Public outcry strikes chord: TransLink schedules new United Boulevard Extension (UBE) public info session

Public outcry over an inadequate consultation process and poor information flow surrounding the proposed United Boulevard Extension (UBE) appears to have struck a chord with TransLink.

TransLink has announced that an additional UBE public information session will now be held on December 7th at the Justice Institute in New Westminster.

The details, as provided by TransLink, are as follows:

Presentation and discussion session 6:00 P.M.* to 8:30 P.M.

At the Justice Institute
715 McBride Boulevard
New Westminster

*Presentation in the Theatre begins at 6:45 P.M., followed by a discussion.

Although we applaud TransLink for recognizing that the previous session at the JI was not well received by the public, we would also like to see a commitment by TransLink and the City of New Westminster to a full and open discussion at the December 7th session along with a commitment to provide full information on the subject.

We recognize that TransLink and the City of New Westminster have different mandates and functions. However, New Westminster is a member of TransLink, and for one party to feign ignorance of the activities of the other is simply not acceptable to the public.

We are also aware that subsequent to the last UBE session New Westminster expressed its desire to have three of the proposed options removed.

However, shouldn’t the options presented to the public at the last session have been agreed to by the two parties prior to the public meeting?

As a number of people have commented, the last session at the JI was characterized by chaos, confusion and political point scoring. New Westminster’s intrepid mayor even weighed in and called the meeting a “donnybrook.”

For the December 7th session we recommend that the City make it very clear which UBE options it will and will not entertain.

The City should also make clear what its intentions are regarding a Waste to Energy site in the Braid Industrial Area.

And although we are very aware that a decision has not yet been made by the Province regarding a solid waste management strategy for the Metro region, we do not want to see a repeat of the last Waste to Energy initiative for the Braid Industrial Area which saw New Westminster residents misled by the City as to City’s position and intentions on the issue.

Additionally, the City needs to be completely forthcoming regarding the nature and content of its negotiations with the City of Coquitlam on the UBE. We feel it’s really quite simple: be clear about what was discussed with Coquitlam and clear about any and all decisions and understandings reached.

Cheap political stunts and negotiating via long distance through the press does nothing to help the process move forward and only adds to the public confusion.

Lastly, both the City and TransLink need to be open and forthcoming about what commitments were made when the application for federal funding was submitted. For instance, are there strings attached to the funding? What commitments were made to the railways, if any? What were the timelines?

We urge all those interested in this important issue to keep December 7th open and to participate in this important public session.

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.

Important Consulation Meeting Tonight – Please Attend

Tonight TransLink is hosting a public consultation meeting on the long-planned, and for many, dreaded, United Boulevard Connector, or as it is now called the United Boulevard Extension (UBE).

According to TransLink:
“The North Fraser Perimeter Road has been a regional priority for many years and is designated as an important goods movement corridor.
Phase 1 improvements will connect Brunette Avenue with United Boulevard, relieve congestion at the single-lane bridge over the Brunette River and improve the Braid and Brunette at-grade rail crossing resulting in:
+ Rerouting of truck traffic out of New Westminster residential neighbourhoods and into industrial areas.
+ Improving the connectivity, efficiency, reliability and safety of the regional trucking, cycling and walking networks.
+ Improving connectivity between New Westminster and Coquitlam.

Those at the “stakeholders” meeting last week saw 4 options presented. The first, most closely resembling what had always been discussed with New Westminster over the years, was the most costly and the least disruptive to New Westminster. Options 2-4 all had huge impacts on property owners, on lost tax revenue and on neighbourhood livability.

Please attend the open house meeting tonight, November 18, 2010, 5:30 p.m. to 8:30p.m. at the Justice Institute of British Columbia, 715 McBride Boulevard.
Let TransLink know what this will mean to you.

It is interesting to see how this issue is being reported by media in Coquitlam.

Note: To view a copy of Mayor Wright’s letter to the Coquitlam NOW click here.

The Toxic Blob That Ate Due Diligence

News this past week that the Pier Park is home to a much greater amount of toxic contamination than was previously thought comes as little surprise to many observers. After all, the site has a long history of industrial use from an age when environmental considerations, regulations and awareness were not what they are today.

Sadly, the due diligence that could have identified a costly issue like this one early on was lacking at the outset of the project.

We want to be very clear here in stating that Voice and its members are not at all opposed to opening up New Westminster’s long-derelict waterfront to productive new uses such as parks, walkways, housing and commercial enterprises. Reclaiming the city’s derelict waterfront and making it accessible and useful once again have been a goal of the community for several decades and all of these would be welcome improvements.

In fact, in a September 25, 2008 Voice press release, we stated our full support for “the creation of a properly planned foreshore park on New Westminster’s waterfront” while at the same time expressing our concern that negotiations for the sale of the Westminster pier property were nearing the completion stage without any public consultation or planning.

In our assessment, it looked very much like the purchase deal had been put together quickly to meet the deadline of the 2008 election and that the mayor was “trying to conjure up an election goody to dangle before the voters without any regard for logical planning, just like he did with the Plaza 88 development prior to the [previous] election.”

Due diligence was clearly warranted considering the history of the property but was just as clearly lacking, and we offered several recommendations in our September 2008 press release outlining what we felt the appropriate course of action should be in relation to the Westminster pier property purchase:


1. That the City of New Westminster should acquire an option to buy the Westminster Pier parcel of land with the stated intention that it plans to use the property for a foreshore park and a pocket cruise ship destination.

2. That after an option to buy has been acquired, the city should engage in a transparent and comprehensive public consultation process regarding the proposed use of the property.

3. That all owners and occupants of properties in the vicinity of the proposed foreshore park should be notified in writing of the proposed consultation process.

4. That all necessary amendments to the Official Community Plan (OCP) and all necessary zoning issues be dealt with completely prior to the city exercising its option to buy the Westminster Pier property.

5. That the intentions of TransLink with respect to the construction of a new Pattullo Bridge be determined prior to the completion of a purchase of the property.

There was clearly no good reason why the pier property needed to be purchased in a rush in the Fall of 2008 other than to serve as a pre-election announcement for the Mayor. The property certainly wasn’t going anywhere, especially when you consider the “brownfield” status of the property and the high cost of remediating the impacts of past industrial activity on sites like this.

There was more than enough time for the proper due diligence to have been carried out, but sadly it was not and that omission is now coming home to roost.

Where this will all end up, and what the full financial impact will ultimately be for the already overburdened taxpayers of New Westminster, remains to be seen. But one thing is certain: Due diligence is essential to good governance and there is always time for it in any well-planned, transparent public process. It is truly unfortunate, therefore, that due diligence was not observed in the purchase of the pier property and, even worse, that due diligence was trumped by political opportunism.

Remembrance Day: Voice salutes those who serve

Voice would like to take this opportunity to honour and remember the generations of women and men, past and present, who have served our country during times of war, conflict and peace and those who continue to serve.



Remembrance Day Ceremonies in New Westminster will be held on Thursday, November 11 at the Royal Westminster Regiment Armoury.



Participants are requested to assemble in the Armoury at 9:30 am for the Memorial Service which will begin at 10:00 am. Doors to the Armoury will be closed at 9:45 am. The memorial address will be delivered by His Grace the Duke of Westminster.



Overflow seating will be provided at Queens Avenue United Church. The Church will open at 8:30 am and the public will be able to watch and listen to the Ceremonies taking place in the Armoury.



Following the ceremonies, there will be a parade to the Cenotaph at the front of City Hall. At the Cenotaph, the two minutes of silence will be observed at 11 am. This will be followed by the wreath laying ceremony and the march past on Royal Avenue.



We would also like to acknowledge the successful opening of Honour House here in New Westminster and congratulate those responsible for making this project a reality.

Hair Today, Gone December!

Is New Westminster getting “hairier”? Have you noticed a little more facial hair on the men of our community lately? Last week Voice president, Neil Powell, apologised for his unshaven face at a few public meetings. His unshaven face has now been crafted into a rather “debonair” moustache. This is not a fashion choice by Neil but rather him joining with other men who are participating in Movember.
November is the month men have chosen to raise awareness of men’s cancer (prostate and testicular). To help raise awareness, November has been re-named Movember because mena around the world are growing their “mo” (short for moustache) to attract attention to the cause. Anyone wanting to find out more information or wanting to donate to the cause can visit:
http://ca/movember.ca/ or http://prostatecancer.ca

Voice congratulates Susan Wandell on two successful terms as Arts Council President

Voice member (and 2008 Voice candidate for city council) Susan Wandell has just completed two highly successful terms as President of the New Westminster Arts Council.


We want to congratulate Susan and thank her for the great work she’s done as a tireless advocate for the arts in our community; not to mention the passion she’s shown working on behalf of the New Westminster community in general.


Susan says it’s been “an educational and fun four years” and she’s pleased that the profile of the Arts Council has been “raised tremendously” through the combined efforts of the arts community and the Arts Council board and its members during her time as President.


Some of the highlights of Susan’s two terms as Arts Council President include increasing the Arts Council staff, the appointment of Hilda Cliffe as President Emeritus, the appointment of Tony Antonias as a Lifetime Member, updating the Arts Council’s “branding colour” from burgundy to blue, and trying to save The Burr.


Under Susan’s leadership, the Arts Council also worked with the arts community to ensure that the new Civic Centre included a gallery space, as well as working closely with the City on the Arts Strategy and Theatre Study and partnering with several community groups to purchase the Outdoor Cinema.


Susan also made an arts-related presentation to the provincial legislature’s all-party Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services in September. In her presentation, Susan noted that “the arts are often misunderstood by governments and seen as an unnecessary budgetary expense.”


Susan offered the all-party committee a number of ideas to enhance arts funding and stressed that “the arts must be viewed as an industry that needs to be cultivated; an economic development driver and not simply a frill to society.”


In her President’s report to Arts Council AGM, Susan thanked the Board, the Arts Council office staff (Andree St. Martin and Carolyn McLaughlin), and the Arts Council’s accountant, Peter Bower, for all their efforts.


Susan also thanked the Arts Council’s City Liaison, Councillor Bill Harper, who made a notable effort to attend most of Arts Council Board meetings and provided valuable direction.


Susan says she is also hopeful the Arts Council will revive their very popular Oscar night fundraising event, In Celebration of Film, this coming year.


Our thanks again to Susan Wandell and our best wishes for her and for the arts in New Westminster in the year ahead.

Chris Bryan editorial is a “must read”

Chris Bryan’s editorial about Voice (and the evolving New Westminster political scene) in the October 28th Newsleader is a must read for anyone interested in local political affairs.

As Chris Bryan points out, not only is Voice alive and kicking and “a force to be reckoned with in 2011,” Voice is actively gearing up for the next civic election which is now just a year away.

To paraphrase an obvious and famously apt quote attributed to Mark Twain/Samuel Clemons: Reports of the death of Voice have been greatly exaggerated; and it’s pure wishful thinking on the part of those with an interest in maintaining the status quo here in New Westminster to imagine that Voice is dead.

And, as more and more people are starting to point out, holding elected officials to account, raising important issues and challenging the status quo are essential to the political process and not “negatives” as some would have it.

However, as Chris Bryan very correctly points out, Voice was just a year old at the time of the last civic election, and like any young, vital organization Voice is always learning and evolving and we appreciate any and all feedback.

After all, Voice is based on the premise that the community’s interests are best served when a diversity of views and opinions are brought to bear on issues and a broad public consensus is achieved. And what we’re ultimately striving for are the optimal solutions that flow from open and transparent public processes that have accountability and “value for money” as key guiding principles.

Chris Bryan’s passion for New Westminster is readily apparent, and as always, Voice is open to feedback and critical analysis of our organization and our actions in the community because that which does not kill us makes us stronger.