Proving my prognostication skills are as terrible as I always suspected, here is my report on this week’s Council meeting. You can follow along on the Agenda here, and note that I thought those new business items were just Notices of Motion, not topics of discussion this week, which is kinda how I missed them earlier. I’m such a rookie at this.
We started the Meeting with an Opportunity for Public Comment:
Five-Year Financial Plan (2018-2022) Amendment Bylaw No. 8062, 2018
This Bylaw provides us the authority to borrow the money we need to build the proposed Canada Games Pool replacement. We do not yet have a detailed design, and our cost estimates at this point are “Class D” and put the project at about $100 Million, or $114 Million if we expand the facility to provide all of the competition-supporting changes that the swim club was asking for. The rush here is the timing of the Federal government infrastructure grant process, and the requirement that we have a financing plan in place and approved prior to us completing that application.
We had one person ask a few questions regarding the structure of the Five-Year Financial Plan and the planned structure of the loan if and when the City decides to go forward with the project. There will be a *lot* of discussion of this project in 2019 as the design and planning come along and we get all of the details of financing the largest capital project in the city’s history together. In the meantime, Council gave this amendment three readings.
The following items were Moved on Consent without discussion.
New Westminster City Council Indemnification Bylaw
The City’s Solicitor is updating some of the practices in the City, including clarifying the limitations of liability for Council. This is a little meta to how Council operates, but as the executive to a large organization, we have some protection from legal liability if we make decisions in good faith that have bad results. This protection is much less robust if we act dishonestly or in violation of the law.
Engineering User Fees and Utility Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 8071, 2018
We talked about utility rates last meeting, and I have been writing a few blog posts about it. This is the Bylaw that makes the water, sewer, and solid waste rates for the next year official, and we gave the Bylaw three readings.
DCC Expenditure Bylaw No. 8072, 2018
Development Cost Charges are money the City collects from developers that the City is required by law to spend on designated infrastructure improvement projects directly related to the impacts of population growth. If we need to replace the water pipes under your street due to it being old and leaky, that is paid for out of your utility rates (through utility reserve funds, usually). However, if we have to build a bigger water pipe to accommodate the new multi-family building on your block, the marginal cost of that expansion is paid for with DCCs collected from the developer of that multi-family building. Like everything else in this City, we need a Bylaw to permit the pulling of the money out of the DCC accounts and spending it on the projects.
For example, there are a couple of drainage projects in Queensborough, one related to Ewen Street redesign, the other a major pump station at the end of Wood Street. They are going to cost a combined $6.4Million. About $4.5M of that (or 70%) will be paid for out of our reserves (ie. paid by all users), while $1.9M (or 30%) will be paid by DCC funds collected through density increases in Queensborough.
Council gave the Bylaw, which authorizes the spending of a little more than $3 Million of DCC funds on various projects.
Code of Conduct for City Council
We have not operated with a modern Code of Conduct for Council. This is something many Cities have adopted, partly because of increased expectations for respectful workplaces, and partly from observing examples from other cities where the municipal operations were hampered by poor conduct on the part of a few disruptive Council members. So, no sign of problems here, just our City Clerk being proactive as part of our general effort to make City Hall and Council function as well as possible. Council move to approve the Code.
Recruitment 2018: ICAC Appointment
The School Board representative to the Intelligent City Advisory Committee is changing due to some staffing shifts at the School District. Moved!
2018 Heritage Register Update – Addition of Five Properties and Removal of One Property
The Heritage Registry is a database of significant heritage assets in the City (mostly single family homes) that have statements of significance, and the owners are able to avail themselves of some special provisions of the BC Building Code to support the protection and preservation of the buildings. Some (not all) are protected from demolition or modification. New houses granted property rights through Heritage Restoration Agreements are commonly added to the Register every now and then, and this time, a building demolished after a fire a couple of years ago has been stricken from the Register.
Recreational Cannabis: Nuisance Monitoring Program
As I’ve said a few times, the biggest hassle we are going to have to deal with as a City with the legalization of cannabis is the inevitable complaints about exposure to second-hand smoke. I am of the opinion that the actual nuisance will not be increasing substantially (because I don’t think legalization is going to come with a substantial increase in users), but I am confident the number of complaints will as people are less sensitive to how their personal use impacts others. Staff have some tools in place, but will provided this report to let us know they will be collecting data and will report back to us about how the nuisance issue plays out in the City.
SkyTrain Stations (TransLink): Request for Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption
SkyTrain works often involve working at times when the SkyTrain is not running, for some pretty obvious reasons, which usually requires a construction noise bylaw exemption. We are granting one until December 24th, then again starting in January so TransLink can wire up their new announcement system.
Pattullo Bridge Seismic Upgrading: Request for Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption
As plans for a replacement for the Pattullo bridge proceed, the old structure is still going to carry traffic through to 2023. TransLink has concerns about its ability to withstand high seismic and wind loads events, and want to install an early warning system to close the bridge in the event of a bad event. The work to install some of this will have to happen at night to not impact drivers. So they came to us for a construction noise exemption.
CP Rail Pipe Crossing Agreement – Proposed Watermain Crossing on Braid Street
We need to replace a piece of water main, and it goes under railroad tracks. So we need to get separate approvals from all three rail operators. This is the CP one. This is also related to the reason why the sidewalk improvements along Braid have not been completed to date. The water line thing has to happen first.
Amendment to the Parks and Recreation Fees and Charges Bylaw (resubmitted)
This is a second shot at updating our Parks and Recreation fees, as we do annually, after a few recommendations came from Council last meeting. Council moved to approve them this time.
We then adopted a few Bylaws
Revenue Anticipation Borrowing Amendment Bylaw No. 8038, 2018
As discussed last meeting, This Bylaw that allows us to borrow a bit of money if we need to spend a little bit more cash than we strictly have on hand to get past short term (less than a year) cash crunch was adopted by Council. I have no idea if staff ever use this flexibility, but they are definitely happy to have it.
Engineering User Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 8058, 2018
As discussed last meeting, this Bylaw that formalizes the annual CPI-related increases in Engineering Fees to assure cost recovery was adopted by Council.
Zoning Amendment (1102, 1110, 1116 and 1122 Salter Street) Bylaw No. 8034, 2018
As discussed back in June, given Third Reading on July 25th, and just approved by the Ministry of Transportation, this Bylaw that supports the development of a combined townhouse, rowhome and detached house development in Queensborough was adopted by Council.
Now for those New Business items I thought were Notices of Motion:
Council resolved that: the City of New Westminster support the Coalition’s ABC Plan for an accountable, bold and comprehensive poverty reduction plan for BC; and that this council advocate to the provincial government to develop and implement a provincial poverty reduction strategy that includes the measures within the ABC Plan before February 2019, with the commitment that this council will work with the provincial government in implementing this plan.
This is a motion to ask the Provincial government to include the framework and items in the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition’s “ABC Plan” for an Accountable, Bold and Comprehensive poverty reduction plan for BC. Beyond just a good idea at a good time, it is important to realize that although the costs of poverty often fall on municipalities to manage, the causes of poverty are firmly in senior governments’ jurisdiction. We do what we can in New Westminster to mitigate the effects, but the root causes will need serious senior government action.
Truth and Reconciliation
Council resolved to endorse the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report Honouring the Truth, Reconciling the Future; the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action; the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and that the City use the Declaration as a framework for truth and reconciliation.
The City has been working on a reconciliation plan since 2017, and are quickly entering a phase where Council will and the public will be engaging in conversations, and the City will be opening opportunities for truths to be shared. We have taking a cautious approach, but based on the messaging of the recent election campaigns, we will be integrating reconciliation into our strategic planning for the term. In the meantime, it is timely that the City endorse the principles that will provide the framework for those actions.
All on Board Campaign
Finally, Council also resolved to endorse the #AllOnBoard Campaign; the City write a letter to the TransLink Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation, the TransLink Board, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction asking TransLink to work with the provincial government regarding funding and developing a plan that will provide free public transit for minors (ages 0-18), and reduced price transit based on a sliding scale using the Market Basket Measure for all low-income people regardless of their demographic profile;
and that the City write a separate letter to the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation and the TransLink Board asking them to 1) require TransLink adopt a poverty reduction/equity mandate in order to address the outstanding issue of lack of affordability measures to ensure those who need public transit the most can access the essential service of transit, and 2) to request TransLink immediately and without delay amend existing by-laws and cease ticketing all and any minors for fare evasion as the first step towards the full implementation of free transit for children and youth 0-18, and allow low-income adults to access community service and/or culturally appropriate restorative justice community service as an alternative to the financial penalty of a fare evasion ticket;
My only caveat with this motion is my concern that poverty mitigation efforts undertaking by TransLink do not come at the cost of reducing transit service or increasing fares for other users. Reducing accessibility to or reliability of public transit will ultimately hurt those with lower incomes worse than those who have access to other options. I will not support sliding scale or subsidized transit passes for the lowest income categories if it comes at the cost of increasing fares for the next economic tiers. It is not progressive or fair for the marginally poor to be asked to subsidize the poorest sector of society. The provincial government must fund any low-income transit subsidy from general revenue. It is the only just way to address this issue.
Clearly, we have a new Council, one ready to jump in with two feet and get some things done. It should be an exciting term!