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.

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.

News Flash – Mayor Wright takes the stand

As we write this, Mayor Wright is reportedly on the stand in the New Westminster courthouse giving his testimony in the Windsor Hotel lawsuit.

We’ll be sure to keep you posted as information comes in.

Until then, readers might want to check out the Newsleader article by Michael McQuillan who attended the trial earlier this week and filed a story about the testimony given by former Development Services Director Tim Whitehead.

McQuillan’s article is posted on the News Leader’s website and can be accessed by clicking here.

McQuillan recounts how Whitehead’s response to the numerous questions posed by Nirmal Walia’s lawyers was typically “I can’t recall.” This is consistent with the information we posted on Monday regarding the testimony Whitehead gave last week.

McQuillan also reports on a negative comment made by Whitehead about one of the city’s planning staff, namely Steven Scheving whose emails and reports Whitehead said were full of “tangents.”

Again, this corroborates the information we posted on Monday.

Stay tuned!

What Does Redevelopment Really Cost Us?

Don Cayo, of the Vancouver Sun, wrote an interesting article in the June 19th, 2010 edition of the Vancouver Sun. He posits that, “If Cambie Street grows as hoped, City of Vancouver will lose big bucks.” In the article Cayo states that, “The proposed rezoning of Cambie Street properties served by the new Canada Line may cause economic hardship that erodes or outweighs any potential benefits.” He goes on to state:

To understand why, consider how differently business and residential properties affect the city’s financial health.
About 92 per cent of assessed properties in Vancouver are residential, leaving just eight per cent commercial — a number that is steadily declining as the city increasingly becomes a place to live but not to work.
This relative handful of business properties pays half of the city’s total property taxes. Yet the cost of services they use — streets, police, fire protection and such — adds up to only a quarter of City Hall spending.
Thus for every $2 businesses pay in property tax, the city spends just $1 in return, leaving a 50-per-cent “profit” the city can use to subsidize homeowners. And subsidize they do, spending about $1.50 on residential services for every $1 in residential property tax.

A number of points within this article could just as easily be written about New Westminster. The comment, “as the city increasingly becomes a place to live but not to work,” certainly sounds like our City.

Recently Mayor Wright called himself a “development mayor“. As our taxes continue to rise and our City’s budget increases (by approx. 45% over the last 7 years) one has to wonder how much
New Westminster’s development is costing residents and businesses. Is our current mayor’s vision driving away the few remaining businesses and making our City less and less
affordable for young families and our seniors?

Is the political ground shifting in New Westminster?

It looks like the political balancing act the Mayor has been pulling off for the past several years may be coming to an end.

Sources have told Voice New Westminster that the District Labour Council has made a decision to run their own mayoralty candidate in the next civic election rather than support Wayne Wright as they’ve done behind the scenes in the past three elections.

Voice has also learned that one of the District Labour Council city councillors approached the mayor to sound him out on what it might take for him not to run again and potentially split the Labour Council’s vote.

No word on what the mayor’s response was to the offer, but it’s clear that the District Labour Council has definitely decided to go with their own candidate this time around.

The extent of the growing rift between the mayor and the District Labour Council first surfaced during the last civic election when the mayor ran as part of two slates with a total of 7 councillor candidates vying for 6 council seats.

Reportedly, the mayor did ask the District Labour Council to drop one of their councillor candidates to make the arithmetic work but they refused.

On election night, one of the mayor’s running mates from his “non District Labour Council” slate (already hurt politically by suggestions of a conflict of interest over a real estate deal) ended up being the odd man out when the votes were tallied and only the mayor and his four person District Labour Council slate had been elected (plus two incumbent councillors running under the Voice banner).

The District Labour Council are also said to be unhappy with the mayor’s handling of issues relating to the high school site and the fact that the mayor has apparently cut the District Labour Council members out of the loop.

The District Labour Council’s strong ties to the unions and their ideological bent is also said to be a point of conflict, as is the mayor’s reported backroom wheeling and dealing with developers.

The District Labour Council apparently want to be the ones calling the shots with developers and clearly they’re feeling strong enough, or perhaps disenchanted enough, to go their own way this time around.

Only time will tell if this is just speculation on the part of our sources or whether things play out as they’ve been described to us.