Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Designated Corruption Thread

The last comment by Hazen Colbert has been removed from the previous discussion topic because it really wasn't on-topic. I had asked who or what we should name things after in our District, and there were actually several interesting suggestions.  Accusations of bribery don't really fit under that umbrella.

Allegations of corruption on the part of our local politicians have plagued this blog for years, usually without any real documented evidence beyond "Developers gave money to their campaign" and "They voted to build a high-rise building that I didn't want."

If there is actual evidence of corruption -- a paper trail, bank records, plain brown envelopes, secret videotapes -- then yes, everyone needs to know about it.

To date, as far as I can tell, no-one has produced the smoking gun.

If you can back up your accusations, this might be one place to do it. If you would prefer, you can email me directly and I'll vet what you have before posting it.

Here are the ground rules before you start typing furiously.

  1. The lack of proper campaign finance laws in this province is not proof of corruption.
  2. I do not think that any of our local officials are lazy enough or shallow enough to be swayed by a couple thousand dollars in campaign donations.  And if they are, then your solution is obvious: dig into your own pocket and make a similar sized donation.
  3. If I give money or time to a politician's campaign, it's because I assume they'll further some cause that I support.  Usually people give money because of a politician's current or past positions, not because they think it will make them vote differently in the future.
  4. However, it's obvious that people who support a campaign in some fashion will have the politico's ear more than someone who doesn't.  That's also not "corruption," it's human nature.
  5. Usually when a local politician votes for something that you don't like it's not because they're "corrupt," it's just that they don't agree with you.
  6. Donations to campaigns are not kick-backs and do not usually directly benefit the candidate.  Yes there are ways to game the system, but on a municipal level we're talking small potatoes, and I doubt many people would bother.
  7. Similarly, developers' contributions to community amenities are not "bribery," even the absurd idea of British Properties paying for extra planning staff in West Van.  Just because it's crazy doesn't make it "corruption."

Two final points before opening this up.

Before you write anything alleging "corruption" or "bribery" I'll expect you to define pretty specifically what those terms mean to you.

Second, the opinions of someone like Hazen Colbert, who not only posts under his own name, but has actually run for office, carry a lot more weight than most Anons.

Disclaimer: If developers, Anti-developers, mountain bikers, oil companies, unions, Marxist-Leninists, or the Canadian Taxpayers' Federation want to finance me I will certainly run for office.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Who Are Our Heros?

News today was from Saskatoon, the Council of which decided not to add a sign at city limits in praise of local girl Joni Mitchell because "Saskatoon is ‘probably too large’ to have a sign saying so at the edge of town."

That got me thinking about what greets visitors to the North Shore when they come over our two beloved bridges - I'm not even sure if there's a "Welcome to..." sign on the roadways.

Assuming there is, what famous North Shore native would we choose to proclaim as one of our own? Karen Magnussen? Bryan Adams?  Todd "Digger" Fiander? Chief Dan George? Al Neil?

Or, even better, do either of the North Vans have an official tag line like "City of Champions?"

Just to get your creative juices flowing, here's an example from Whitesburg KY. When I lived there it only listed one grouch.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Hey Big Spender!

Mark your calendar for 7pm on January 9th, when District of North Vancouver Council invites you - yes you! - to step up and tell them what you think of their budget for next year.  As was pointed out recently by the ever eager Matthew Bond, last year's meeting was attended by exactly one member of the public.

Let's see if we can't increase that by at least 100%!

You could just e-mail Council I suppose, but we won't get to watch you live on the 'net.

You can download the Financial Plan Workbook here.

Just to get you interested, the Budget in Brief section says:
The 2017 Draft Budget proposes an overall property tax increase of 3.0%, with 2.0% to fund municipal operations and 1.0% to support funding for asset renewal. Operational savings achieved in prior years are still being realized in this budget despite higher levels of activity.
Official Community Plan related activity in the town centres and the natural renewal of aging housing stock in single family neighbourhoods are contributing to the changing face of the community. Organizational pressures continue to be managed as construction activity continues, several large projects are underway and we make further investments in our parks, recreation and transportation services. 
The 2017 operating expenditures, totalling $152.3 million, reflect these circumstances. Maintenance, renewal, and expansion of capital assets are achieved through a $49.2 million capital budget. The District’s long term funding strategy balances the costs of the District’s current and future operations with its revenue sources and financing opportunities. 
Here are some numbers.  Although lacking in detail, they do sketch out a picture of how you spend nearly $265 million dollars.

You can go here to see the Statement of Financial Information (SOFI) which  includes audited financial statements and information (to 2015) about:
  • remuneration paid to the mayor and council (Roughly $100K and $40+K respectively for 2015) (If someone sends me the 2016 numbers I'll update this)
  • salaries paid to District employees over the threshold amount of $75,000
  • amounts paid to suppliers of goods and/or services to which we paid more than $25,000 

I'm sure most of Council would love to hear your ideas for sensible, politically feasible, and popularly acceptable income and spending improvements.  Keep in mind that lot of the budget items - things like policing and services passed through by the regional government - really aren't negotiable.

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Sun Answers All Your Traffic Questions!

Go ahead. Read the Sun story North Van the new Port Mann? North Shore bridges at 'tipping point' and pick you favorite "Say what?" passage.

Notably absent is any discussion of transit as a way to reduce traffic on bridges. But hey, Cristy Clark's PR officer wouldn't have approved that angle so the Sun couldn't print it.
Traffic is bad all over Metro Vancouver, but the worst spot to emerge in the last several years is the bridgehead at the Second Narrows in North Vancouver. 
Municipal leaders were told in 2015 that the North Shore’s woes coincided precisely with the expansion of the Port Mann Bridge to 10 lanes in 2012.
Also, Lotsa video, graphs, and pictures!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Baby Boomers, Young Turks, and Regional Planning

In time honoured tradition the North Shore News, letter writers, and NVP members have managed to mash up some pretty interesting topics.

It started with the News writing about "District of North Vancouver development debate strikes generational rift," followed the next week by a letter from sometime candidate Hazen Colbert "No generational rift over OCP review in District of North Vancouver."

These led to a handful of NVP comments (copied below) debating the boomerness of various DNV Councillors, the need for a review of the Official Community Plan (OCP), and a call for regional planning that encompasses the entire North Shore.

I'm of the opinion that tagging people as part of one generation or another doesn't really help us to understand North Shore problems, and have known people who were old fogies at the age of 23, and others who were young at 70.  It's about vision, not age.

I'll also suggest that the OCP is actually a pretty well thought out framework for moving the District into a new century, and I'm not convinced that spending time and money to "review" it is the best option right now.

Beyond that, read the comments below, and see what you think.

Addendum: also read the OCP Progress Monitoring Report from February of this year.