Saturday, March 03, 2018

Alternate Approval Process - Valuable Tool or Abuse of Power?

"Alternate Approval Processes" (AAPs) have been used by various provincial and regional governments to sidestep around referendum requirements when the powers that be consider the issue minor. They are one of the few "negative billing requirement" type processes allowed by the Provincial Government.

In North Vancouver District the most recent one is to undedicate and detach a 5 x 150 metre section of Kirkstone Park. It was used last year to undedicate a portion of Keithlynn park for the new Mountain Highway interchange.

The two situations are entirely different - Keithlynn was to support a provincial government highways project. Kirkstone's is to facilitate the re-development of Emery Place by a private for-profit developer.

In his North Shore News letter Councillor Robin Hicks asserts the Kirkstone lands that are part of the AAP are "developable slivers". The catch is that in DNV parks there are NUMEROUS such "slivers" most of which contain trails connecting roadways and many are heavily used.

What makes Alternate Approval Processes so problematic is the high number of petitioners required and the short time allowed to collect them. Province-wide, 95+% of AAPs are "approved".

Many people feel AAPs are an abuse of power by governments and should be strictly controlled. It is next to impossible to get 10% of the entire community on pretty much any local area issue!

My personal view is that AAPs need to be discontinued altogether. I have heard the arguments on both sides and believe strongly AAPs do far more harm than good.

Even if AAPs are allowed to continue serious reforms are urgently needed.

Here are the legal amendments I advocate:

- Any AAP application needs to be advertised on the home page of the municipal website "above the fold" as well as in local print media

- AAP petitions should be able to be signed online on the municipal site. (I offer as an example the British Parliament site where there are strict legal requirements on what the government must do based on varying numbers of public responses.)

- The current requirement of 10% of the electorate signing an AAP petition should be lowered - I note that if the current AAP 10% requirement was required for the 2014 election only Mayor Walton (acclaimed), Councillors Muri and Mackay-Dunn would have been elected. I suggest a requirement of half the votes received by the lowest polling Councillor who was elected in the past general election.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Parks - Referendum vs "Alternate Approval Process"

Most District residents "know" that most of the parks in North Vancouver District were given status by referenda and require another referenda to remove their park status. Over 30 parks in NV District have "dedicated by referendum" status with 4 referenda passed in the election of 1996 and 15 more in the 1999 election.

However  that's NOT the view of District who believes that that only applies to the entire park and NOT to portions of it.

This issue came to the public eye due to a motion at the January 29th DNV Council meeting to apply an "alternate approval process" to de-dedicate a trail in Kirkstone Park to build a road where a trail currently exists.

"Alternate approval process" is a form of "negative billing" where District gives itself the right to waive a referendum unless a petition signed by 10% of the electorate is received by the required date.

1st, 2nd and 3rd readings were given to the motion which means that this parks de-dedication will come about UNLESS a petition with 5962 votes is received at District Hall by March 12th.

Because the first three readings were done on January 29th with no advance public notice this will be the only time this will appear on the agenda. Since the public can only speak at Council on non-agenda items at the discretion of the Mayor, Mayor Walton is able to prevent any public input on this matter at Council if he chooses.

During the Council discussion on the proposal it was claimed the cost of staging a referendum would be "too expensive". The referendum dedicating this park was held side by side with the 1999 election which elected the Mayor and Council. Any "expense" was part of the election.

Does anyone reading this not know that 2018 is an election year?

The public is entitled to ask "why the need for haste on this matter"?

The only possible reason why this road might be quickly needed would be to expedite the Mosaic Emery Place re-development proposal - but this proposal while it has had several public meetings has not come to Council yet for first reading! Anyone who follows municipal affairs knows it is extremely unusual for a major project to take less than 6 months from first reading to "shovel ready" - so why the haste?

The most likely reason for the "negative billing" "Alternate Approval Process" route is that District fears an outraged public might vote it down in a genuine referendum.

But that's a view Council has no right to hold - when the Council does first reading they have a legal and moral obligation to view the proposal with all the facts in plain view - maybe it's a great proposal maybe it isn't - but at this stage of the process this is not something Council can legitimately judge.

5962 with a 5 week window to collect that many names. Does that sound fair orreasonable to you?

One more point: District will only accept paper petitions on their form. These can be obtained at District Hall @ 355 West Queens. No online signatures or non-District petition forms will be accepted.

The voting public need to keep in mind that this "negative billing" process can be done with ANY District park and there are few neighborhood parks that could hope to get 5962 votes in 3-5 weeks.

While I'm sure Council would deny any intention to do so, using this "alternate" process all NV District parks could be de-dedicated without referendum one by one. While I'm sure their intentions are pure is this really a power we want in the hand of our elected officials?

If this passes the voting public will need to remember what has been done and remind the Mayor and Council with their ballots that this kind of end run around the referendum requirement is not OK and that we the people do not approve!

Friday, February 16, 2018

True democracy starts with the municipal

Greater public attention to the importance of municipal government in Canada is long overdue. In many respects, local government is the level of government closest to the people, and the state of democracy in the country as a whole is closely related to the state of democracy at the local level. The fact that voter participation in local elections has declined to abysmal levels is a symptom of the so-called "democracy deficit" that has now spread to the provincial and federal levels.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Let's hear your voice! Calling on the Democratic voice of North Vancouver

It's not so much dead as pining for the Fjords of a  'silly season'. It's an election year so it just didn't make sense to shut things down just yet. Maybe this little blog won't amount to much this year or maybe it will, the point is any discussion is better than none most of the time.

  This blog has been around since the election of 2005 and its glory days were from that inception with Barry Forward at the helm, until about 2011 when I took over. There sure were some interesting voices at that time! (And all the way along).  Unfortunately we cant view that era because Barry F. took it with him when he left. There are some of us who can remember the zealousness of  the late Ernie Crist and Wayne Hunter, Wendy Qureshi (super zealousness) Casey Cleland, Monica Craver,  Vincent Santacrose, Bill Bell, Sue Cook, George Pringle, Lyle Craver , many others and of course the wonderful Anonymous' (who many local political combatants chose to use) and even some elected officials whom dared not post here under any 'official identity'  Oh it was a lively time! I know it kept Barry Forward on his toes. The discussion was not isolated to District politics. In fact some of the most colourful discussion came from The City.

The extension to a four year municipal term starting in 2014 makes the last election seem a long time ago when Mathew Bond and Jim Hanson were the newcomers to District Council. Are there going to be a couple of council seats up for grabs this October? Yes that's right October, not November - that seems strange. What about Mayor? Rumour has it that Roger Bassam will risk his councillor seat for a run at the 'Big Chair'. Mike Little may re-appear again for the same contest. Will Robin Hicks and Doug MacKay-Dunn run this time around?

So were staying open for the time being anyway. The purpose of this little blog has always been to discuss the players and the decision makers of the community of North Vancouver in a spirit of good faith.

Sunday, January 28, 2018 Like a Phoenix!

It seems that reports of the death of this blog may have been premature.  At the last minute John Sharpe stepped back in, and will surely get things back to their usual lively self.
Many thanks to John for deciding to take on the job once again.

In the meantime be sure to take time to check out some local stories of note:

Therapy Dogs Want Pat On The Back, But Heartless CNV Passes The Buck
(Quille) Kaddon is the program manager for Vancouver Ecovillage, a non-profit that enables ordinary pets to become therapy dogs after a four-month rigorous training program. Kaddon says she was shocked when she found out that City of North Vancouver has denied a dog licence exemption for three therapy dogs which are in North Vancouver.
At a recent council meeting, the council voted to not grant an exemption for therapy dogs. Instead, the council is writing a letter to the province asking that it create legislation for therapy dogs in the same manner that it regulates the guide dogs. The city does provide free dog licences to the guide and service dogs because there are certificate programs and it is regulated through provincial legislation.
North Vancouver school trustees vote themselves 2% raise
The board of education voted Tuesday to give themselves a 2.2 per cent raise for the period July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018....
Trustees Cyndi Gerlach, Barry Forward, Franci Stratton and Christie Sacré voted in favour of the increase. Trustee Jessica Stanley abstained and trustees Megan Higgins and Susan Skinner were opposed.
Thanks To Your Taxes, Mayor Walton Now Knows More
If you live in the District of North Vancouver, you can take pride in the fact that a small portion of your tax revenue helped pay for Mayor Richard Walton’s education. Mayor Walton was reimbursed $9,647 for a Directors Education program course he took recently.
The DEP program is jointly developed by the Institute of Corporate Directors and the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. The program fee is $17,500 plus taxes for all modules, along with a $500 application fees.
According to the school, the 12-day course is taught by leading governance experts delivered in four three-day modules and offers practical learning to help directors navigate the boardroom intricacies.
(For those who were looking last fall, The Global Canadian newspaper is now available on-line, and on Facebook.  They would appreciate your clicks and likes.)