Thursday, January 05, 2012

Food for thought letter

DNV needs tax-calming measures


Dear Editor:
The District of North Vancouver's proposal to charge residents of a specific area for local improvement projects such as traffic calming is nothing more than a new attempt to increase property taxes (DNV May Alter Traffic Calming Process, Dec. 11, North Shore News).
They suggest that if 60 per cent of the residents are in favour of the improvements then they will be done and charged to that individual area. I wonder if we, as taxpayers, would be allowed to approve with the same 60 per cent ratio all new staff hirings, administration expenses and other costs that arise in the district. Instead of looking to find efficiencies, they keep coming up with new and innovative ways of increasing taxes.
It is time to change this mentality.
Local improvements to garbage collection, roads and infrastructure are the expenses, between other things, that should be covered by more efficiently using our taxes.
Elias B. Merkins West Vancouver


Anonymous said...

I encourage the management of DNV to keep cutting unnecessary staff. For a municipality with very little land to develop and not much infill going on either, the Planning Department for sure is bloated, and it's likely the case with other departments as well. Live within OUR means, DNV Council!!

Anonymous said...

Ditto for the CNV Council (even more so)!

Anonymous said...

It's interesting that these same areas that suffer from traffic problems are the same areas that are NOT appropriately addressed before development occurs.

What exactly do these traffic studies accomplish?

We have an incredibly "tight" DNV Council and staff and it IS NOT DEMOCRACY.

Lillooet said...

More food for thought in today's
Vancouver Sun:

"Mayor, councillor resign a month into term"
(Click on "Lillooet said" for direct link to story)

How many more Mayors and Councillors may be trading in their honesty, integrity and democratic transparency in order to stay in public office at any cost?

Anonymous said...

Mayor, councillor resign a month into term


Just one month after taking office, the mayor of Lillooet and a district councillor have resigned, raising questions about the integrity of the council.

Mayor Ted Anchor and Coun. Kevin Taylor, both of whom breezed to election wins in November, stepped down from their posts Thursday.

In a statement to The Vancouver Sun on Friday, Anchor said he felt he had no alternative and wanted to leave the council with his credibility and integrity intact.

"Yesterday I resigned from the office of the Mayor after receiving advice. I find myself in a very tenuous position and have no other alternative but to resign. I have never before been involved in such matters."

Taylor said he felt his principles were being compromised. "I ran on a platform of honesty and openness to people and to work toward change. The present composition of the council would not allow me to work toward those goals. I stand by my principles." The two would not elaborate further, saying that they have been advised against speaking.

"The resignation of Ted Anchor and Kevin Taylor is a big blow to the com-munity. They went there [to the council] hoping to work with these people, but they just couldn't," said resident Kate Kempfle, a member of the Lillooet ratepayers association.

The council in Lillooet has been mired in controversy over the past few years with divisive clashes with members of the community over issues such as water safety [unacceptable levels of arsenic were found in tap water drawn from local wells] and a proposed 2010 bylaw that would have made it illegal for residents to meet in public without a permit.

Since the current council took office, the issue of flooding in the Conway-ville area has dominated the agenda. Residents have been asking if the water seepage is related to a water diversion last year.

Many also question council's decision to seek a loan of $2.5 million to address the flooding, requiring an 11-per-cent increase in property tax.

"Most of us here are seniors on pension and cannot afford more," said Kempfle, insisting the town is "broke." Another issue has been that of transparency - at a regular meeting in Dec. 19, the council voted to eliminate the public question period because it often degenerated into an inflammatory debate. Anchor cast the lone dissenting vote.

Political newcomer Anchor and former Lillooet mayor Taylor were political allies and often found themselves at odds with the rest of the five-member council, said Kempfle.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Anonymous said...

I urge taxpayers to lower their demands of local gov't. In absence of that mind-shift taxes will continue to grow.

We've gone from a grass, or in some cases gravel, soccer pitch to million dollar artificial turf. Playing field lighting worthy of a professional team for 9 yr. old kids.
Nobody wants to wait in line thus additional staff for rapid service. Pools, workout centres, ice rinks, beefed up support for community activites of every kind.

Old infrastructure is decaying and needing big $$ for replacement - never mind additional facilities.

Union contracts don't allow for arbitrary cuts so their wages and benefits will continue to grow with staff cuts being the only option to tax reductions.

Easy to say cut back on staff and taxes. If council dares try it watch for the weeping and moaning in the NS News from every animal lover, soccer mom, jogger, permissive tax exempted organization in N. Van.

Direct councillors to cut facilities and services and tax cuts will follow.

The majority won't dare and the whining will continue.


Anonymous said...

Anon. 9:00, it never used to be this way, so I have to ask myself what has changed. We are at record low interest rates, so it can't be that. I can only surmise that it is an over-demand by citizens for services, in which case they need to re-think things as has been stated, or over-rich union contracts, and empire building by the managers that is the major culprit. If I'm wrong, show me.

Anonymous said...

The Unions have to back off. They have won many battles and now they have to get back to their grass roots and understand the economy and take their cod liver oil.

Anonymous said...

Easy explanation. The unionized District staff tell District Mayor and Council what to do and they do it! No leadership skills required.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't be so hard on the politicians.

The public is pretty quick to criticize if they don't receive immediate and excellent service and facilities. So cuts, or even failure to undertake regular facility upkeep are fraught with political danger.

That leaves the unionized staff. Yes their increases exceed annual CPI so their new contract needs to be reigned in.

Civic unions are allergic to pay cuts so that is a non-starter.

Actual cuts mean letting staff go through attrition or reducing the size of the workforce. Of course, that will effect service levels.

Round and round we go.

Anonymous said...

I would think the empire building is responsible in large part. Current service is certainly not great, have you driven down Lonsdale from 21 to 13 lately? Looked at the disparity in service in certain sections of the City? Street cleaning in lower Lonsdale area? Never. So much waste and "make work" staff reports. Why does the City have an Arts manager and pay $100,000 for summer entertainment? Why hire consultants constantly? Why not hire staff with those skills? Shakeup needed.

Anonymous said...

1. They hire consultants for "one-off" projects instead of hiring expensive staff entitled to high wages, benefits and pensions. It saves money.

2. You think service is poor now? Wait until the majority revolt against tax increases and staff are pared back resulting in service cuts.

3. Empire building? Doubtful. Just staffed up to current taxpayer expectations. Drop expectations and they can cut staff.


1. Contract out. Acquire services from lowest bidder - HR firm, accounting and finance, garbage pickup etc.

2. Amalgamate and eliminate redundant staff and politicians.

Anonymous said...

Great comments!

I think the most important thing to be done is to get the electorate to pay attention.

79% of the "voters" in the DNV did not vote.

What can we do to get these people to pay attention?

Anonymous said...

The last DNV Council meeting took place on December 19th.
There will be no public DNV Council meetings/workshops until perhaps January 23rd, as one Council meeting and two workshops have been cancelled this month. Anybody know the reason why?

Anonymous said...

What the heck is happening to the blog, John? It's been redirected for the past two days.

Lillooet said...

Dysfunctional municipalities? Duh!

Resignations signal trouble in town

Province should intervene on behalf of Lillooet's citizens to find out what's amiss

"Beyond highlighting how deeply dysfunctional Lillooet's civic government has become, the resignations clearly show the effect of the B.C. government's hands-off approach to citizens' concerns at the local level."

Anonymous said...

Is Lillooet on the North Shore? Stop spamming the board!

John Sharpe said...

Sorry Folks: Technical difficulties to do with annual renewal of the blog's host and server. Actually a lot of it was over my head, but were back on board now.

This renewal marks the beginning of the seventh year for!

John Sharpe said...

The reason there have been so many meetings canceled at the District Hall this month is due to a "Christmas hangover" meaning: there has been a lack of staff reports because of staff holidays over the Christmas season. With a lack of properly prepared agenda items, the meetings were cancelled. They don't go away, they just get pushed forward making for longer meetings in the first quarter of the year.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:22 - Read Lillooet said...
Saturday, January 07, 2012 12:21:00 PM

Anonymous said...

Should be covered by more efficiently using our taxes” key but how can this be achieved in an environment that lacks accountability?

One can only hope that social media will bring about transparency in local government. This is the only likelihood that management responsible for costing the tax payers hundreds of thousands of dollars with poor uninformed decisions, self-serving agendas, or found to be incompetent will be removed.

However I am not confident that local government will ever be efficient when the system lacks at the very least accountability.

John Sharpe said...

Speaking of the news article of Lilloet District:

"Mayor, councillor resign a month into term".

"Taylor said he felt his principles were being compromised. "I ran on a platform of honesty and openness to people and to work toward change. The present composition of the council would not allow me to work toward those goals. I stand by my principles." The two would not elaborate further, saying that they have been advised against speaking".

"The resignation of Ted Anchor and Kevin Taylor is a big blow to the com-munity. They went there [to the council] hoping to work with these people, but they just couldn't," said resident Kate Kempfle, a member of the Lillooet ratepayers association".

Makes me think of our 'all incumbents re-elected' DNV council and how Lisa Muri said at at least one of the 2011 pre-election Municipal ACMs, "We all get along to well". What does this say about any REAL debate? It would appear as though they did not want ANY new voices on council that would potentially upset their 'agreableness'.

Anonymous said...

Makes me think that in many municipalities the staff is wagging the council's tail. And they make big $.

Anonymous said...

This theme of sneaky staff and brainless manipulated council is repeated endlessly on this blog.

There is not a shred of evidence to support the theory yet it always finds a ready ear.

Some people really need to figure out how the system works:

Once a year council approves an annual budget. This budget encompasses all projects and expenditures by all divisions (sneaky staff and/or "management").

By law (and unlike federal and prov. gov't), local gov't may not run a deficit budget.

That means that council has to budget to the penny.

Management cannot approve 1 cent of tax money - only council can.

Every citizen can examine the budget documents. Every citizen may address council during budget deliberation.

So, come on conspiracy theorists, find those barrels of wasted tax dollars, point it out to council at a public budget meeting, have council demand a full explanation from sneaky management and when council realizes that you've uncovered that endless well of foolish and unnecessary spending then ensure that council cuts their budgets and save us tax dollars....

or just put this chestnut to bed and get real.

Anonymous said...

The $650,000.00 PC replacement at the city is an example of wasted dollars.

Could also be seen as an example of green washing. Is disposing of computers that are only 1, 2, and 3years old an example of the City’s sustainability vision?

Anonymous said...

Lower voter turnout? Same crap slightly different council

Anonymous said...

Anon Friday, January 13, 2012 7:42:00 PM

Please show us that the City is actually "disposing of computers that are only 1, 2, and 3years old".

Statements like these need to be supported with proof.

Anonymous said...

OK wasteful computer poster. Have you obtained the correct facts identifying which computers were recycled and their actual life usage? Did you ask for an explanation from the manager of IT? Did you address council during budget deliberations, give them the facts to verify and point out wasterful computer turnover and your experience with IT? Did you make sure that, in future, council will direct that computers have a longer usage life?

There's all kinds of internet allegations that end up having a perfectly reasonable explanation.

Anonymous said...

Didn't I read lately that Sue Lakes Cook tried to "view the budget" of the CNV. This was denied for weeks and then finally she had to pay for it.

Anonymous said...

Don't believe everything you read.

Copies of budget docs are printed and distributed free to the public at budget time.

However, if someone wants docs at other times of year then staff has to stop doing their assigned work, retrieve and print the docs and the requestor may be required to pay a nominal per page charge in recognition of a tiny portion of the expense of staff time used on their behalf.

Seems reasonable to me as a small persistent group of people could make endless requests thereby tying up staff that should be directing their efforts in the interests of the entire municipality.

Anonymous said...

Anon Saturday, January 14, 2012 5:27:00 PM,

A user fee for requested documents seems perfectly reasonable, or would you prefer that tax payers foot the bill?

Anonymous said...

Why not get one of our elected officials that frequent this blog to provide the facts and obtain the explanations? I would think that they could obtain this information pretty quick and post it to this blog and let the court of public opinion have a go?

Then in the words of Anon 5:33 we can “put this chestnut to bed and get real”

Anonymous said...

You missed the point.

The budget documents, as they incur, should be available online at no cost to the taxpayers.

This is called democracy.

Anonymous said...

Financial statements are available online. Lots of information is there if you care to look for it.

Anonymous said...

Looks like we got real.

Anonymous said...

Local government is not a democracy it is a dictatorship. There is no official opposition. Submitting a budget to an audience that lacks expertise in the subject is like taking candy from a baby. Substitute candy with money and baby with tax payer and you get the picture.

Anonymous said...

Oh stop the nonsense! We voted these guys in and they're doing what they were elected to do. Comparing it to a dictatorship is lazy thinking and infantile. If you're unhappy about how council operates, go to the council meetings on Monday nights and hold their feet to the fire. If you aren't prepared to participate when you feel it's going wrong don't come here spewing garbage.

Anonymous said...

No 20 odd % voted them in. The system is broken. Go stick your head back in the sand.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't matter how many voted. Complaining, rather than participating, is just lazy and a cop-out. If you have issues, voice them to council, not a rarely read blog. If council doesn't listen, contact the media. Council gets away with what you let them get away with.

Anonymous said...

Some prefer the orchestrated confines of council and/or the left/right wing influenced newspapers as a means of participating.

Some prefer social blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Internet forums, wikis, and podcasts as a media for social interaction and participation.

Anonymous said...

That's all fine and good, but if the latter have no influence on council, what's the point? Do you really think the rantings on this little blog has any influence?

Anonymous said...

Why are you so concerned with the dialogue that is presented on this rarely read little blog?

Anonymous said...

Look, there was a bunch of bitching because posters thought that they couldn't get budget docs.

Turns out they can.

Now there's bitching because there is no "official" opposition on council.

Have you ever watched a council meeting? The opposite positions are commonplace, never mind the sniping and politicking.

Anonymous said...

It does not turn out they can!

They cannot.

FIA looked after by the BC Liberals does not want people to know what is going on.

And most especially the Liberal-led DNV Council.

Anonymous said...

Nonsense. I have requested DNV budget docs at budget time and received them free of charge.

So have others, esp. the well-known "Council watchers" who make detailed comments on the budget figures derived from those same docs every single year.

All public and recorded by cameras in Council chambers.

Put away your "victim" mentality and get into reality.

Anonymous said...

But, the 'victim' mentality is easy and convenient for the lazy. And best of all, they have no need to feel accountable for their words.

Anonymous said...

Others have requested information and at a cost.

Some bloggers may be perceived as having a victim mentality while others may be perceived as obsequious, especially when it involves council. Either way it promotes dialogue.

Anonymous said...

The budget documents are available for free to the public prior to and during budget debate meetings so that the public may make comment to council.

If you want information retrieved outside of budget deliberations so staff has to spend time researching and printing information for one person then you have to pay for it.

And so you should.

John Sharpe said...

Anons 7:30 PM, 11:28 AM, 5:21 PM,

As the blog administrator I can tell you that this little blog is not so rarely read as you say. I have access to the statistics and, all things in perspective for a locally oriented little blog the page views here are significant. Many people visit, relatively few comment.

That said, I'm always on the look out and open to new posters, new ideas, and constructive discussion here on

Anonymous said...

John, how many of those 'significant' numbers are from different people and not repeat visits by the same old same old?

Anonymous said...

Isn’t all the information generated with public money and therefore owned by the public domain? Local government should actually make all this information available on line for anyone.

Anonymous said...

Now let's see.

We have the usual suspects endlessly whining about tax costs and inefficient municipal staff.

Then we have someone suggesting that staff should take the time to publish "public documents" online.

For who? The 1 person out of 86,000 that is interested?

Have you ever seen just the weekly council package of documents? It's the size of a phone book, full of staff reports and opinions, maps, supporting materials.

What a waste of staff time for some entitled beauty who wants to avoid paying for a special document request. I for one am not interested in paying higher taxes for that.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, it would seem that just because we pay taxes, some here feel that that equates with treating municipal staff as though they are indentured servants, available at the drop of a hat to service the slightest whim. When did we become such an entitled bunch?

Anonymous said...

If the weekly council package is the size of a phone book it makes perfect sense to store this online. This process alone would reduce paper, carbon foot print, storage space, etc. The costs would be nothing.

Anonymous said...

I like the standard that West Van sets. Have a read letters to the editor North Shore News Sunday Jan 22nd “WV’s budget work is impressive”

John Sharpe said...

Anon 12:15 Pm,

Well now we don't know that exactly for sure now do we? But I see the numbers and they are much larger than the comments.

John Sharpe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Anon 4:06

Sounds like a disgruntled government worker.

Anonymous said...

I am Anon 4:06 and not a disgruntled gov't worker.

I'm a disgruntled tax payer.

There are those that expect staff to set aside their scheduled duties undertaken for the majority of taxpayers and pay exclusive attention to their personal interest.

This is reasonable if the requests are infrequent and quickly dealt with. Others are persistent, frequent and like the idea of second guessing and micromanaging the process.

If they take an inordinate amount of time that should have been spent servicing the majority then their requests should be paid for.

These are exactly the little cumulative time eaters that add up to commplaints by the same folk that staff are inefficient and too numerous.

I want my taxpaid workers to (mainly) be getting their work done for the majority of us and using our tax dollars in the most efficient and best interests.

As far as the old saw that putting stuff on computers saves paper, carbon footprint etc. I worked in offices B.C., that is, before computers and then after their adoption.

I estimate that we used about 1/4 the paper B.C. Many documents require originals to be stored anyway and the ease of everyone and their dog just pressing the print button is a huge waste of paper. Just take a look at any office's paper recycle bin and if you are old enough to remember how little paper was wasted BC you will agree.

Anonymous said...

Who's B.C.?

Anonymous said...

before computers.

it's explained in the post.

Anonymous said...

Nice to see reading comprehension is alive and well on the North Shore. Something to think about next time you start whining about teachers.

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