Incinerator issue flares up again in Sapperton

Late last week, word leaked out about a new proposal for a waste-to-energy incinerator in Sapperton — the third or fourth proposal in recent memory (we’ve kind of lost track — this incinerator thing is kind of like an undead zombie that can’t be killed).

Needless to say, the residents of Sapperton and elsewhere in the city are expressing renewed concern and there are more questions than answers at this point.

You can read about the proposal here, and we understand city council is receiving the proposal at a meeting today.

Companies are certainly well within their right to submit proposals to the city. However, more than one person has pointed out that the wording of the proponent’s cover letter to the city suggests that the city may have solicited the proposal in some way.

Once again, consistent with the position we’ve taken in previous postings on this topic, the Mayor needs to come clean on his waste-to-energy dreams for the city.

Was this proposal sought out by the city? How does all of this factor into the UBE?

And given the fact that extensive consultations need to take place for any waste-to-energy proposal, what impact does this proposal have on the tight timelines connected to the federal government funding for the UBE?

The questions are certainly many but the answers are few and this has lead to an intense level of distrust around the whole issue. So stay tuned for more as this seemingly unending incinerator saga continues to unfold.

Passing waste reduction savings on to New Westminster taxpayers

We were duly impressed by recent waste reduction news out of Port Coquitlam that John Ashdown drew our attention to.

It seems that a year after introducing “two leading-edge waste-reduction programs,” Port Coquitlam residents are now sending 26% less garbage to the landfill and they’ve saved $165,000 in the process.

Port Coquitlam’s new pickup schedule has also saved “9,600 litres of diesel fuel” and prevented “about 98 metric tonnes of greenhouse gases” from being emitted into the atmosphere.

Even better, Port Coquitlam residents are now looking forward to another zero increase in garbage rates for 2011.

Okay, pinch me. Where can the envious masses here in the Royal City sign up for that waste reduction program instead of the one where we get dinged with yet another increase in our solid waste fees this year?

Yes, it’s true that New Westminster’s waste output has been reduced by 48% (from 367 tonnes to just 188 tonnes) owing to the city’s new garbage scheme — as reported in the December 22, 2010 Newsleader. That part’s not so bad and we are impressed with the reduction of waste.

But what do the overtaxed citizens of New West get for all the hours they’re spending sorting their garbage? Surely we should be seeing some sort of savings or benefits being passed on to New Westminster taxpayers similar to the ones seen in nearby Port Coquitlam?

Alas, no… What we’re apparently getting is an $11 increase in our solid waste fees this year.

Moreover, according to a December 8, 2010 article in the Record, the chair of the city’s environmental committee (Councillor Cote) says the city’s new ‘clean green’ waste pick up service (intended to keep yard waste from landfills), and the addition of a new vehicle to the city’s fleet, have increased emissions by 57 tons.

(NOTE: see above where it states that Port Coquitlam’s new pickup schedule saved “9,600 litres of diesel fuel” and prevented “about 98 metric tonnes of greenhouse gases” from being emitted into the atmosphere.)

So: No apparent decrease in fuel consumption or greenhouse gas emissions, and no apparent decrease in labour costs in New Westminster! What gives?

Again, we are impressed with the reduction of waste in New Westminster, but we would also like to see some savings passed on to the city’s taxpayers.

About half of Port Coquitlam’s reported $165,000 in savings in 2010 reportedly came from reduced labour, equipment and fuel costs, while $82,000 came from averted landfill disposal fees.

Considering Port Coquitlam’s inspiring results, and the savings they’ve passed on to taxpayers, we’re obviously doing something wrong here in New Westminster.

Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore explains his city’s impressive results as follows: “We were able to achieve these successes because our residents got on board with the programs…. We’re working together to save money and at the same time provide a positive environmental impact.”

Well, New Westminster residents certainly appear to be on board with waste reduction.

(NOTE: See above where it states “New Westminster’s waste output has been reduced by 48% (from 367 tonnes to just 188 tonnes) because of the new garbage scheme….”)

So now, in addition to a reduction in waste, what New Westminster taxpayers want to see are some money savings and the positive environmental impact.

Port Coquitlam, and their Mayor Greg Moore, seem to have to figured out how to make waste reduction work and pass savings on to taxpayers. Why can’t New Westminster?

Peace, order and good government

As everyone knows, Canada was founded on the principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness… No, wait… That’s the United States.

Canada was actually founded on quite different principles: Peace, order and good government.

On a civic level, these broad principles of peace, order and good government are ones that many people can get behind and support. And in many ways, these are the very same principles that Voice New Westminster was founded on.

If nothing else, Voice New Westminster has proven that people from different political perspectives on a federal and provincial level can find much common ground on a civic level.

Civic issues are very immediate and direct and they cut across political lines: Should a road be widened here or there or not at all? Where should new schools go? Should the city spend money on this project or that one? What level of taxation do the city’s residents and businesses feel is appropriate and bearable? How should the school board allocate its resources?

These are questions best answered through informed community consensus and that’s what Voice has sought to achieve.

After all, good decision-making never results when decisions are made by a select few in the absence of open, honest consultation and thorough discussion with the public.

There’s an endless supply of examples we could provide to illustrate this point, but the recent controversy surrounding the United Boulevard Extension, and whether the city agreed or didn’t agree with the City of Coquitlam to move forward with the project, is a prime example.

And contrary to what one commentator has suggested, seeking transparency and accountability in public affairs is not some sort of sinister gimmick being employed in a cynical way to disguise negative shots. Pointing out the foibles and the errors of decision-makers and their decisions is essential to the process of achieving peace, order and good government in a community.

If the emperors-that-be aren’t wearing any clothes, the citizens must say so. Mindlessly applauding the emperors-that-be and agreeing that their non-existent new clothes are truly wondrous serves no purpose other than pure sycophancy. What our city needs is clearheaded thinking, honest, open-eyed discussion and an end to the apathy that holds us back.

Ultimately, no public good comes when the public’s business is conducted in the shadows and special interest agendas are allowed to replace the interests of the community. Peace, order and good government can only be achieved when light is allowed to shine in.

And that is what Voice was formed to bring about; because nothing good grows in the absence of light, transparency, accountability, and a strong voice for the community and its citizens.


Brace Yourself for Another Tax Increase

Well, City council has received the draft 2011 – 2015 Financial Plan and it calls for an increase of 4.87% in 2011. This would mean that the owner of a residential strata property with a 2010 assessed value of $272,000 would face an increase of $88 and the owner of a residential single family home with a 2010 assessed value of $561,000 would face an increase of $175. Budgeted figures for 2012-2015 are estimated to range between 3-5% increases with the drivers for these increases being commencing operations of the Westminster Pier Park in 2012 , the Multi-use Civic Facility in 2014 and the outcome of future collective bargaining.

The staff report lists a number of new initiatives, amenities and hiring that are one-time capital costs but also present ongoing operating, maintenance and financing costs. Other budget drivers are our aging infrastructure, annual wage/benefits increment and other factors such as the recession and BC Hydro and Metro Vancouver Utility Rate increases.

It is interesting to note that the report (published before BOC governor Carney’s recent comments re: debt and future interest rate increases) mentions that debt and interest costs will increase as the City takes on more debt. The report also mentions that the City increases its tax base with revenue from new construction. The flip side to that, and not highlighted or mentioned, is that the more construction the City has the more people we have all wanting to use the City’s few amenities. So it really is a short-sighted solution.

The report ends with four options for reducing the increase. These increases include advertising revenues, reducing Strategic Projects Budget, capping 2011 salary increases for exempt staff at the rate of inflation and using non-stat reserves to reduce tax increases in 2011 offset with slightly higher tax increases in future years (read: after the 2011 election).

It would be interesting to read this staff report in conjunction with the recent Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses report.

Serious Fiscal Responsibility Questions Raised regarding 150 Celebrations

Also at last night’s council meeting James Crosty requested an audit of the 150 celebration finances. James inquired as to how an initial budget of approx. $386,000 could balloon to over $1 Million. Neither council nor staff seemed prepared to offer any suggestions on how this happened.
We certainly know how to throw a party, don’t we?

Mr. Crosty has now provided us with a copy of the comments he made before council. See below.

James Crosty has provided us with the delegation that he presented before council on Monday. Included in his comments is a handy history of the issue.

Here is a copy of the delegation by James Crosty to city council:
December 13, 2010

Good evening Mayor, council members of city staff and residents of New Westminster

I am here to ask Mayor and council how a budget that was approved for $174,162.44 after grant reductions ballooned to over $1,013,000.00 when you include in kind expenses for the 150th Birthday Celebrations in New Westminster. How can the city justify a 500% increase over the initial budget submitted and approved by council on January 19th 2009?

Further I would ask that council request an full internal accounting audit on the final cost of the 150 Celebrations including a breakdown of in kind expensed items, who provided the in kind items, details on city staff time and wages incurred for the 150 Celebrations, income generated from events and number of tickets sold and number of people that attended these events, clothing income and expense details and finally an explanation from the committee as to why this celebration went over budget.

I ask for this review not to criticize the organizers’ of the 150 Celebrations because I know they worked hard and I even attended some of the events it was an exciting time. I ask for this information to ensure that this kind of over spending will never occur again. You may remember 2009 was a tough year for many of our not for profit organizations with Provincial cutbacks and city funding. Yet here is our own city having expensed $838,000 more than the budget allowed when many not for profit groups had to cut back or go without. If I am correct in my calculations then the issue here is fiscal mismanagement of tax dollars. I believe it is incumbent upon our Mayor and Council to request a review of the 150 Celebration expenses in order for the people of New Westminster to fully understand these costs.

150 Celebration Review (background):

January 19th, 2009 (minutes of council) – Budget presented and Option B was approved for $374,162.44

it was noted in the minutes that “direction was given for staff to endeavor to reduce the budget by actively pursuing partnerships, donation and sponsorships. The director agreed to report back with greater budget detail as event planning progresses”.
It is noted in the budget that application had been made for a $200,000 grant from Ministry of Canadian Heritage – Building Communities through Arts & Heritage. This was not included in the budget at the time as it was an application only. As noted in the direction to staff this would reduce the city’s cost for 150 Celebrations to $174,162.44
A grant for $20,000 from BC 150th Heritage Legacy Fund was included then reduced in the budget. Further an in kind contribution of $10,000 was included in the budget towards venue rental. This should have been accounted for as in kind and not formed part of the budget cost.
I have been unable to locate any further information regarding any update.

March 23rd, 2009 (minutes of council) – Budget increased by $14,980 plus GST to allow for a publication of 500 books of poetry by Don Benson. I note that this motion was not approved by everyone with Councilor McIntosh opposed.
Total budget now $389,142.44 (Less $200,000 for the Heritage Grant).
Noted in these minutes was a reference that the 150th Celebration Operating Budget was deleted from Parks and Recreation budget and would be funded from Reserves.
April 20th, 2009 (minutes of council) – A motion to provide the two poet laureates honorariums of $500.ea was approved by council in reference to the commemorative book for a total of $1,000.
Final Budget would be $390,142.44 (less $200,000 from the grant application).
According to the staff report (DOC#149682) December 13th.
Budget as indicated is $386,000.00
Grant BC Heritage Foundation $20,000 included and expensed in the budget
Grant for $200,000.00 was received from Heritage Canada (not used to offset expenses)
Total cash expenses for 150 Celebrations $ 586,000.00
Total in kind expenses for 150 Celebration $ 427,000.00
In Kind offering are usually obtained to offset expenses.
Total expense for 150 Celebrations $1,013,000.00

By the minutes of council the expenses of the 150 Celebration as approved should have been $390,142.44 less $200,000.00 or $190,142.44 **
**should be less $10,000 from Massey in kind as well as ticket & clothing sales which are unknown

Since there is no account for income or Massey savings it can be estimated the expenses would be even larger than the reported cost of $1,013,000.00.
James Crosty,
Resident

See the following links for more on this story.
http://www.citycaucus.com/2009/02/new-westminster-bash
http://www.newwestcity.ca/council_minutes/1213_10/CWLG%20150th%20Celebration%20Final%20Report.pdf

Voice could not have said it better: D. Brown’s letter in the Record

D. Brown’s letter in Saturday’s Record has raised many of the same issues Voice has been raising for the past several years.

While we do not know who D. Brown is, nor is he/she known to Voice, we could not have articulated these issues better and we fully agree with Brown.

For example, D. Brown points to the fact that “The city is piling on residential units at an astonishing rate, yet is not balancing that with infrastructure to support them.”

Of course, one of the consequences of expanding the city’s population without increasing public infrastructure, as Brown states, is the meagre allotment of swim times and skate times “suitable for school children” on weekdays, which Brown says “compares very poorly to other municipalities’ leisure centres, such as Coquitlam, Maple Ridge, Delta and Vancouver, which are available, in part or whole, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.”


The 37-year-old Canada Games Pool, is the most used facility in the city. Fourteen thousand children a year take lessons there.” (from D. Brown’s letter in the Record)


D. Brown also comments on the Pier Park and states: “The city has seen fit to commit to $53-plus million for a riverfront, perimeter road/rail-hugging park that is looking more and more like a taxpayer-supplied amenity for the Larco towers that will be built between Sixth and Eighth streets.”

This mirrors the central point that Voice has been trying to make over the past several years; i.e., that during the last eight years the city has slowly but steadily been turned into a bedroom community.

There has been a clear and dramatic increase in density in the city accompanied by the steady erosion of jobs. This has resulted in a shift in the city’s tax base, and what used to be a consistent tax-producing commercial-industrial base has been converted for the most part into multi-family housing which requires a significant increase in costly public services and amenities.

And as D. Brown points out, these public services and amenities, including those vital to children and families, have not kept up with the increasing densification of New Westminster.

Ironically, it was the announcement of a New Westminster Children’s Charter, and its juxtaposition with the strain being placed on New Westminster’s only public indoor pool, that occasioned D. Brown’s letter.

While we reserve judgement on the new Children’s Charter until we see whether it translates words in concrete action, as Brown points out in his/her letter, if things don’t change in this city “the playroom at McDonald’s could be the major recreational facility in New West” and our children will be adults by the time urgently needed school replacement projects are completed.

Kudos to Trustee Jim Goring: New SD40 Conflict of Interest Policy

The New Westminster school district now has a conflict of interest policy of sorts.



Kudos to Jim Goring and the other Voice school board trustees for pursuing this issue in the face of resistance from other board members.



Although the new policy isn’t as explicit or clear cut as the policy proposed by Trustee Jim Goring at the November 9th board meeting, it does address the fiduciary responsibility of trustees and senior staff and allows the district superintendent, secretary-treasurer and trustees to point out when a trustee is in a potential conflict of interest.



However, it remains to be seen how the policy withstands the acid test of application.

As background to his notice of motion, Jim Goring stated that “a clear [conflict of interest] policy that includes accountability is imperative so that the public can see that the business of the School Board is transacted free of conflict of interest.”



As a point of interest we’ve provided the text of Jim Goring’s original Notice of Motion below.



Niki Hope also had an article on the subject in the Record.



Again, kudos to Jim Goring and the other Voice school board trustees for pursuing this issue and it will be interesting to see how the new policy withstands the acid test of application.



Submitted by: Jim Goring



SUBJECT: Notice of Motion re: Conflict of Interest



For consideration at the November 9, 2010 Open Board meeting



Background:



The British Columbia Trustee Association recommends that school districts develop Conflict of Interest policy and procedures. SD 40 New Westminster has a motion duly passed to develop such a policy, however, this has not yet been done. A clear policy that includes accountability is imperative so that the public can see that the business of the School Board is transacted free of conflict of interest. The School Board is currently involved in the very important process of contract negotiations with one of its employee groups.



Motion:



THAT the motion passed December 15, 2009 to develop a Conflict of Interest policy be acted upon immediately with a policy developed by November 18, 2010 for consideration at the November 23, 2010 Open Board meeting.



AND FURTHERMORE THAT the policy address apparent and perceived conflict of interest.



AND FURTHERMORE THAT the policy include guidance on the direct and indirect pecuniary interest of a Trustee which at a minimum would include a Trustee:


1. who has parents or children (including financially independent adult children) who are employed by SD 40;

2. who has received election campaign funding or an endorsement from an entity with a pecuniary interest in the matter;

3. who is a shareholder in or a director or senior officer or has a controlling interest in or is a director or senior officer of a corporation that offers its securities to the public, and the corporation has a pecuniary interest in the matter or;

4. who is a partner of a person, is a member of a firm or is in the employment of a person or firm or entity that has a pecuniary interest in the matter.



AND FURTHERMORE THAT the policy shall include guidance on the pecuniary interest of a Trustee in a collective agreement.



AND FURTHERMORE THAT until the policy is developed Trustees shall consider, at a minimum, the following guidelines prior to participating in contract negotiations or discussions on contract negotiations.



Trustees may have direct or indirect pecuniary interests in collective agreements (i.e. those that are negotiated or ratified by SD#40 or BCPSEA) in a number of ways, including:


a) Trustees who are employed by a school district under the collective agreement, or whose spouses are so employed;

b) Trustees who have parents or children (including financially independent adult children) who are employed by a school district under a collective agreement;

c) Trustees who are officers of or employed by trade unions that are parties to a collective agreements because they represent school district employees.

d) Trustees who may have received significant campaign contributions or endorsements from any parties to a collective agreement.

Enjoying the summertime lull

Everyone deserves time off and the Express crew are no different. We hope everyone has been enjoying their well-deserved summer hiatus and making the most of the hot, sunny weather we’ve had in recent weeks.

But September is approaching fast and the cooler weather today is a reminder that summer is starting to wind down.

And despite the summertime lull, there is no shortage of issues requiring the attention and participation of the community.

Notable on the list of simmering issues are the school district capital project and the waterfront pier project.

Waste-to-energy is also back on the table at Metro Vancouver and concerns are being expressed about the implications for New Westminster.

The replacement of the Pattullo Bridge is also emerging as an issue requiring community attention with word that city hall has received a proposed bridge replacement plan from Translink and that Translink is awaiting a response from the city.

As summer winds down and we start returning to our posts we wanted to put some of these issues on people’s radar because September in really just days away now.

Best wishes to all from the Express and we hope everyone fully enjoys the rest of the summertime lull.

Voice New Westminster Director Mike Walmsley’s Letter to the editor of The Record

I’m outraged to read, “More city staff hit the $100,000 mark,” July 3. The Record.

In the last 18 months many jurisdictions have been looking at ways to cut costs while New Westminster is eager to increase them. From 38 to 72 city employees now in that special “$100,000 Club”! What are we thinking in New Westminster? Where does this insanity stop? Frankly I’m tired of the argument that you have to pay to get good people. I don’t feel that New Westminster gets its money worth. More and more companies continue to do more with less as do many governments and government agencies while we dole it out hand over fist. Hey, come work for New West where the “liv’in is easy”!

On the same train of thought, my electric bill keeps telling me we “enjoy the lowest electrical rates in North America!” How can this be without any economies of scale? Look at the wages we pay the top exec’s in that department of more than $805,000 in 2009. Or if you like more than $2,200 per day; a staggering sum before we even think of adding in the “front line” employees and equipment costs and replacement. This includes a General Manager and two Managers, an incredulous fee for a city the size of New Westminster. Talk about kingdom building! Is that sum with or without benefit? What are the extra costs of expense accounts? A Human Resources Department that sees the top two ranking individuals pulling in more than $300,000 a year. For that kind of money I would expect better managed labour contract negotiations and settlements to keep us more in line with other jurisdictions. A Purchasing Manager that makes $20,000 more than the yearly average identified by PMAC (Purchasing Management Association of Canada) reports for a qualified individual with a university degree and a CPP (Certified Professional Purchaser) designation from the PMAC.

I’m not out to attack individuals for their earnings, but to bring attention to the lack of fiscal control for something as simple as wages and benefits that you and I pay for again and again, everyday. For this we pay over priced senior administrators to tell us that we can expect to pay more and more in the future, including retroactive pay. Where is the control over our tax dollars? I guess the tail really does wag the dog in New West! No wonder they’re all smiling in their newspaper pictures, they’re all laughing all the way to the bank on your dime!

Mike Walmsley, Voice New Westminster Director