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?

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.

STOP THE PRESSES!

We had to laugh when we saw the Record and NewsLeader’s sensationalized “news flash” stories about Bob Osterman and Betty McIntosh “leaving” Voice. News travels fast in this town, eh? Will they be reporting on the disappearance of Amelia Earhart or the landing of the first man on the moon next?

Bob Osterman hasn’t really been part of Voice since the election campaign two years ago. We don’t have any particular problem with Bob or the representation he has provided for the community, but Bob was really only onboard with Voice during the election — and only nominally so — as he really never fully bought into the concept of a team working together for a common purpose.

But for the record (no pun intended), Bob Osterman has never been central to Voice and we presume vice versa. Despite the slow news day “news flash” stories, things are pretty much as they always have been and no one ever expected that Bob would run with Voice again.

We can certainly appreciate the kind of strain that Bob and Betty have been under on council during the past two years. In the Record, Betty very eloquently alluded to the kind of bullying they’ve been subjected to at the hands of their council mates from the-slate-that-claims-they-aren’t-a-slate. We feel for Bob and Betty on this point and have always indicated our readiness to back them up on issues. They took a bold step in joining forces with Voice and stepping away, albeit tentatively, from the past and into the future.

Unfortunately, Bob and Betty didn’t have the same strongly developed connection to the Voice team the way the three Voice school trustees did and consequently Bob and Betty didn’t have the strength to stand up to the bullying. And based on what we’ve seen and heard over the past year or so, Bob seems to have been particularly shaken by the experience of stepping out from his old comfort zone.

Fortunately for the community, Lisa Graham, Jim Goring and Casey Cook have had a much more successful, more team-spirited relationship on the school board with solid support from the community and Voice members. As a result of that mutually supportive spirit they’ve demonstrated the kind of positive results that can be achieved when the community’s interests are put before special interests.

The strong community voice the Voice trustees have brought to the school board table is what got things on track with the middle school and high school projects after decades of watching these projects languish in a cloud of stale thinking and the patronizing “we-know-best” attitude of trustees from the-slate-that-claims-they-aren’t-a-slate slate.

So, contrary to amusingly sensationalized non-news stories on the subject in the NewsLeader and Record, Voice is very much alive; And slowly but surely the nepotism, cronyism and special interest agendas that have taken precedence over community interests in New Westminster for decades are being replaced by accountability, transparency and fresh thinking, and Voice is at the forefront of bringing about these positive changes.

We wish Bob and Betty all the best in the final year of their electoral term and we will continue to be ready to back them up on issues of importance to the community. But we’re also keeping our eyes open for fresh new talent that can help move our community into the future while building on the best of the past. And we’ll also be watching for any breaking news on the Amelia Earhart and moon landing stories!

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.

When is Municipal Tax Freedom Day?

Coming approximately a month after “tax freedom day” and the same day that New Westminster residents paid their property taxes the News Leader ran a few interesting financial articles.

On p.A4 there was “Council Expenses Mount” which highlighted how our City’s council expenses had “shot up more than $23,000 in 2009 compared to the previous year.” Apparently most of the expenses were the result of 5 members who traveled to China/Japan.

Coun. Jaimie McEvoy topped spending with $10,307 in expenses, followed by Lorrie Williams ($8,727), Betty McIntosh ($8,514) and Bill Harper ($8,383), who all made the trip. Mayor Wayne Wright, who led the delegation, incurred $7,133 in expenses, and another $5,151 in expenses stemming from his role as chair of the New Westminster Police Board.

Then on p. A9 there were two more interestingly timed stories, one regarding the number of city employees making over $100K and the other about how the City (read New Westminster taxpayers) will pay for the pier park debt.Apparently we now have almost double the number of employees we had making over $100K in 2008. In 2008 we had 38 staffers making over $100K and we now have 70.

Also on this page was an article on how the City (taxpayers) will be paying for the future debt of the Westminster Pier Park. According to the News Leader, “residential taxpayers won’t be on the hook-directly, at least-for paying down the debt, which will total more than $16 million.” New Westminster council borrowed $8 million to buy the pier property and another $8.3 million to pay our share of the park construction costs. Supposedly the first loan will be paid back by 2014 using development cost charges, density bonusing and proceeds from the sale of city-owned land. Density bonusing permits developers to build higher density on a site in exchange for payments to the City. One has to ponder how much denser our City will become or how much land our City is going to sell off in the next four years in order for us to be able to raise $8 million. The second loan will cost taxpayers approximately $730,000 annually for 15 years. It should be noted that this loan is for the ‘first-phase” of the park. At this rate by the time the vision for this park is fully realized our grandchildren will be paying for it.