate, I of course have to be very cautious with my approach to reporting on my blog, as I don't want to be giving myself an advantage of some kind as I am not a third party sponsor.

        That said, what I am quickly learning is that our whole system (which society seems to have created) makes it very challenging for any of us to make any kind of truly informed decisions about the candidates we are putting in charge of our city for the next four years.

        There are 10 Mayoral candidates and 26 Council candidates, some names familiar and some unknowns throwing their hats into the ring for the city council seats to be decided on Nov. 15. Anyone willing to put themselves into the arena should have all of our gratitude and respect.

        10 Second Clips

        In about four weeks time all of these candidates have to try and convince thousands of Nanaimo residents they are the right folk for the job. This is where the incumbent have an edge as they have held the job for at least the last three years and some considerably longer. The place where that edge gets lost will depend on how many unpopular decisions they have made, and how long the electorates' memory is. As a candidate I intend to draw attention to some of those decisions, but as the author of this blog I must refrain.

        So far a group in Nanaimo called Progressive Nanaimo has hosted two new candidates forums at Beban Park which has given new candidates a chance to get in front of some of the electorate. The last meeting was attended by 200+ interested voters. This group is to be commended for their involvement in the process and their desire to make a difference in voter involvement.

        That said at the first meeting candidates had 3 minutes to introduce themselves and 60 seconds to answer some questions. The second meeting allowed 90 seconds for introduction and then a bit of a free-for-all format allowing voters to ask questions of the candidates.

        The local cable company is allowing candidates to tape a 2 minute clip to help introduce themselves, the Bulletin is allowing a 500 word profile submission and that is about it for methods of getting known among a sea of candidates.

        So, in four short weeks Nanaimo residents will be charged with electing a board of directors to guide our $200,000,000 corporation for the next four years. The tools available to candidates include:

        Signs - (probably turn off as many as they turn on) but a necessary evil if you are fighting for name recognition. Remember the incumbent have been on the telly and in the papers for at least the last three years.

        Candidates forums - which basically are nearly pointless as each candidate may get 5 minutes to convince you how wonderful they are.

        Websites - are becoming one of the more productive ways for candidates to get there messages across. They can contain as little or as much information as you want, they can contain audio and video messaging and they are always available when the voters wish to look at them. In short they are becoming a very effective tool in the battle for a council seat.

        Media Ads - the local media will sell you as much space as your sponsors can afford, which for some candidates runs into the thousands of dollars getting their message across. Of course, most voters realize the information in a paid advertisement is totally biased and should certainly not carry the weight of a proper interview conducted by a reporter, which seems to be a thing of the past as instant oatmeal and 10 seconds clips seem to be all the nourishment we seem to crave these days.


        MMBC Creates Problems In Rural Areas

        An article in the Times Colonist points to a problem the shift to MMBC has created for some rural communities which is endangering their recycling programs.

        It does raise the question about how this change could also effect other recycling centres and their viability to operate as it seems MMBC have brought changes to the whole recycle business.


        Saturday, 18 October 2014

        Small Business Roundtable Report Online

        “Small businesses are the heart and soul of our communities, and the roundtable is working to ensure that more B.C. communities are operating in the spirit of the Small Business Accord. They are giving small businesses the support they need in order to thrive, and to help B.C. reach its goal of being the most small-business friendly jurisdiction in Canada.”: Naomi Yamamoto Minister of State for Tourism and Small Business

        VANCOUVER – The Small Business Roundtable is celebrating a year of accomplishments and looking forward to helping small businesses to grow and succeed in British Columbia in 2014/15 as it welcomes new members.
        Highlights from the Roundtable are laid out in their eighth annual report, which was presented to Minister of State for Tourism and Small Business Naomi Yamamoto at a Vancouver Board of Trade (VBOT) Breakfast in Vancouver today.

        The Small Business Roundtable welcomes seven new members:
        • Sean Surerus, vice president, Surerus Pipeline Inc., Fort St John, B.C.
        • Angue Barnard, founder, TripTide Canada, Nanaimo, B.C.
        • Ingrid Hope, owner & president, Hall Printing, Trail and Nelson, B.C.
        • Sam Howard, senior policy analyst, British Columbia Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Vancouver, B.C.
        • Bob Redden, partner & president, Environmental Dynamics Inc., Prince George, B.C.
        • Ashley Ramsay, founder & CEO, Yeti Farm Creative, Kelowna, B.C.
        • Jill Doucette, owner, Synergy Enterprises, Victoria, B.C.
        • Randy Richmond, vice president and partner,, Nelson, B.C.
        B.C.’s Small Business Roundtable is responsible for identifying key small-business issues and opportunities, providing recommendations to enhance the small-business climate in B.C., and promoting small-business interests in the province.
        The report also outlines what government and Roundtable members will work on in the coming year, including:
        • Continuing to ensure that the principles of the Small Business Accord are upheld.
        • Ensuring that government delivers on its commitment to consider small business when drafting all policies and regulations.
        • And continuing to work with local governments to encourage them to adopt mobile business licences.
        In addition to focusing on economic development and trade opportunities, the Small Business Roundtable continues to advise government on issues, strategies and potential actions to make it easier to do business in British Columbia. The Roundtable was formed in 2005. Its members are small business leaders who represent regions, industries and associations throughout British Columbia.
        The Roundtable has launched a new website to support their efforts. The website has a built-in feedback tool, so small-business owners, employees, stakeholders and members of the public can submit their ideas and suggestions on how best to support small business success throughout the province. The Roundtable will use this feedback to inform future policy and programs related to small businesses.