ASK PAT: Anvil theme!

The Anvil Centre edition! I have three questions on two topics:

Dale asks —

I was heartened to see that the recent budget includes a line item related to signage for the Anvil Centre. The building has been up for 3+ years and has thousands of people traveling by it on foot, bicycle and vehicle with no indication at all as to what the heck is going on inside. The budget item sets aside $100,000 “to work with a sign expert to determine more effective signage outside the Anvil Centre”. Please tell me that the $100k will include more than the expert consultation. Also, why not have a competition for the signage which would probably give a better outcome and will also provide publicity for the Anvil Centre?

I had two very similar questions arrive on this, and the short answer is yes, the $100K is the entire budget for the signage project, and will include more than just the planning and design. Hopefully this will result in signage and wayfinding to draw more people into the Anvil when things are happening inside.

There is a point to be made here about how we set out budget for projects like this. Municipal finance is sometimes a terrifying thing, because it involves various layers of policy, regulation and reporting, and it all must be kept transparent for obvious reasons. The diversity of things we spend money on, the need to not demonstrate favoritism or bias when purchasing, our requirement to enter contracts in service delivery, and the relative reluctance to face risk in spending run up against the fact that every check and balance takes time and staff resources that make everything less efficient. It is more complicated than that last sentence, and these complications – all designed to make government more accountable to the people they work for – are a big reason why people who say “a City should run like a business” are only indicating that they have no idea how government works.

If I ran an underwear store in Downtown New West, and I wanted to change my signage, I would call a few places to see who could provide such a service. I might get some quotes, and choose the lowest bidder, or I might call my uncle Ernie who has a sign company and give him a discount on boxer briefs if he could bang a few signs out for me at cost. I may even decide to go to the artisanal organic sign company up the block because the owner is a neighbor, gives generously of her time and energy to community-building, I like keeping my money local, and I don’t mind paying a little more for a quality product when I know the person who I am buying from. I may buy one less sign, or a slightly smaller one, because that is all I have in my budget right now, or I may go for a bulk discount and go a little over my budget to get a lot more. The purchase process is dynamic, I can act fast in response to the market, and my personal preferences. And no-one needs to know how much I spend on signs, except maybe Revenue Canada when I report the signs as a business expense at the end of the year.

Local Governments can’t do this. Our ability to “sole source”, or buy from a preferred person, is generally limited to smaller-cost items purchased irregularly. To buy anything substantial or enter into a longer-term supplier agreement, there needs to be a budget line. Depending on the cost, it may need to go all the way up to Council to approve the purchase as part of the annual Financial Plan or a Financial Plan update, as was the case for the Anvil signage program. It is outside of regular operating costs, and big enough that staff need to come to Council to ask for budget room to do the work. Problematically, they likely cannot do much more than some preliminary cost estimates before that ask (i.e. they cannot enter a contract, even a “Contract A”, without budget authority), but spending less than the budget will be easy while spending more than the budget difficult.

Once budget is approved, staff is then required to go to the market and ask for bids. Depending on the type of project and the estimated budget, that may mean going out to get three quotes, or it may mean a much more formal open procurement process like you see listed here in BC Bid. This process is regulated by our internal policies in order to prevent favoritism, to make us complaint with proper public process, contract law, and trade agreements like the Agreement on Internal Trade and the Northwest Partnership Trade Agreement. So, yes, there is a competition for the work required by practice and law.

Strangely, there is no actual statutory obligation for local governments to procure goods and services through this competitive process, and the trade agreements above are not legally binding on Local Governments, yet we are creatures of the Province, and are expected to follow these guidelines, or be subject to legal challenges or expensive arbitration by bidders who feel they were aggrieved by us not following due process. There is also a bunch of contract law around this the exists in parallel to legislation, but I am getting way deeper into the law than I am qualified to opine upon. Short version is: we have policies and practice in place to assure that public funds are spent transparently without undue bias ,and suppliers have a fair chance to compete for projects.

This, of course, often puts us at a significant competitive disadvantage when purchasing compared to underwear store guy above. If the market knows you need to buy something and exactly what you are willing to spend, you are entering into a negotiation with one hand tied behind your back – especially when it comes to purchasing a specific property or very specialized services with limited suppliers. This is why the City is able, under Sections 90 .1 (e) and (k) of the Community Charter, to discuss things like business negotiations in a closed meeting, although the eventual expenditure must be approved in an open meeting.

There is another strange part of municipal finance that is partially a result of this cumbersome process – every year we underspend our capital budget. For some reason the Koch Brothers anti-tax brigade never talk about this when complaining about our budgets, but that heads us down another long hallway…


Deanna asks—

One of those little things, three years ago there was a number of red seats and tables in front of the Anvil Centre, then they disappeared over Winter and never returned. I really liked those seats and often sat there enjoying a coffee I purchased up the street. I do often wish they were back, the benches further up are too close to the street/traffic for me. Any chance we can get the red tables and chairs back? 

The red chairs that were in front of the Anvil were part of a larger City pilot a couple of years ago to try to set up a few cheap/quick seating areas around the city. The same chairs popped up in other places, including the Uptown Parklet, in front of the Queensborough Community Centre, and out back of City Hall. They have also been moved around a bit to different places, to see what sticks as far as making some of our public spaces ”stickier”. Unfortunately, the front on the Anvil was one of those spaces where the chairs didn’t really work out. A few people liked them (obviously including you!), but many found the spot too hot in the summer and not well connected to anything else, while there were some trash issues that required some management. So when the Downtown BIA wanted some help with seating for Fridays on Front, those tables and chairs were lent to them, and you will see them being used in the Front Street Parklet area.

As always, this leads to another conversation related to Dale’s question above: the public activation of the ground space around Anvil Centre. Bringing this new cultural centre into operation has been a slow and iterative process. There are many parts of it that are running exceptionally well (YEA New Media Gallery!), some that have really ramped up in a good way in the last little while (YEA Theatre programming!), but there is also some more work to do, and I think making the ground floor (inside and out) a welcoming community space that contributes to a lively downtown street scene continues to be a challenge. Council is aware of this, as is the staff at Anvil. The opening of Piva’s patio is a great addition, but that fact that they are across the street from a vacant lot is still a problem, as is the design of 8th Street that does little to draw people out of Plaza 88 onto the street, but I’ve been banging that drum for (Oh. My. God. Was this 8 years ago!?) a long time.

We have work to do there, but after all this time, I wonder if we can get it done.

Lower Mainland LGA 2019

Last week I attended the Lower Mainland LGA’s annual conference. You paid for me to go there*, so as per my tradition, I like to report out on some of the highlights of what I saw and what I did.

The Lower Mainland Local Government Association is an organization that brings local government elected people together from across the “Lower Mainland”. Our Membership includes every Municipality and Regional District between Hope and West Vancouver, between White Rock and Pemberton. Every year we hold a two day conference over three days, and this year it was in Harrison.

The opening session included a notable speech by the Speaker of the House. Unexpectedly, this led to some media attention. In hindsight, it was bold for the Speaker to provide a speech to a room of elected officials and frame the speech around how elected officials are hated and not trusted, mostly because they are not good leaders. As a call to arms to be better leaders, or to take the role of leadership seriously (as most of the members assembled were new) it was a puzzling approach.

In this context, where your audience’s back is up, it is easy for some questionable examples and ham-fisted allegory to be received in the worst possible light. It was unfortunate, and ultimately failed to deliver the message that the speaker was hoping to deliver. The resultant media buzz was perhaps out of scale with the event, but the knives coming out so quick might have said more about why fewer people choose to put their names forward for leadership… but I digress.


Day two began with a moderated session about the Past and Future of the regional plan, or even of Regional planning. Gordon Price began with a description of the emergency that led our region to begin regional planning (the flood of 1948), and drew a parallel and contrast to our current slow-burning apocalypse, challenging us to ask whether we are planning to deal with it. “never waste a good apocalypse”. Patricia Heintzman and Patricia Ross brought perspectives from the Sea-to-Sky and the Fraser Valley – both addressing themes of responsible planning and the future of the environment and outlines some successes and challenges at the metaphorical edges of the metropolis, while Rhiannon Bennett reminded us that the growth of the region, planned or otherwise, did not occur in a vacuum, but on lands that provided prosperity to her people for several thousand years.

This was followed by a Munk-style moderated debate featuring four elected officials on the topic of Climate Action. Nadine Nakagawa and Christine Boyle debated in favour of the motion “We need a Canadian version of the Green New Deal” against Laura Dupont and… uh, me. At the end of the hour, we essentially tied (we didn’t move anyone in the crowd one way or the other) but we did manage to have a robust discussion around the strengths of different approaches to addressing climate change, and the role local governments can play.

Day two is the day we do the AGM, and Elections for the Lower Mainland LGA, followed by our Resolutions Session, where members debate various resolutions calling in senior governments to make changes in legislation or policy to make local governments work better. There were 34 resolutions, most of them approved, some with amendments, and you will have to wait until the full report comes out on line to see what went through and how.

New Westminster sent 4 resolutions forward:

Fresh Voices #LostVotes Campaign: Therefore be it resolved that UBCM request the Province of British Columbia make the necessary changes to allow Permanent Residents to vote in municipal elections in municipalities in British Columbia.

This and a similar resolution by Port Moody were supported.

#AllOnBoard Campaign: Therefore be it resolved that the #AllonBoard Campaign be endorsed and the TransLink Mayors’ Council, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction be asked to work with the provincial government and local governments to develop a plan that will provide free public transit for minors (ages 0‐18), free transit for people living below the poverty line (as identified by market basket measure, in line with the BC poverty measures), and reduced price transit based on a sliding scale for all low‐income people regardless of their demographic profile.

This and similar resolutions by Vancouver and Port Moody were supported.

Office of a Renters Advocate: Therefore be it resolved that the LMLGA and UBCM seek support of the Provincial Government to create an Office of The Renters Advocate, to monitor and analyzes renters’ services and issues in BC, and make recommendations to government and service providers to address systemic issues caused by rental shortages, renovictions, demovictions and housing affordability.

This resolution was supported by the membership.

Support of the Indigenous Court System: Therefore be it resolved that UBCM, FCM and LMLGA lobby the Canadian Federal and Provincial Governments to fund and expand the Indigenous Court System.

This resolution was also supported by the membership. So New West was 4 for 4 on the resolution front this year!


Friday began with addresses from representatives of the three Parties in the provincial legislature. Leader Andrew Wilkinson spoke for the BC Liberal Party, Deputy Leader Jonina Campbell for the BC Greens, and Selina Robinson the (apropos) Minister of Municipal Affairs for the BC NDP.

The highlights for me on Friday were the two sessions moderated by Justin McElroy of the CBC and stuff-ranking fame.  The first had Minister Robinson, Metro Vancouver Chair Sav Dhaliwal and UBCM President Arjun Singh talking about the work of local governments (remember, most of the elected folks in the room have only been in office for 6 months), and how to work together with senior governments to get things done. The second was a panel discussion on the future of regional transportation with the Chair of the TransLink Mayors Council, the Chair of the Fraser Valley Regional District, the MLA for the Sea-To-Sky region, and ELMTOT-friendly MLA Bowinn Ma.

Overall, the Lower Mainland LGA is an opportunity for local elected people to get together and talk about the challenges we see on our communities, and the innovative ideas we are using to overcome these challenges. I got to spend time chatting with the new Mayor of Squamish about her concise new Strategic Plan (one page, straight forward, and full of easy-to-measure goals!), to ca Councillor in Abbotsford about the challenges rolling out the Abbotsforward plan, to Vancouver Councilors about their (crazy?) new Council dynamic. I got to complain and brag about New West in equal measure. It is this networking with peers and connections we make that I value most from this meeting every year.

  • *I’m on the Executive of the Lower Mainland LGA, so part of my cost of attending was covered by the organization. Also, my attendance required me to take three unpaid days off of my regular work, so MsNWimby argues that she paid a substantial part of my costs as well…

Intersections

I’m disappointed we didn’t get some of these stepped-up intersection speed cameras in New West. Speed cameras in intersections that can automatically ticket speeders are a good idea, one that can only be opposed by those who like to speed through intersections at illegal speeds, selfishly endangering everyone around them.

Why not New Wet? Apparently the intersections where these cameras were activated were those ranked highest in accident history and  speed issues. Perhaps the silver lining here is that this suggests our intersections are relatively safe by those measures compared to other areas in the Lower Mainland. Though I recognize just by saying that I am going to see comments on social media with people listing their least-favourite intersection. Mine is shown in the picture above.

But hopefully this is the just the first phase of the program, and we may see more cameras in the future. I would also hope that the next phases look not only at raw speed or 85th percentile or accident history, but we may expand the warrant analysis to emphasize intersections where vulnerable road users are more common. Yes, Accidents between speeding cars can be expensive, and often leads to injury or death. but a speeding car hitting a pedestrian is almost always fatal. While injuries and deaths of people inside cars is going down, injuries and deaths of pedestrians is going up. Technology like this can correct that trend.

On the good news side, New West has begun to make changes that were suggested by the Walkers Caucus last year, and are implementing a program of standardizing (and lengthening) the timing of pedestrian crossing light signals. Starting with the pedestrian-activated signals such as the one on Sixth Ave at 14th Street, which have already been adjusted to allow sufficient time for more people to cross safely. The ACTBiPed is also spending some time this year looking at the use of “Beg Buttons” in the City. Despite some lengthy critiques of these in Urbanist circles, there are places where pedestrian-controlled signals serve to make the pedestrian experience safer and more convenient, and there are places where they definitely prioritize car movement over pedestrian movement, in direct contrast to the priorities set out in our Master Transportation Plan. Teasing out these differences, and howto fix it, is an interesting topic, and one we hope to review and create some policy recommendations to Council.

But as you can see above, making our intersections safer and more comfortable for pedestrians is going to take more than signal timing and activation timing. This is why I support intersection camera, and further suggest we need to step up enforcement in the good old fashioned cop-with-a-ticketbook format if we are going to change drivers behaviour.

Council – May 6 , 2019

Aside from the newsworthy event of the evening, we had a pretty light agenda for our first May meeting, which was probably good in light of the diverse and lengthy public delegations we heard.


We started by moving the following items on Consent:

New Westminster Reconciliation Consultant and Framework Development
As I alluded to last week, Council has been unanimous in support of reconciliation, and in taking a thoughtful, intentional, and respectful approach to the work. We have endorsed the Calls to Action in the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, and are dedicated to establishing a respectful and comprehensive dialogue with the community about New Westminster’s unique role in the colonial history of Western Canada. Before we were part of Canada, we were the capital of the colony – this is the place where the Royal Engineers, the armed force enforcing colonialization – was stationed. This is the place where Governors Douglas and Seymour presided over colonial administration, this is also a place where Qayqayt people rested on the river, and a place honoured in many stories of Sto:lo people.

This report outlines the framework to do that work that has been established after months of work by staff and consultants, rising out of several discussions with Council. It has been said, as recently as last week at Council, that Truth needs to come before Reconciliation, and the only way to arrive at that truth is through dialogue, through telling our stories, and hearing the stories of others. But this is often the hardest part. How do we create spaces where people feel free to have frank and sometimes challenging discussions? And how do we decide whose stories are vital to our local dialogue, in a place with such a protracted history, a place that in many ways wears that history on its sleeve. How do we have those discussions in a way that doesn’t cause people to close their ears? These are not easy questions, and we will not always hit the mark in answering them. But we will try, and we committed to doing it with care and intention.

Of course, for the second week in a row, we tossed this framework aside, so I really don’t know what is coming next.

Amendments to the 2019 Schedule of Regular Council Meetings
We are adjusting some Council schedules to add a Public Hearing to the September 9 meeting. However, since Public Hearings are night when we don’t have Public Delegation, staff recommended moving our regular Queensborough meeting to October, because it would be weird to go to Queensborough and not do Public Delegation while we are there.

Recruitment 2019: Seniors Advisory Committee (SAC) Appointment
One of the agencies with a representative on the Seniors Advisory Committee is changing members, which apparently we need to approve. So done.

315 and 326 Mercer Street (Queensborough Eastern Neighbourhood Node): Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 8113, 2019 – For Two Readings
Two properties within the “Eastern Node” – an area in Queensborough at the east end of Ewen Avenue that bridges the gap between Single-family-house Q’Boro and Port Royal – need to be rezoned to align with the land use planned for the entire Eastern Node master plan. These lands will eventually bring some neighbourhood-serving retail and services to Port Royal. This application will have a Public Hearing on May 27. C’mon out and tell us what you think.

Multi Family Rental Residential Tenure Zoning: Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 8123, 2019 – Consideration of Two Readings
The City strives to be transparent and accurate in communicating how our Bylaws work, and in that interest we clarifying some of the language around how the recent change to the Rental Residential Tenure. We are not changing the zoning per se, but staff thought it best that this adjustment be through a full public process with full notice because of the sensitivity of the topic. There will be a Public Hearing on May 27, so I will hold my comments until then.


The following item was Removed from Consent for discussion:

Child Care Update: Proposed City and School District Facilities
Access to childcare has been at near-crisis levels in New West for a long time, and we are not the only City in the Lower Mainland feeling this crunch. The new provincial government has some new funding available, and there are some new School District projects coming along that make this an opportune time for the City to partner and make more spaces available. If this all comes together, we will have almost 150 new childcare spaces opened in our most underserved areas of Queensborough and Sapperton. This will provide a mix of infant, toddler, and after-school care, though council did not e that after school care is a vital need not being served right now, especially in the East End.

The money is coming from several sources: the City and the School district are applying for Childcare BC New Spaces Fund grants for a few projects, the City already received a Child Care Major Capital Funding Grant, we also have Community Amenity Funding from a developer, and will pull some money from our internal reserves. The City, School District and a developer are all contributing land and buildings to house these childcares. Council moved ot endorse this strategy.


Our regular Bylaws dance included adopting the following:

Tax Rates Bylaw No. 8105, 2019
The Bylaw that officially sets our tax rates for 2019 was adopted.

Uptown New Westminster Business Improvement Area Parcel Tax Bylaw No. 8112, 2019;
Downtown New Westminster Business Improvement Area (Primary Area) Parcel Tax Bylaw No. 8114, 2019; and
Downtown New Westminster Business Improvement Area (Secondary Area) Parcel Tax Bylaw No. 8115, 2019
These Bylaws that set the rates for the BIA parcel taxes was adopted.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (218 Queens Avenue) Bylaw No. 8064, 2019
The HRA Bylaw that allows a subdivision and protection to three heritage houses in the Queens Park neighbourhood was adopted by Council.

We then had one piece of New Business:

Removal of Judge Begbie Statue
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED
THAT the City of New Westminster remove the Judge Begbie statue from its position of power in front of the Provincial Court house; and
THAT the City of New Westminster engage in a conversation with the Tsilhqot’in Nation about the history and legacy of Judge Begbie and the effects his decisions had on generations of their people; and
THAT the City work with the Museum and Archives, the community, and the Tsilqot’in Nation to find an appropriate place for the statue; and
THAT the City of New Westminster engage in a process of consultation to find an appropriate place to tell the history of the Chilcotin War.

I spoke against the motion, recognizing some may perceive that as my being opposed to or obstinate towards our reconciliation process. However, I am acting only based on what wiser people have told me about having a truthful and open approach to reconciliation, and based on that, I fear this action is the kind of thing that can set us back. Nothing I heard in the delegations tonight assuaged those concerns. So I guess I need to unpack this a bit, in fear I did not express myself adequately at Council.

I have been told that Truth must come before Reconciliation. That means before we take arbitrary actions, we engage our community and those people impacted by those actions – especially the people we seek to honour with our actions – in a respectful conversation. We listen to their stories, we share our experiences, we open our ears before we lift our tools. Then we lift those tools together.

I hope, perhaps naively, that we can build a respectful space where our community can have these conversations, and come out the other end with better understanding. However, we have clearly not yet had these conversations. As a city, we have not yet begun to hear, to share, or to learn. Instead we, as a City, spent the weekend bickering on Facebook then spent two hours in Council speaking past each other – with no-one in the room speaking from the Tsilhqot’in, no one speaking from the QayQayt, from the Kwikwetlem. No-one in that meeting expressed that they were speaking from an indigenous experience.

There were many there who seemed to speak for them, but we did not want to take time to hear from them.

At the same time, we managed to close many people’s ears in our community to the discussions we are going to have to have in New Westminster – difficult discussions in light of our unique role in the colonization of British Columbia. Not just the home of Judge Begbie, but the home of Governors Douglas and Seymour, home of the Sappers, a City named by the Queen of England and head of the Anglican Church. We are surrounded by colonial baggage, and cannot dispatch it all, even to put all of it in a context that fits our modern idea of justice will be hard work. Hard work we need to do. It will be made harder if we choose to divide with our early actions, opening the opportunity for those to undermine the intent by lobbing ideas from trenches at each other. Every delegate speaking at Council tonight was respectful and considered, and I thank them for that. But how many of them listened to the people “on the other side”? Tried to put their minds to where that person was coming from? Were we really all there with open ears? Was this a dialogue?

When the John A McDonald statue was removed last year in Victoria, it was done following a year of conversation with the “City Family”, the inclusive framework used for reconciliation for their City. A year-long process of deliberation, dialogue and truth-sharing brought them to the point where they understood the meaning of the act, and were ready to share that meaning in a fulsome way with the larger community. We are not there yet. Yes, they had “backlash” when the statue was moved, but at least they could, with integrity, say “we have heard your concerns, we have considered your concerns, we take this action with due respect to your concerns, because we believe it moves the conversation forward”. Can we honestly say that?

If we are going to work with integrity and an open heart, and build the willingness to act meaningfully, I hope we can get to the place where the Begbie Statue, the John Robson plaque on City Hall, the Tin soldier, and other symbols in the City that have different impacts depending on the lens they are viewed through, can be addressed in a way that heals, not in a way that divides. We are not there yet, so I could not support this action at this time.

We have so much work to do. I ask that everyone keep an open heart and open ears.


And that was the business of the night. Happy May!

Council – April 29, 2019

It was a big agenda on April 29th, and I’m crazy busy, so I’m going to try (and I’m going to fail) to keep this short. I’ll skip over the daytime workshop stuff, which I can hopefully cover later and get right to the evening agenda.

We started with a Public Hearing:

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (218 Queens Avenue) Bylaw No. 8064, 2019
The property owner of a fairly large property in Queens Park wants to enter into a complicated Heritage Conservation Area agreement where two heritage homes are move to the back of his property and the main heritage home on the site is preserved for perpetuity. The only real variance from the existing zoning bylaw is that the resultant two “back” lots will be 5651 Square feet, which is 6% smaller than the zoning allows.

The Community Heritage Commission support it, the APC support it, no-one sent any correspondence or came to speak to the application. Council approved giving the Bylaw third reading.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (1005 Ewen Avenue) No. 8103, 2019
There is an empty lot at one of the entry points of Queensborough – between Howes Street and the firehall, that has been vacant for a very long time. It was hard to develop because of some site constraints, especially related to access to the site and the proximity to the firehall.

It has taken some time to find the right fit for this site. This proposal would permit the construction of 23 townhouses and a commercial building. It would also improve the streetscape for pedestrians along Howes street and fill an notable gap in the community entrance. APC support it, Design Panel support it, QRA had no opposition, no-one sent us correspondence or come to the Public Hearing to speak to the application. Council moved to give the application third reading.

Zoning Amendment (886 Boyd Street) Bylaw No. 8100, 2019
The City’s electrical utility needs to build a new substation in Queensborough. We have the land, we have the financing, but now we need to amend the language of the zoning Bylaw to allow an electrical substation in the M-1(light industrial) zone. No-one wrote or showed up to voice opposition, so the city moved to give the amendment third reading.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (M5 Zone Text Amendment) No. 8101, 2019
Metro Vancouver’s water utility needs to build a tunnel portal at the foot of Quebec street. They have the land, they have the financing, but now they need us to amend the language of the zoning Bylaw to allow a public utility infrastructure installation in M-5 (light industrial) zoning. Again, no-one came to speak to the matter or sent us correspondence on it, and Council moved to approve the amendment.


We then had an Opportunity to be Heard:

Temporary Use Permit No. 00019 for 488 Furness Street
The townhouse development in Queensborough want to operate a sales centre out of their first buildings, which does not comply with the residential zoning, requiring a Temporary Use Permit to allow it to happen. This is not an unusual ask, but several members of the neighbouring community asked that Council review the parking requirements.

Honestly, I find the “we need our garages to store our stuff, so the City needs to provide street parking” argument not compelling, but there is a point in that a commercial enterprise operating, even temporarily, in a residential neighbourhood, should be responsible in how their parking needs impact their residential neighbours. Council moved to approve the TUP on the condition that parking that would berequired as per the zoning is accommodated onsite.


I then had a couple of resolutions to go to UBCM, which I think I will hold off to talk about later, because this is already going to be too long. But the short versions are here, and they were both approved by Council:

Motion: Declaration of Employee Compensation as Part of Annual SOFI Reporting 

Therefore be it resolved that the Financial Information Act be amended to permit local governments to report salaries and expenses in their annual SOFI report by job title as opposed to employee name.

Motion: School Bus Safety

Therefore be it resolved that UBCM call upon the BC Ministry of Education and the BC Ministry of Public Safety to mandate that all buses transporting students in British Columbia be equipped with three-point seatbelts, and institute programs to assure those belts are used; and
Be it further resolved that UBCM call upon Transport Canada to require all road vehicles designed for the purpose of transporting students within Canada be equipped with three-point seatbelts.


The following items were moved on Consent:

Uptown New Westminster BIA Parcel Tax Bylaw and
Downtown BIA Parcel Tax Bylaws
The City as two (well, two and a half) Business Improvement Areas. These are commercial areas that agree to have a self-imposed tax to fund their own business development programs. The City facilitates this by collecting the tax and turning it over to the BIAs, but the money is 100% from the BIA members and 100% returned to the BIAs. Every year we have to pass a Bylaw to set the agree-upon rates.

As an aside, this is another one of those weird areas that make it hard to compare the finances of different cities. The $400,000 we collect from the BIAs and turn right back over to the BIA is counted as tax revenue and spending in the City’s financial statements, though this really isn’t city money. Comparing between cities, no-one ever asks if those cities have many or few BIAs.

Municipal Security Issuing Resolution #7842
The City got authorization through Bylaw in 2016 to borrow up to $28 Million for various infrastructure improvements, including the Library and City Hall improvements. To the end of 2019, we anticipate spending $22Million of this as these projects move forward. We want to move this into long-term debt with the Municipal Finance Authority which requires a Resolution.

Community Centre Infrastructure Loan Authorization Bylaw No. 8073, 2019
Building the replacement of the CGP is going to require us to take on more long-term debt. We don’t yet know what the contribution will be from Federal Infrastructure Grants, but (in the strange world of intergovernmental grant finance) we have to demonstrate our ability to do the work without a grant if we wish to receive a grant. So we need to authorize borrowing at a level that assumes we will receive no grant assistance at all.

This will be another Alternate Approval Process thing that I hate, but is the only path given us under the Local Government Act aside from running an expensive and divisive referendum. If enough people report opposition to this borrowing, we will have a referendum. If you don’t think we should borrow to replace the CGP, then between May 2nd and June 10th, you should come to City hall and issue your opposition formally. Notices will be going out through the regular venues.

2019 Tax Rates Bylaw for rescindment and re-reading
The numbers we had in our Property Tax rates bylaw were incorrect due to an administrative SNAFU. The Metro Vancouver mill rates were incorrectly transposed. So we need to rescind the reading and do it again with the right number so Metro can get paid.

Approval of the Scope of Work for a Committee Review
The City has over 30 Advisory Committees, Commissions, and Task Forces. Though an important public engagement tool, they eat up a lot of time and resources, both for City staff and for the volunteers from across the community who take time out of their lives to contribute to community building this way. We owe it to them and to the community to periodically review how these resources are being used and to explore opportunities to make them work better.

The academic lead from SFU who helped us put together our large Public Engagement strategy (and who therefore has intimate knowledge about how it is structured) is being brought in to oversee the review. It will include reviewing successes and stresses in other communities, discussion with committee members, and general public engagement. We can hopefully put some solid policy together to evaluate the effectiveness of our committees. I expect there will be some uncomfortable discussion (“Hey, *my* committees are the most functional ones!”) but it is important that we remain honest and accountable in how we work, and I look forward to this.

Recruitment 2019: Committee Appointments (EAC, NTAC)
On an almost related topic, we are appointing a couple of new members to committees.

Queen’s Park Heritage Conservation Area: Special Limited Category Study – Phase Two Update
During the Queens Park heritage conservation area work over the last couple of years, we identified 84 properties (out of the ~700 in the conservation area) which were put under temporary protection until we could determine better where they fit in the heritage spectrum between the highest and the lowest heritage value. Some eventually had their protection reduced, as they were found to have limited value, and 48 were found to have higher value and were moved on to further study. This is an update report on that process, and next steps.

1209 – 1217 Eighth Avenue: Rezoning and Development Permit for Infill Townhouses – Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 8099, 2019 for Two Readings
This is recommendation from our LUPC that we give first and second reading to a townhouse development in the Moody Park / West End neighbourhood. This would convert 5 lots that currently have 5 houses into 22 family-friendly ground-based townhouse units.

It would go to a Public Hearing on May 27, so I will hold my opinions until then.


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Pattullo Bridge Seismic Upgrading: Request for Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption
Translink wants to install some equipment on the existing Pattullo bridge, and need an exemption to our Construction Noise Bylaw to do it. Councillor Das raised some good points about the efforts for public consultation, as the permit length is quite long, and we may ask TransLink to do a little more directed outreach to let residents know which actual days they will be working.

Soil Deposit and Removal Regulation Bylaw No. 8106, 2019
What is more exciting than an update to the City’s Soil Deposit and Removal Bylaw!? This will hopefully help the City reduce the mis-location of contaminated soils and reduce the spread of invasive and noxious weeds. Maybe that’s not exciting for you, but this is what I do for a living!

The only point I had for staff was that we might want to expand our definition of invasive species beyond the provincial Noxious Weeds list –neither Himalayan Blackberry or Scotch Broom are listed as noxious in the province, nor is English ivy. If you go to any invasive species pull in the region, these are the species we see the most of. I also had a few concerns about the Ministry’s current Soil Relocation Policy Paper, as I don’t want to move a Bylaw that doesn’t jive with the most recent Ministry regulatory framework. These are details that can be worked out before final adoption, so council moved to approve first reading.


We did the regular Bylaws dance, which included adopting the following:

Five-Year Financial Plan (2019 – 2023) Bylaw No. 8104, 2019
One of the final steps in our annual budgeting process is the adoption of the financial plan. Now adopted. It’s the law of the Land. Again, more blog posts to come out about this again, as a Mayoral candidate is back on social media saying “New West has the highest taxes in the region”, and that is patently and demonstrably false, but Zombie ideas never really die.

Street Naming Bylaw No. 8045, 2019
Two new streets in Queesnborough now have names.


Finally, we had a big piece of New business

Motion: Indigenous Truth and Reconciliation
Councillor Nakagawa brought forward a motion that provides some direction on our reconciliation process that in summary says:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED
THAT Mayor and Council be provided with training to understand the legacy of residential schools and colonialism; and
THAT all City staff attend mandatory training on the history and legacy of residential schools; and
THAT the City undertakes research to better understand the historical actions of the City as they relate to First Nations; and
THAT the City undertakes research to understand which Nations have a relationship to this land; and
THAT the research respects and incorporates the experiences and stories of the First Nations that claim the territory upon which New Westminster is built to ensure that the history is not told from a colonial perspective; and
THAT the final report be shared with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation; and
THAT the City provides opportunities for the community to learn the history and legacy of colonialism in New Westminster; and
THAT the City establish a formal territorial acknowledgement built from the information learned from First Nations during the research process; and
THAT the territorial acknowledgement be approved by First Nations that claim the territory prior to its formal adoption by the City.
THAT City staff report back to Council with an implementation plan for above listed actions.

I am not opposed to any of the actions listed here, but did oppose the motion because I felt it was a little out of step with the ongoing work we have already started in regards to reconciliation. This Council has committed to taking an informed and respectful approach to reconciliation. We have endorsed the Calls to Action, and have tasked staff with creating an outline towards completing that goal. We have agreed to, and have put resources towards, the development of a communication and relationship-building process, such that all parties are welcomed to share their experience and their vision for Reconciliation. We have hired a consultant to guide us through this difficult process, recognizing that we have little experience in-house at this, and we want to do it right.

In my opinion (and this was not supported by a majority of council) the motion was in parts redundant to work the City is already doing, and in parts overly prescriptive towards operational details while staff and our consultants are establishing best practices to achieve the goals this city has put out. Respectfully, the Councillor and I disagree on process, not on goals. Council moved to endorse this motion.

And that was the evening! See you all next week!

Jane’s Walk 2019

I’m leading a Jane’s Walk on Friday afternoon.

Apologies it needs to be on a Friday evening and not in the weekend true, but I have to be out of town Saturday/Sunday, and promised a certain Mary I would put a walk on, so here we go.

For those not in the know, Jane’s Walks are a series of walks held on the first weekend in May in places around the world in celebration of Jane Jacobs’ contributions to making Cities more livable. There are probably a dozen walks in New West this weekend, and I highly recommend you pick a few and meet some neighbours.

My walk is going to start at 5:30pm on Friday at Moody Park pool, and we will wander east along the path through Moody Park and then 7th Ave towards Glenbrook Middle School. I’m not sure how far we will get, but depending on the conversation, we will walk for 60 or 90 minutes before our perambulations lead some of us, inevitably, to a pub.

The topic of the conversation I want to have with whoever shows up will be framed by the contentious (?) temporary bike lane installations on 7th Ave between Moody Park and 6th Street. There is a lot to say about that particular stretch (I’ve said some of it here and here), but the bigger question is – What does a true AAA (“All Ages and Abilities”) bike route look like in New West? What compromises are we willing to make in regards to loss of green space, loss of traffic space, loss of parking, to see a AAA route built? Can a AAA bike route ever be one where bikes share space with cars, or is total separation needed? How do those needs shift between – a trail through a park, a route along a busy street, and a quiet residential street?

I need to emphasize, I don’t have a lot of answers here, other than what is informed by my “gut feeling” (which is no better than anyone else’s) about what is safe for cyclists. I would love if people discuss and think about these questions along the way, and try to discover for themselves what the friction points are that prevent rapid shift towards a full integrated and safe bike network. If you read my blog regularly (Hi Mom!), you may be interested in coming along. After all, what better way to spend a sunny evening walking through your neighbourhood, meeting some neighbours, and talking about ways to make your community safer and more livable?

C’mon out, bend a Councillor’s ear. Meet a neighbour. Take a walk. Love your City.