Brent Atkinson by a whisker

This just in from Doris Fassbender, the Deputy Chief Election Officer for the City of New Westminster:

Following a two day judicial recount at the BC Provincial Court, New Westminster Registry, Judge Her Honour Alexander declared the results for the office of School Trustee for the 2008 General Local Election for the City of New Westminster. Brent Atkinson received 3665 votes and Vivian Garcia received 3663 votes. Therefore, Brent Atkinson was declared School Trustee-elect.

Grimston Park – a much larger issue

A whole new generation of New Westminster parents seem to be waking up to the morbidly dysfunctional monolith that calls itself the New Westminster School Board. At issue is the lack of transparency and public process in the decision-making process around the Grimston park proposals (aka “business as usual” in SD #40).

Following the recent civic election, in which voter apathy was once again the ultimate victor, West End parent Cynthia Smith sent an email to Superintendent John Woudzia regarding the Grimston Park issue. In response, Smith received an email from District Labour Council school trustee James Janzen that she clearly found very insulting.

Here is a bit of the email exchange that took place between Cynthia Smith and James Janzen:

1. Cynthia Smith’s email to Superintendent John Woudzia:

Date: November 20, 2008 9:12:05 AM PST
Subject: Grimston Park – a much larger issue

At some point those who represent us must realize that unilateral decisions made behind closed doors and affecting so many are not acceptable – the Grimston Park issue is cited on A4 of the Vancouver Sun today and you may expect the community to watch closely and follow-up.

Cynthia Smith

2. James Janzen’s response to Cynthia Smith:

Subject: Re: Grimston Park – a much larger issue (E-mail from School District #40)
Date: Thu, 20 Nov 2008 17:19:51 -0800

Cynthia Smith

the report in the Vancouver Sun was of course wrong as so many newspaper reports are. The only decision made was to take the Grimston Park option out for consultation. Anybody who says otherwise is lying. Unfortunately many people prefer to listen to lies, rumours and gossip and will not listen to the truth.

James Janzen

3. Cynthia Smith’s response to James Janzen:

James Janzen,

Your memory of the October 28th, 2008 meeting appears to differ from mine.

Here is the point of difference: Mr Alkins announced that the municipality, the province and the school district had agreed to the land swap between Grimston Park and the old Douglas Rd cemetery site. Mr. Alkins said that he was presenting those in attendance with the choice between a middle school somewhere on Grimston park land, and an elementary school somewhere on Grimston park land. He had current quotes for building, and all that remained was for the school size “option” to be decided. He concluded by saying that he wanted the contractors in place by November 2008 (in other words, right now).

James Janzen, I have spent more than 8 years in post graduate study, in such places as the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress – are you saying to me that I did not understand the presentation that I attended on October 28, 2008 at Lord
Tweedsmuir elementary school in New Westminster, BC?

If you suggest that I shouldn’t have believed the presentation, then why was it held at all? What should one believe given the presentation on Oct 28, and the information on the Translink web site? You repeatedly tell me not to believe what I hear. Of course, you must realize that that would include what you are telling me as well.

Cynthia Smith

Our hats are off to Cynthia Smith and the new generation of New Westminster parents who have now been initiated into the shadowy workings of the New Westminster school district. Only time will tell if this new generation can sound the death knell for voter apathy in New Westminster. Stay tuned…

2010 Reason to Celebrate in New Westminster

VOICE New Westminster Council Candidate Betty McIntosh spoke often at the all-candidate’s meetings about celebrating New Westminster in 2009, well it looks like we’ll have something else to celebrate about in 2010 as well. The 2010 Olympic Torch Relay will be in New Westminster on February 9th, 2010. The City is one of 200 Canadian cities to host a celebration.

The VANOC press release is here and details on how to become a torchbearer can be found here.

Politicians make too many decisions in secret!

New Westminster gets mentioned in this article in today’s Sun.
Last month, behind closed doors, New Westminster city officials discussed building a school at Grimston Park, a move opposed by many residents who don’t want to lose green space. Residents found out about the plans only two weeks later and then organized a rally to keep the park.

Citizens have a right to protest. But they can’t do so when officials withhold the very information that would lead residents to rally.”

Letter of Congratulations and Thanks from Blair Armitage

I would like to congratulate Wayne Wright on being elected to a third term as Mayor of New Westminster. To be elected to three consecutive terms after vigorous campaigns is not an easy task and he deserves recognition for this accomplishment.

I would also want to thank the 4,238 citizens of New Westminster for having supported me in this election and my ideas for change in this City. I am humbled that nearly half of the voters of this City endorsed my candidacy. Many, many thanks for your confidence.

Let me assure you that I will continue to advocate on your behalf. I will continue to speak out for the wonderful neighbourhoods of this great city. I will continue to advocate for consultation and consensus. And I will most definitely continue to advocate for improved public process so that the citizens of New Westminster will have their voices heard.

Yours truly,

Blair Armitage

Let the sun shine in — Vote for VOICE

For those of you who are visiting this site and have yet to vote, consider what has transpired in the last four days of campaigning here in New Westminster.

· There has been an absolute orgy of advertising in both local papers by the District Labour Council slate: Ads paid for by the sweat and labour and of their members. Check it out! It’s disgusting because the Labour Council continues to mislead the public about the existence of the Labour Council slate.

· The Mayor takes out full page ads in both local papers warning everybody about the evils of slates, and of Voice in particular. Meanwhile on the same day New Westminster residents receive envelopes showing that the Mayor is involved with two slates in an attempt to control the outcome of city council composition. It is the height of hypocrisy!

· A well known school trustee gets his son-in-law to write a letter to the Record singing the praises of his father-in-law. The writer doesn’t identify himself. It’s an act of desperation.

· The Mayor and a few school trustees have been telling the electorate that the money for the new schools is off the table if the Grimston Park option is not acted upon. Talk about spreading false information and being a tad economical with the truth. It’s plain old fear politics.



Letter Received by School Board and City Council Candidates

“While the Royal City Record chose not to print the attached letter to the editor in today’s edition, along with many others it apparently continued to receive on the subject of using Grimston Park for school purposes, I wanted to share it with you, Mr. Ewen, with other candidates seeking office either on the School Board or City Council (having email addresses I could find), and with our MLA.

Rick Scobie”

The unpublished letter follows below.
Sent: Tuesday, November 11, 2008 11:48 PM
To: ‘’
Subject: Michael Ewen Lacking Education

School Board Trustee and Board Chair Michael Ewen in his letter to the Editor (November 8th edition, “Board chair defends process”) laments the lack of sufficient lands for the required school needs in New Westminster and states: “Now I recognize that this is not an ideal solution, and the city would need to come to the table with cash and support the school and the community in resolving this option [of two schools on the Tweedsmuir site]”. What this illustrates is a profound ignorance of the fact that schools, like hospitals, are NOT the responsibility of this City or any municipality. They are the responsibility of the Province.

Municipalities and cities have a bevy of responsibilities in providing local services to their local residents, businesses and industries. These include police and fire protection, roads, water distribution and sewer collection infrastructure, garbage collection, parks and recreation facilities, libraries, planning services, building permit and inspection services, arts and cultural facilities/services, etcetera. Municipalities and cities choose to provide these services to the extent their electorate is prepared to pay for them, noting their potential for generating the required revenue is largely confined to property taxes. Many municipalities and cities have long complained to the Provincial Government that this limited means of paying for local services is inadequate and not necessarily the most equitable, particularly when compared to the various means available to the Provincial Government for generating revenue for its services (i.e., income tax, sales tax, royalties and other license fees).

The provision of schools and hospitals has not been a municipal/city responsibility for many decades, primarily because the Province saw a compelling need to provide a standard level of these services to all people in the Province. Property owners see a separate “school tax” on their yearly property tax notice but this is collected with your municipal/city taxes only for convenience, as are taxes to support the B.C. Assessment Authority and several other agencies. Schools are not a municipal/city responsibility but a responsibility of the Provincial Government Ministry of Education, with assistance from local School Boards. Mr. Ewen is totally off base in suggesting that the City of New Westminster has any responsibility to provide cash or land (e.g., park land) to relieve the School Board and Ministry of Education of their responsibility to adequately address the educational facility deficit in our City. The City is already lacking in its planning for acquisition of future park space to serve neighbourhoods like the West End that will see population increases in future years. Mr. Ewen needs to go back to school and learn about jurisdictional responsibilities.

Unlike many municipalities and cities now facing declining school enrollments and the difficult decisions regarding school closures, New Westminster is facing continued increases in school aged children and projecting this will continue for several years. Anticipating the future school aged population – whether declining, holding steady or increasing – is not easy, as neither the local School Board or Ministry of Education can readily predict how demographics will change year-to-year. However, that is their challenge. Municipalities and cities have their own challenges in providing the diverse services they are responsible for. To look to a municipality or city to help bail out a local School Board and the Ministry of Education for their failure to adequately plan for the future and provide the required school facilities represents another example of Provincial down-loading that should be resisted at all cost. There are already too many problems being faced by municipalities and cities, such as homelessness, as a consequence of our Provincial Government’s failure to fulfill its obligations, favouring instead to cut taxes to appease those who believe less government is better government.

Mr. Ewen should be directing his attention to our Minister of Education in Victoria, not to our City Council in New Westminster.

Rick Scobie
New Westminster

Betty McIntosh’s recent letter to the editor – the uncensored version

How could the City (Mayor Wayne Wright and City Administrator Paul Daminato as Task Force Members with the School District Representatives) put Grimston Park as the only option for a school site? This statement was made by Trustee Janzen at the all candidates meeting Nov. 03/08. They had no direction from City Council to place Grimston Park on the chopping block. As a City Councillor for the past 3 years I am totally dismayed that was the only option put forward. School Board members such as M. Ewen have not planned for the future. He’s been there 28 years and in the past he attempted to close Hume Park School and now wants to use a Park for a school site. He has shown no vision over those 28 years wanting to close a school and use parks for schools such as Moody Park in the past.
It’s fortunate this issue has come to the public prior to November 15th so the public can vote their opinion at the ballot box.
I will not vote in favour of a land swap Grimston Park for any school site.
Monday November 03/08 a motion to have Public Delegation was defeated as the Mayor cast the deciding opposing vote. The motion was moved by Councillor Bob Osterman, second by Councillor Betty McIntosh. Why does the Mayor fear public input at this time? What was the haste to conclude the meeting? Has democracy ceased in New Westminster?
The voters of New Westminster will decide the answers to these questions.

Betty McIntosh
604 619 8455