The Positive Role of Voice

Some time ago the Voice directorship decided to re-energize the Voice blog, “The Express”. Through our blog we have attempted to bring to your attention issues of concern in New Westminster, and also some news items that we deem to be relevant. Sometimes we comment on items in the media, sometimes we arrive at issues before the media does, and we think it is important to put all of these issues before you.

By its constitution, Voice is an electors’ organization, whose main purpose is to find and support candidates for the positions of Mayor, Councillor and School Trustee. Our constitution also provides for us to raise issues of concern and to put them before the community.
Voice pursues a “big tent” approach, and to facilitate this we do not get bogged down in the debate regarding policy issues or ideologies. On some things, however, we all agree. Voice is committed to transparent and accountable government. We also believe, firmly, that government should deliver value for money.

Unlike many of the current and past office-holders in New Westminster, we are not beholden to special interests; we are not funded by them, nor are our strings pulled by them, or by anybody, for that matter. We answer to the residents, businesses, and taxpayers of New Westminster – that’s it. Many of our directors and members come to community involvement via the resident’s association movement, and thus we are very grass-roots and community/neighborhood oriented.

To get to the core of this posting, we are very aware that those who oppose us have labeled us as negative and wish we would just go away. We are also aware that this negative label has had some traction in the community. We understand why and how this has happened, but we feel we have a constructive role to play and we would like to carry this out and be perceived in a positive light.

On our blog, you will find posts of all kinds. Some of these could be interpreted as being positive, others as negative and several fall somewhere in between. Not all comments that are sent to us are appropriate to be posted and the blog’s moderators reject a number of comments.

We do not apologize for the fact that we were formed because we would like to see the City and the School Board go about their business in a very different way than is currently done. Our blog has played a vital role in getting out our message. We have been very vocal about lack of transparency and accountability, and also about value for money.

After the last election, some things did change as a result of the concerns and issues we exposed, but in our opinion much work remains. The city’s financial position and much of our public infrastructure have deteriorated over the last seven years. Our amenities have not kept up with the needs of our residents as we moved towards major densification of the city.

Many of the issues that we have brought forward have proven to be exactly as we initially suggested. We brought up the issue of severe dysfunction in the Development Services Department specifically and in the City generally. As we exposed, this was leading to the waste of hundreds of thousands of dollars. As events unfolded, our observations were proven to be very accurate. Were we negative as our detractors have claimed? We maintain that the negatives were already there and that we were just exposing them and bringing them to your attention.
We strongly believe in the public’s right to know about the conduct of public individuals involved in the lawsuit currently being brought against the city regarding the 12th St. liquor store. We think it is important to put the facts before you. That is why we are attempting to secure transcripts of the court proceedings. Of course those who were involved claim that we are being negative. They would love dearly to have the facts remain hidden.

The same can be said for the debacle at the Pier Park. We stated at the time in very clear terms that the City should take out an option on the waterfront property and exercise it only when due diligence was completed. Our opponents were very upset with this position and they claimed that we were opposed to the park and that we were being negative. Once again though, as events have unfolded, our concerns have been borne out. The cost of the park has tripled, and only one third of the anticipated scope of the work will be done in the initial stage. Were we negative on that issue as some have claimed? We think not. We believe that for items as large as the $60-100M Pier Park project; there should have been a comprehensive, transparent and honest process to lead to a decision.

That’s how a Voice Council would have conducted the process and that is how we would approach all of our decisions.

On the School Board side of things we believe that our Voice Trustees have brought forward many positive initiatives and we look forward to that continuing.

In conclusion, we will continue to put issues in front of you and we hope that you will judge us by what we bring forward and for the issues we advocate. We hope that you will be discerning, instead of just believing what our detractors say about us and how they would wish to have us branded.

Please continue to read our blog and better yet, give us a response outlining your opinions.

– Neil Powell
Voice New Westminster

11 thoughts on “The Positive Role of Voice

  1. I like this post.

    And I have a question. With your quote:

    “We do not apologize for the fact that we were formed because we would like to see the City and the School Board go about their business in a very different way than is currently done.”

    I have heard nothing about this! Can you make a blog post about your vision on how the SB and he City go about their business. Hearing some actual ideas on how to tackle Royal City problems would be a great way to revitalize the image of voice New West.

    If I like the ideas of the group, I would be more likely to vote for it’s candidates.

  2. Great post, thanks for saying with assertiveness what needs to be said. There are a ghreat number of things that need to be changed in this city, the first being that this city is run by special interest groups. Money rules in New West, and it is very alarming. Taxes are sky-high, and as you guys say, we need to get value for money.
    Keep up the good work!!!

  3. Great post Neil. This is the kind of thing I’d like to see more of. I like that you’re talking about specific issues, and I like that you’re following up your criticisms with concrete examples of what you would like to see done differently. I would like to see a series of posts (or a series of series!) that addresses the Voice stance on key issues that set you apart. I know that you’re a ‘big tent’ group, but I think you can still discuss the spectrum of opinions within your ‘tent’! I would appreciate knowing more clearly what you stand for.

  4. Good Article Neil. Makes me proud to be a Voice member.
    Not to worry about those who claim voice is negative! General claims of negativity are usually born from those who have no other opinions or fear being exposed to truths.
    Brianna and Will. Membership in $10and I know you share simular ideas about our city.
    Brianna is correct, we do need to speak out on solutions for what needs improving. Here are some of mine and speaking only for me personally.
    1. We need an efficiency expert/ consultant to investigate wages/salaries/perks/benefits and family relationships of staff. When the same number of people are paid $100M + in a city with a small tax base VS cities with equal numbers in the $100 + club who have 4 times the population is not right!
    The cost for this expert could easily be recuped by eliminating positions of those who are not producing results for which they were hired. The consultants survey for our Mayor to produce a favourable report card is money wasted.
    The yearly consultation with Staff and Unions at budget time is laughable while businesses are not consulted even though their taxes are 3.5 times higher.
    The Mayor and our failing administration needs a wake up. They need to revert back to the old school of thought. They should have a swearing in session at council which goes like this:

    “We The Mayor and Council, Department Managers and Staff hereby Vow to respect the wishes of those who placed us in our positins and will forever think, act and support in favour of our employers, the taxpayers”.
    In other words cease over spending to satisfy your needs.
    The consultation/investigation process needs to begin at the Administration level, the H@R department, Moving to the Police, Fire and Parks Board to find savings.

  5. Great post, you address concerns I have heard and some cases shared.

    I think if we see more of this leading up to the election, Voice will see greater success in 2011.

    Speak to the issue and offer an alternative solution.

    Oh, and if you can, revert back to the three year versus four year term, as we think it keeps politicians more accountable.

  6. I am a Voice fan, a supporter you might say. I am in a position that if I stated my views publicly, it would have consequences for me at my work, if you know what I mean.
    Keep up the good work, you guys are masking a difference.
    Do not listen to all if the dissing and bad-mouthing. It is happening because you guys are hitting the mark.

  7. Neil, et all,

    What could possibly be negative about truth? How much of our tax dollars are being spent giveing the Mayor and his band of rouges positive spin in the local media. Now the court circus has moved to a venue in the downtown Vancouver court house and still the Mayor, “Can’t recall” Let’s see what he can “recall” at election time!

    I can’t imagine the court putting up with his arrogance for long……..

    Keep up the good work and your “brand” will change to enlightened before you know it!

  8. I see that the Newsleader published your letter.
    Did you send it to both papers?
    If you did, strange that the Record did not publish it. I’ll keep an eye on Saturday’s edition.
    Is this the Record’s bias coming through again?

  9. Will and Briana:
    Thanks for your suggestions and queries. I will follow up on them in the next few days.
    I did send a letter to both papers. I know sometimes the press will hold off on a letter and publish it at a time that suits them better.
    I’m sure The Record will get around to publishing my entire letter some time soon.

  10. They sure did abbreviate it. Sort of protected their main advertisors. In case you were wondering, that would be the city.

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