John Ashdown Responds to NewsLeader Article of May 7, 2008

As the past secretary of the 12thStreet Neighbourhood Society I am extremely disturbed that I have been wrongly accused of, “… failure to file annual reports with the province” (“Society funds in trust,” New Westminster NewsLeader, May 7. 2008).

I was the Secretary of the 12th Street Neighbourhood Society from February 2006 until April of 2007. During that time I repeatedly advised the president of the 12th Street Neighbourhood Society, Jaimie McEvoy, that the Society was not in compliance with the BC Societies Act. I specifically advised Mr. McEvoy, in writing, in December of 2006 and again in January of 2007 of the serious issues that needed to be addressed. Specifically, that the Society had not held a proper Annual General Meeting, that the Society did not have proper financial statements and that the Society had not filed notice with the Registrar of Societies as is required by BC Law. I stated very clearly that the Society was now breaking the laws of the province of B.C.

In absolute frustration over these issues of non-compliance and other concerns, I resigned from the 12th Street Neighbourhood Society on the 12th of April 2007. I immediately turned over, to the president of the Society, Jaimie McEvoy, all of the Society’s records and documents in my possession. Interestingly, included in the material was the registration form which I instructed the treasurer to prepare a $25 cheque for the Registrar of Societies, and to have Chris Brasdshaw and Jaimie McEvoy sign and file it once the financial report was available. Once again, Jaimie McEvoy, the President of the Society, chose not to respond to the Registrar of Societies of BC and as a result the 12th Street Neighbourhood Society was dissolved.

I am a man of honour. If I make mistakes I am the first person to admit to them – and I have always accepted the consequences. Jaimie McEvoy must step forward and admit that he, as President of the 12th Street Neighbourhood Society, has not demonstrated the necessary leadership and that he has not served the Society well. Further, he and the directors who publicly blamed previous secretaries for the society’s downfall owe each of us and an immediate apology!

John Ashdown
12th Street
Neighbourhood Society
New Westminster

Hyack Congratulations

Congratulations to all of the organizations, led by the Hyack Festival Association, for making the Hyack Week and Parade the success that they were. Many organizations were involved in making this community celebration a great success. The many wonderful activities, there are too many to mention and we also risk forgetting some, created a great opportunity for the community to join together and participate in both the traditional and the ever changing activities that make this community unique. Hyack Week is a precursor to the many neighbourhood celebrations that will be taking place throughout the summer. We hope that everyone feels the urge to get out, be part of their neighbourhood, meet new people and celebrate what makes New Westminster so wonderful – it’s unique and distinct neighbourhoods.

News Leader: High school’s future is quite a story

The News Leader has a really amusing piece regarding the multitude of delays we have had, and continue to have, around building the “new” high school.

“Already crumbling in 2000 when the project first went to the drawing board, the school board was plagued by one fumble after another—as funding was secured, lost or proved inadequate for what was envisioned.”

Passing the Smell Test

For those folks waiting to learn more about the 12th St. fiasco, they sure haven’t been able to get information from the Royal City Record.
Here’s the background. Voice, doing due diligence in research on community issues, discovered the 12th St Neighborhood Society had been dissolved by the Province on Feb. 22, 2008. You might ask, why is that an issue? The answer lies in the fact that the Society had received, in 2004, 100 grand of taxpayer’s money from the City.
We also knew, from ex-members of the Society, that the groups observance and adherence to provincial regs was haphazard at best. Meetings were a sham – no agendas, verbal financial reports, makeshift AGMs.
Some tree-fort gangs operate with more formal procedure than this group.
To be fair, and also to be clear, there are some well intentioned community members who take part in meetings and activities put forward by the group.
Eventually, the pattern is though, that they don’t hang around for too long, often citing the opinion that the activities and involvement of the group don’t pass the smell test.
Our research showed that the group hasn’t reported , as required, to the Provincial Gov’t. Victoria’s list of directors is badly out of date and no financial records were provided. Despite being given instructions by the Director of Finance of the City to report their financial affairs, the group still didn’t do so.
A few weeks ago, Voice issued a press release (available at this site) bringing all of the facts out into the open.
We are still waiting for the Record to report on the issue. When we inquired with the Record as to where this issue was, they gave a lame excuse that they “were working on it.”
This community is still waiting on answers to the question, ” Where is the $100?”
We now have a further questions.

  • Why hasn’t the Record reported on this issue?
  • Where is their commitment to objective reporting?
  • Why hasn’t the Record called Voice to see what further information is available?

It seems, that this doesn’t pass the smell test either.
– C.C.

Will Voice merit a voter’s choice?

Expectant parents understand: names are important.
Reaching that crucial decision—Boris or Yosemite? Esmerelda or Manna?—of what to name that new bundle of joy can be a daunting task.
A friend of mine is expecting his first child in September. This tall, blond, white guy and his wife are thinking Arturo or Geronimo. Who am I to say?
New West’s mayor is lucky. Wayne Wright. Not only does he have an easy election slogan, the corny “Make the Wright Choice,” but his name is reminiscent of “wainwright” and the Royal City is always in search of a decent wagon maker.
As for political slates, their names are often boosterish in tone, like the new Surrey First across the river or Vision Vancouver next door. But better that than the bland (and erroneous) Non Partisan Association in that city, or the sad-sack COPE, whose slogan might as well be “COPE: We’ll muddle through.”
Until recently, New West was without a slate of its own on the municipal scene, though many say the labour-endorsed group on council (three) and school board (four) are a de facto slate.
But in January last year, the city got an official one: Voice New Westminster, its founding board of directors a healthy mix of has-beens, coulda beens, and possibly, shoulda beens from a broad range of political stripes.
As names go, Voice has a nice ring to it. But can the Royal City dance to it?
Better still, is Voice worth listening to?
In its first 15 months, the group has proven itself a consistent and articulate critic.
In 2007, Voice pointed out how staffing costs at Sixth and Royal outstrips many of its neighbours, as a percentage of the annual budget. It criticized the dysfunction in the planning department that (arguably) led to an exodus of staff. (Thankfully, an issue now resolved)
And it took shots at the school board, too, taking the extreme step of calling upon the province to appoint a special advisor to oversee the operations of the school district in order to restore public trust and confidence. Voice cited three strikes in their argument for bringing someone new to the plate: the asbestos exposure issue at NWSS, the fumbling approach to replace the high school and the pathetic record of the business company.
And back at city hall, Voice marched on, critical of what it calls the city’s “development-by-variance” approach, a jab at council’s tendency to grant approvals for variances so significant they effectively amount to a rezoning.
Voice is a politically-savvy bunch. What else would you expect when you have a former long-time councillor and mayoral candidate (Casey Cook), a former ministerial assistant in Victoria and unsuccessful candidate at three levels (Steve McClurg) and a crew of residents association presidents and PAC chairs?
In raising issues, they’ve also started targeting individual councillors they hope to pick off at the polls Nov. 15.
Coun. Jonathan Cote got spanked by the group for sending a memo to Moody Park area residents voicing his dismay about the decision to send the outdoor pool project back to the drawing board.
And to hear it from Voice, Coun. Bill Harper (another labour endorsed councillor) is the guy who wants to put a dirty waste-to-energy plant in Sapperton backyards, and park the garbage trucks in people’s driveways.
As a new slate in town, Voice is a welcome addition.
Operating as the unofficial opposition to current council and school board, they’ve given strength to many legitimate concerns about how this town is run.
For too long, critics like Christopher Bell and Kelvin Chao have been largely on their own, and lone voices, when they speak alone for too long, tend to ring shrill for lack of support.
Whether Voice candidates win any seats at the table this fall—well, that’s another question.
As far as names go, Voice has a good one. The group has said a lot in its first 15 months.
But saying what’s wrong is one thing.
Making it right is another.
This fall their platform should be judged with the same rigour they’ve given to the decisions of the politicians they hope to replace.

By Chris Bryan – New Westminster News Leader – May 14, 2008

Foundation issues are troubling

For an issue that was supposedly based on “gossip and unfounded allegations,” the return last week of unclaimed bursary money to the F.W. Howay parent advisory council by the Royal City Education Foundation was as swift as it was overdue.

Clearly, this was not an “unfounded” issue – even if it was made far more complicated than it really needed to be.

I find it surprising, and more than a bit troubling, that prior to last week some of New Westminster’s school trustees appear not to have been aware of the issue that the Howay PAC was having with the education foundation.

Not only is this rather strange, it is also disconcerting considering the fact that the Howay PAC has been pursuing its issue relative to the Royal City Education Foundation since last December.

Other New Westminster school PACs have had similar issues relative to the education foundation that go back much further in time.

So why some of the trustees don’t appear to be aware of these issues is beyond me, because many people – including myself – have been aware of them for quite some time.

Now that these issues have been raised, I certainly hope the other school communities that have had difficulties in relation to the Royal City Education Foundation will likewise have their issues resolved – and swiftly.

As for the education foundation itself, I have no doubt that the funds raised go to the benefit of students. But that is not the issue. The issue is one of administration.

As trustee Brent Atkinson noted in his letter, the school district does indeed pay the salary of the foundation’s “paid fundraiser.”

And this “paid fundraiser” position has been generating controversy ever since a former school trustee was hired to be a “paid fundraiser” under the umbrella of the school district’s business company following the 2002 school board election.

There are several recommendations I plan to make with regard to the “paid fundraiser” position, but I will present these to a meeting of the school district’s finance and facilities committee where for more than six years I have been a community representative (having missed only one meeting, to my recollection).

Regarding the question of Voice New Westminster and its members attending meetings in our community: It is well-known that members and supporters of Voice attend practically every meeting held in this city.

In fact, Voice members and supporters have been attending school board, city council and other meetings in this community on a regular basis for many years – even prior to the formation of Voice New Westminster just over 15 months ago.

Letters to The Record have proven to be an essential and effective complement to the efforts that Voice members and Voice supporters make to attend and participate in school board, city council and other meetings in our community. Letters will continue to be an essential part of the process of bringing about positive change in our community and forcing our elected officials to be accountable to the community.

And, as many people in our community are already well aware, Voice New Westminster’s efforts over the past 15 months have already led to many positive changes in our community, and Voice will continue to lead the way to positive changes for our community.

Patrick O’Connor

Here’s the nail-head – that’s it!!

The Editorial in the News Leader on Thurs. May 8, 2008, sure hit the nail right on the head. If you look at the positions and statements that Voice has been making since it’s inception, the editorial buttresses and echoes precisely what this organization has been saying.

The political mis-management in the city has been mind boggling. Public safety, the state of the infrastructure, amenity facilities, taxes, increases in budgets, services in most areas, all are levels that have great cause for alarm. As the editorial states, we’ve sold the farm. We have people making decisions that they simply are not equipped or qualified for. In addition, we have folks making decisions to benefit primarily the people responsible for getting them elected – that is, special interests.

One need only look at the issues currently on the table to see the malaise that has gripped the city. The handling of the waste to energy site issue in Sapperton, the 12th St.
Society dissolution by the Province, the Moody Park Pool, all are recent manifestations of mismanagement and pandering to special interests.

Voice has played an important role in bringing these issues to light, and is working to find productive and creative solutions to the problems that have come forward. We will continue to fight for residents, taxpayers, business people and visitors to New Westminster.


Harper Talks Trash

It has come to light recently that Metro Vancouver is moving forward with the expropriation of the Canfor Lands in Sapperton to build a “Waste to Energy” facility. In other words, an incinerator. This is whole heartedly supported by Councillor Bill Harper, who coincidentally took a trip recently to Japan to tour their WTE facility. In response to the future closure of the Cache Creek landfill, Harper stated recently, that loading our garbage on rail cars and sending it to Washington state is “expensive and environmentally irresponsible”. And burning it in an incinerator isn’t?

The proposed incinerator that Harper supports would be about twice the size of the present WTE facility in Burnaby, which would add about 200 trucks to our already choked roads and truck routes and will ultimately impact our air quality. Metro Vancouver is proposing spending up to 3 billion dollars on these WTE facilities, proposing three, and up to seven, of these incinerators throughout the region. This money, or far less, could be far better spent on investing in recycling, composting, and re-use facilities as well as a curb side green bin program for New Westminster and throughout the region, eliminating the proposed “need” for an incinerator. Programs such as these are already being adopted in cities throughout the country, and North America, with resounding success. Harper is showing his short sightedness and backwards thinking on this issue. There is no such thing as a zero emissions incinerator. “Gasification”, as it is becoming popularly known, produces toxic emissions, greenhouse gases, and increased pollution in our air, which contributes to health risks, climate change, and global warming.
It is time that the local, provincial and federal government make industry responsible for it’s overuse of packaging, which inevitably becomes the consumer’s and the city’s problem. The local government needs to ramp up city recycling, which would include single family homes and multi-family housing units, such as townhouses and condominiums. This would also include commercial, such as restaurants and food stores, industrial and institutional facilities, such as hospitals. The province needs to adopt a comprehensive waste reduction policy instead of proposing to spend billions on burning waste, ultimately letting the manufacturers off the hook and polluting our air. It seems that recycling, reducing and reusing are not even an option. Burning our waste only blocks the investment in green waste diversity alternatives and eliminates hundreds of potential jobs in the recycling industry. Burning waste is not recycling, as the proponents of the incinerator would like you to believe. In the end, the federal government needs to introduce regulations on packaging and make industry responsible for the waste it is creating.
Councilman Harper and Mayor Wright, educate yourselves. This issue does not just affect Sapperton and New Westminster. Don’t abandon a waste diversion strategy. B.C., Metro Vancouver, and this city are moving in the wrong direction. Don’t burn our futures.

Dana Hings
New Westminster resident and director of Voice – New Westminster