Overcrowding concerns resurface at Herbert Spencer

A proposal that would increase the student population at overcrowded Herbert Spencer has prompted some frustrated Spencer parents to start an online petition.

The proposal would see a second Early French Immersion kindergarten class added this September with 19 of its 22 students coming from outside the Herbert Spencer catchment area.

As the petition preamble states, “the current students of Herbert Spencer Elementary School already have limited and inadequate access to the resources and educational experiences expected from a neighbourhood community school.”

Moreover, three modular classrooms have recently been added to the site which has further reduced the play area available for students.

The sponsors of the petition hope to provide the school district and the board “with a mandate to avoid further over-populating” of Herbert Spencer and to “use the existing facility resources for the benefit of the community and the majority of our students.”

Facility issues are certainly not new to the New Westminster school district, and this one is no exception.

For those who are interested in this issue, the text of the petition is posted below:

Stop Over-Populating Herbert Spencer Elementary School

The Petition

Please note that this petition is not intended to be a condemnation of our school district’s Program of Choice tracts, but rather the issue of unnecessarily over-populating Herbert Spencer Elementary School.

Premise Behind Petition

This petition is to provide our School District and Board of Trustees with a mandate to avoid further over-populating Herbert Spencer Elementary School and use the existing facility resources for the benefit of the community and the majority of our students.

The New Westminster School District Board of Trustees is considering a proposal to add an additional full class of students to Herbert Spencer Elementary School in September of 2011. This additional “One-Time” 2nd Early French Immersion Kindergarten Class of 22 would consist of 19 students from outside the normal Herbert Spencer Elementary School neighbourhood catchment. Adding 19 more students, who could be supported by the community schools in the neighbourhoods where they live, will adversely affect access and availability to our community school’s facilities and resources for its existing students and our children.

The current students of Herbert Spencer Elementary School already have limited and inadequate access to the resources and educational experiences expected from a neighbourhood community school, as well as those that are actually mandated by the Ministry of Education. Adding more students to the Herbert Spencer Elementary School site unnecessarily, which already has not been constructed or intended to hold even the current population it has (i.e. the modular buildings taking up a large portion of the play area), will further reduce our children’s access to the limited resources and learning opportunities.

By signing this petition, I attest that;

I do not support the proposal to further increase the student population at Herbert Spencer Elementary School, due to the establishment of a 2nd Early French Immersion Kindergarten Class from which the majority of students reside outside the normal Herbert Spencer Elementary School neighbourhood catchment. I request that Herbert Spencer Elementary School’s facilities and resources be used to provide the needed and necessary educational and community services that our families require, such as; more uncongested playground space, additional gymnasium and physical recreation space and time, increased computer lab access and availability, restoration of onsite before and after school child care, and a school district that focuses on the needs and best interests of ALL of its students.

When it rains, it pours — Election Fatigue 2011?

We’re not the first to make note of the “perfect storm” conditions for election fatigue that have emerged in 2011.

We’re barely half way through May and we’ve already had two provincial party leadership races, a federal election, and a provincial by-election in Vancouver-Point Grey.

In the Fall we’ve got a civic election (Voice’s sphere of interest) and most likely a provincial election on top of it.

Sandwiched in between, of course, is the HST referendum in June — which means hardcore political junkies will be getting more than their fill of excitement this year.

But what impact will this tsunami of election activity have on the average voter? That’s the question many are asking.

Will voter fatigue set in and cause an unprecedented lack of interest in this year’s civic election?

Keep in mind that voter apathy (in general) is already at an all-time high, and civic elections typically post the lowest voter turnout rate.

As an example: During the last civic election, most of those elected in New Westminster were elected with less than 10 percent of the eligible vote (a sad commentary in and of itself).

And if voter fatigue sets in it could conceivably lead to candidates being elected with as little as 4 or 5 percent of the eligible vote.

Voice will certainly be doing its part to shake things up and engage voters over the coming months.

And, just as we did in the last election, Voice will be working to support community-based candidates capable of putting the interests of the community above all other interests.

The District Labour Council will, in all probability, also gear up to support their special interest slate-that-claims-not-to-be-a-slate slate of candidates, just as they’ve done practically from the beginning of time.

In fact, if the past is a guide to the present, the District Labour Council is probably screening their “labour friendly” candidates for endorsement right about now.

Insight into the District Labour Council’s screening process can be gleaned from a July 15, 2008 article posted on CUPE BC’s website.

Under the headline, “Political action committee gears up for fall elections” (with the sub-headline, “Holding candidates accountable”), the article states: “Each candidate in the local elections is asked to complete a profile of his or her position on P3s, contracting out, pay equity, and other important issues.”

Digressing for just a moment, it’s important to note that Voice has absolutely no issue with CUPE, or any other union, defining and articulating the concerns and interests of its members.

CUPE staff contribute directly to the success of our community. They deserve to have a voice, to have their concerns listened to, and to have their interests accounted for in the consensus building and decision making processes.

In fact, many will no doubt recall that it was Voice that stood up for the school district’s CUPE staff who had been exposed to asbestos when the district attempted to sweep the incident under the carpet a couple of years ago.

Perhaps the District Labour Council should ask their New Westminster school trustees about this sorry episode when they re-screen them as candidates for endorsement this year.

But getting back to the main thread of this posting: From the July 15, 2008 article noted above, it’s quite clear what happens to District Labour Council candidates who do not live up to the DLC’s special interest expectations.

As the July 15, 2008 article states: “Four elections ago, [Marcel] Marsolais stood up at a district council meeting and shot down endorsements of four incumbent school trustees who, during the previous term, had done nothing to stop services and jobs from being contracted out.”

In our view, not only is the District Labour Council’s approach to selecting and endorsing candidates too narrowly focused on a single special interest agenda, it also seems coercive and punitive in nature. Some might even say there is an element of bullying involved.

There is certainly a lot of money involved: District Labour Council endorsement typically leads to thousands of dollars in campaign funding as well as other campaign support such as a phone bank. All of these benefits are quite clearly lost to the District Labour Council’s candidates if they don’t toe the special interest line as noted above.

Voice takes a very different approach to its candidates: Whereas the District Labour Council seeks to promote a single special interest to the exclusion of all other interests and considerations, Voice seeks to achieve balance and consensus (and without coercion or bullying).

Voice looks for, and endorses, candidates who can be counted on to approach all issues with an open mind and place the community’s collective interest above any and all special interests and agendas. Put another way: Voice values sincerity over ideology.

But getting back to where we started; the question of election fatigue remains. Will it be a factor in this year’s civic elections? Will the District Labour Council candidates once again ride into office on a wave of voter apathy as they’ve done for so long now?

Let us know what you think.

Council Passes Motion Opposing UBE Options A-D

Well, after hearing from a very passionate public over the last month, council last night passed the following motion regarding the UBE.

North Fraser Perimeter Road / United Boulevard Extension

WHEREAS in response to concerns expressed at public consultation meetings; AND WHEREAS New Westminster City Council is concerned over intrusive impacts on residential neighbourhoods;

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT TransLink be requested to continue with public consultation and planning in relation to the North Fraser Perimeter Road corridor and United Boulevard Extension project;

THAT TransLink be encouraged to seek an extension of their Federal funding grant;

THAT Council does not support Options A, B, C or D at this time, and that the City reaffirms its position regarding the entire route and mitigation of North Fraser Perimeter Road (as resolved in 2007);

THAT TransLink be requested to work with city staff and the community at large to develop alternative design options for the extension of United Boulevard and its connection with Brunette Avenue; and

THAT TransLink be requested to formally approve removal of the existing commercial truck route designation from the following city streets:

– East Eighth Avenue – McBride Boulevard to East Columbia Street

– East Columbia Street – Brunette Avenue to Braid Street.

Support Local Businesses at Santa Shops Sapperton

Sapperton businesses, although happy with the end result of the street improvements along E. Columbia, have had a tough year with one thing or another related to the work that had to be done. Once again though they are looking beyond themselves and the hard financial year they’ve had and are conducting their annual “Santa Shops Sapperton” event.

The annual event, coupled with the Wesgroup Christmas Tree Sale, is a non-profit community event presented jointly by the Sapperton Business Association and Wesgroup Properties.

All proceeds raised on the day of the event are donated to the Royal Columbian Hospital Foundation. This year’s event will support RCHF’s Equipment and Patient Care Enhancements Campaign goal of raising $1.6 million.

This Christmas let’s all try, as much as possible, to shop locally. We can start this weekend by supporting the businesses along E. Columbia Street.

On Saturday E.Columbia will have carolers, Starbucks hot chocolate, roasted chestnuts, popcorn and Santa visiting the local businesses.

This is also an opportunity to buy your Christmas tree at Wesgroup’s Christmas tree sale. All proceeds from the sale of the trees support the Royal Columbian Hospital Foundation. Trees are supplied and BC Grown by Oh Christmas Tree Farm in Langley, BC and are freshly cut the week of the event. There will be a variety of sizes & tree types available including 5-7’ Noble Firs, Grand Firs and many more.

Guy Ciprian, vice-president of of the Sapperton Merchants’ Association, says,The Sapperton merchants are pleased to be working once again with WesGroup Properties to provide Sapperton with a festive event while embracing and supporting our worthy community partners, the Royal Columbian Hospital Foundation. I believe that the first step in making a difference is to take care of your own community first.

TransLink’s Second United Boulevard Extension Consultation Meeting

Last night TransLink held their second New Westminster consultation meeting regarding the UBE. This particular meeting was much better than the first in that it began with a presentation in the Justice Institute’s theatre at 6:45pm and was then followed by a Question and Answer/Response period. This format was more effective at allowing people to express their concerns and to hear responses from TransLink staff.
The meeting went straight through to the scheduled 8:30 finish time and questions/comments would likely have continued had the meeting not been brought to a close. It was standing room only with people lined up at the back and sides of the room. Many senior city staffers and some councilors were on hand to hear the community speak out as well.
TransLink had been directed by City Council to only present on Option A, the T-intersection, and that is what the focus of the meeting was. They began with discussing some of the regional pressures and the various reasons why it is important for traffic to be moving through this intersection. Oddly, as Voice president, Neil Powell, pointed out TransLink didn’t mention the Braid Industrial area as one of these regional drivers. Nor did they take into account the future stressors of Port Metro Vancouver’s ownership of the former Canfor lands or the fact that Coquitlam wants the waste transfer station removed from United Boulevard and the fact that the Braid Industrial area has been discussed as a possible future site for this or some other (incinerator?) way of dealing with the region’s solid waste. TransLink made it clear that they are not considering the UBE for the purpose of improving commuting but are looking at this for the purpose of moving goods and trucks. That is the reason they are able to get financial buy-in from Transport Canada.
A constant question/concern expressed was that this would also only alleviate the congestion at this location but would not deal with congestion further along the N. Fraser Perimeter Road at Front St. and E. Columbia or E.Columbia and Brunette Avenue. Voice’s Neil Powell, also raised concerns regarding lost industrial revenue as businesses are expropriated and how that will impact our taxes. TransLink has also said that they would be amenable to an application by New Westminster to remove E. Columbia Street from Brunette Avenue to Braid and E.8th Avenue between McBride and E. Columbia as truck routes. Neil Powell stated that this is something that many in Sapperton and the Heights would be happy to see happen, as it is something the McBride Sapperton Residents’ Association has been requesting for a number of years. He did ask though about how trucks would be able to get onto the Pattullo Bridge during rush hour when access is usually restricted. Apparently this issue will need to be dealt with by the City. Likely a lot of this will also be dealt with by the new Pattullo Bridge, whenever that happens.
Now we leave it to our City Council and mayor to direct TransLink as to how they wish to proceed and whether they are supportive of this concept or not.

Important Consulation Meeting Tonight – Please Attend

Tonight TransLink is hosting a public consultation meeting on the long-planned, and for many, dreaded, United Boulevard Connector, or as it is now called the United Boulevard Extension (UBE).

According to TransLink:
“The North Fraser Perimeter Road has been a regional priority for many years and is designated as an important goods movement corridor.
Phase 1 improvements will connect Brunette Avenue with United Boulevard, relieve congestion at the single-lane bridge over the Brunette River and improve the Braid and Brunette at-grade rail crossing resulting in:
+ Rerouting of truck traffic out of New Westminster residential neighbourhoods and into industrial areas.
+ Improving the connectivity, efficiency, reliability and safety of the regional trucking, cycling and walking networks.
+ Improving connectivity between New Westminster and Coquitlam.

Those at the “stakeholders” meeting last week saw 4 options presented. The first, most closely resembling what had always been discussed with New Westminster over the years, was the most costly and the least disruptive to New Westminster. Options 2-4 all had huge impacts on property owners, on lost tax revenue and on neighbourhood livability.

Please attend the open house meeting tonight, November 18, 2010, 5:30 p.m. to 8:30p.m. at the Justice Institute of British Columbia, 715 McBride Boulevard.
Let TransLink know what this will mean to you.

It is interesting to see how this issue is being reported by media in Coquitlam.

Note: To view a copy of Mayor Wright’s letter to the Coquitlam NOW click here.

Hair Today, Gone December!

Is New Westminster getting “hairier”? Have you noticed a little more facial hair on the men of our community lately? Last week Voice president, Neil Powell, apologised for his unshaven face at a few public meetings. His unshaven face has now been crafted into a rather “debonair” moustache. This is not a fashion choice by Neil but rather him joining with other men who are participating in Movember.
November is the month men have chosen to raise awareness of men’s cancer (prostate and testicular). To help raise awareness, November has been re-named Movember because mena around the world are growing their “mo” (short for moustache) to attract attention to the cause. Anyone wanting to find out more information or wanting to donate to the cause can visit:
http://ca/movember.ca/ or http://prostatecancer.ca