Monday, December 12, 2011

Occupy Movement

Ordinarily, it would be fairly easy to brush off the Occupy movement by responding to some TV photos of bedraggled and unkempt youth--and the very sad illicit-drug-induced fatality of a participant in Vancouver.

If it weren't for the truth the movement conveys.

Mark Milke's five principles hit the nail on the head in the December 2011 issue of Thompson Okanagan Business.

"I sympathize with the protesters' concerns but for those sincerely interested in creating a better world, slogans, demands and a snap of the finger won't do it.

Thus, to make poverty scarce, to foment prosperity and to avoid political favouritism for anyone, here are a few general principles Occupy protesters should grasp and promote:

Principle One:  Subsidize only people in need, never the wealthy or corporations.
People occasionally need help and the exact parameter of that is a constant source of debate as is who should do the helping.

Nonetheless, let's be clear about who doesn't need a subsidy:  the wealthy and corporations.

The rationale here is not difficult to understand.  Obvioiusly, the wealthy don't need income transfers from taxpayers.  As for companies, they are artificial entities which will rise and fall, so let them.

Real people work in companies but that's rather the point:  when flesh-and-blood human beings are down on their luck, help them, not corporations who come and go.

After all, trying to "save" corporations through taxpayer money only sets government up to intervene between competitors and to pick winners and losers.

Wall Street protesters are right to oppose the socialization of losses on Wall Street; same goes for Detroit automakers and anywhere else where private losses are paid for by taxpayers.

So as a general principle, end all corporate welfare and means-test all social programs.

Principle Two:  Be neutral in tax policy.
Whether in Canada or the United States, the personal and business tax codes are riddled with loopholes disguised as "tax credits", "deductions" and "exemptions".

Regardless of where one thinks the overall tax levels should be, job creation (except for accountants) could be helped by broadening the tax base and simplifying collection.  Lower, flatter and simpler taxes are always preferable to higher, convoluted and confusing taxes.

Principle Three:  Always favour consumers over producers.
Want cheaper food prices for the world's poor?  Then stop favouring farmers or anyone else with subsidies, protective barriers, and "supply management" boards (which are essentially cartels).

All that does is protect the market share and prices of producers at the expense of consumers.  Instead, embrace open competition.

Principle Four:  Oppose government-sponsored "Ponzi" schemes.
Insofar as anyone thinks governments should throw another borrowed billion or trillion dollars at the economy, it's an attempt to generate political returns now at real costs to future generations.

That cost includes more debt to be repaid in the future with higher taxes, slower economic growth and fewer jobs--for the younger protesters on Wall Street.

That's almost akin to a Ponzi scheme.  It's an inter-generational "borrowing" of wealth that forces the last people into the scheme to pay for not only their own government services but also those delivered to people who came before.

There's a good example of where that leads to:  Greece.

Principle Five:  Favour opportunity, wherever it appears.
Some Wall Street protesters decry so-called entry-level jobs but that's an insult to those who hold them and who work hard to imiprove their life.  There is great dignity in all work, in any field.  For most able-bodied people, it beats dependence on a government cheque.

So in general, embrace opportunity.
Look at what it did for Steve Jobs.  

Consider how he improved the world with his inventions and entrepreneurial drive.  Ponder how many people's lives he improved with employment and expanded opportunities.

That's a smashing success story and one worthy of emulation."
end of Excerpt from Mark Milke's article.

A sincere thank you to Mark for saying it as it should be.

But where to start?

I think a very good start would be if all the people--starting at the beginning...with the former Goldman-Sachs executives, whose intentionally fraudulent acts bundled worthless mortgage paper into bona-fide investments and created the sub-prime debacle--actually were charged with fraud and went to jail.

Send them to jail.
To prove that cheating and lying are not acceptable.

"And don't collect $200 as they pass 'Go'," offers Kia.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Contrary Coldstream

"Public debate over a controversial bylaw in Coldstream may soon be eased," begins a December 2nd, 2011 story by Jennifer Smith of The Morning Star, under the banner Information compiled on development bylaw.

or, more correctly, will be compiled.
As should have been done prior to the triggering of the bylaw.

The article continues: 
"A list of all general and specific off-site works requests from the district is being compiled following public concerns around a proposed Subdivision, Development and Servicing Bylaw.

'There's some uncertainty and confusion among the public as to when and where off-site works may be required,' said Coun. Doug Dirk, who pushed (Ed.note:  only recently) for a list to be drawn up.

Despite some concerns about the amount of staff time required to create such a list, the request was unanimously passed by council.

'We were attacked severely during the election on this bylaw,' said Coun. Maria Besso, who suggests some information for the public may have eased some resident concerns.

'We never actually publicly made a press release or put anything up on our website and that's something we need to do.'

Since the bylaw is already in the process of being amended, it is hoped the information might aid the process.

'I think it's work that has to be done anyway,' said Coun. Pat Cochrane." (end of article)

Some uncertainty and confusion?
Staff time required to create such a list?

So it sounds as though Coldstream Council was flying by the seat of their pants during the recent fiasco.
How so? 

Charging one homeowner ~$300,000 for a multi-use path along their new property's roadfrontage, based ostensibly on either the 600-name (or 370-names as was later commented) petition from residents further afield didn't ring any alarm bells for this Mayor and Council.  One has to question whether this prejudicial treatment of one homeowner--without either earlier publishing a list of desired community works or, dispensing with Council's normal tenet of "user pay"--was intentional or accidental.  Neither denotes confidence in this council's planning.

If intentional, printable words don't exist that accurately reflect people's disgust.
If accidental, then the lack of confidence in this Mayor and Council by 829 voters (who voted for mayoralty candidate Hrabchuk...more than half of the incumbent mayor's votes) should give them pause. 

Whether 600 or fewer people requested a multi-use path along that stretch of Kidston Road is a moot point if "users (demanders) pay", according to Coun. Dirk.

In addition, mayor Jim Garlick, at the fiasco's culmination, indicated that Council would look to Kelowna to see how they handled their off-site works requirements. 

Well, it's been months since the proverbial mincemeat hit the fan and the mayor is likely unwilling to admit that our thriving neighbours 56 km to the south do not charge homeowners off-site works.  Nor do they call homeowners Developers.

In case our elected officials' phones don't work and they're walking those 65 kilometers, Kelowna's treatment of homeowners is easy to find, excerpted here:

It's under Schedule 7, entitled Types of Development that will Generally have a "Directly Attributable Impact" requiring installation of Works and Services.

RESIDENTIAL:  Single/Two Unit Additions/Alterations Accessory Bldg.
Water:  NO; Sewer:  NO;  Drainage: NO; Roads: NO; Road Reserve: NO; Right-of-Way: NO.

Not one mention of a residential homeowner being a Developer.

Could it be that Coldstream's Mayor and Council were anticipating the sentiment -- albeit predating it -- of the Occupy Movement

"As with transparency, I wouldn't say anticipation is one of Council's skillsets," offers Kia.

So which is it, Contrary Coldstream?
User/demander/petitioner(s) pay?
or the object of the petition should pay?

Your 99 per cent await The List.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Palm Trees Protected for Winter

...and not a moment too soon, with a -10.7C low at 7:00 a.m. on Sunday, November 20th.

Hughie the carpenter had some extra help this year...Hayden and Patrick...and the Trachycarpus fortunei's panels went up quickly.

After electric heater and T-3 Thermocube were installed and hooked up to the GFI, the palm is all set for winter.

Now for the two Washingtonia filiferas and three Yucca rostratas...A more substantially-insulated covering (than shown below...a stop-gap measure) will be needed for the five-month winter ahead. 


 The first Washingtonia is heated with two strands of C-9 Christmas lights, set on a T-3 Thermocube, again into a GFI...the light string continues on the ground (un-needed bulbs are unplugged) to the three Yucca rostrata (about 10 lights each) , concluding with the last two strands of lights at the last Washingtonia filifera.

Topped off with waterproof covers after setting black garbage bags filled with leaves (for additional insulation near roots), the electricity is plugged in and ready to go.  Remote sensors register temperatures in all the palm enclosures, and display it in the residence.

Fortunately, this unappealing set-up isn't visible from the road!

And then there are the tropical, indoor palms. ...some require a rather cool temperature during winter, so they're in the clubhouse:
And then there are the warm-winter loving tropical palms...back into the residence.  So that's what a foyer is for!!!

The seven-foot Wodyetia bifurcata (Foxtail) above is one of about a dozen large tropicals that overwinter in the residence.  Others are Hyophorbe verschaffeltii (Spindle palm), Hyophorbe lagenicaulis (Bottle Palm), Cocos nucifera (Coconut palm), Phoenix roebellenii (Pygmy Date Palm), three (yes, 3) Dypsis decaryi (Triangle palm), Strelitzia nicolai (Bird of Paradise), as well as Cycas debaoensis and Wollemia nobilis among others.

"Did you apply for a building permit for the outdoor palm huts?" quipped Kia.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Kelowna's "Servicing Bylaw"

"We'll be looking to an example from Kelowna," said Jim Garlick, reaffirmed Coldstream mayor.
Kelowna's bylaw will be viewed by Coldstream officials--and tweaked for use in Coldstream--after the recent off-site servicing fiasco in our community where homeowners were designated as Developers and subject to servicing costs.

(To recap, from recent blog entry:  So, Mr. Purchaser from the attention.
Think that 5-acre parcel on Hill Drive, complete with quaint cottage that you've been hankerin' to own is fairly priced?  Perhaps.  Imagine that you purchase it with help from the bank.  You and the Missus take your drafted renovation plans to the Municipality to apply for a building permit.  You'll add a three-car garage and enlarge the home's footprint with an additional two bedrooms.  Maybe a pool in a few years.  You soon learn that the building official, accompanied perhaps by a senior bureaucrat, will visit the property to ascertain what off-site works are necessary....on your dime! 
Shell-shocked?  Probably, as off-site works could escalate to $300,000 if you have a large road frontage.  You know you cannot go back to the bank for more money...because you can't get a loan (or insurance for that matter) on something that you don't own (which--to the bank--cannot be repossessed), i.e. road frontage owned by the District.)

A face-value look at what this blog author considers are pertinent clauses, to what will undoubtedly be remembered as the Coldstream Fiasco, within Kelowna's Subdivision Development and Servicing Bylaw:

The first mention of applying for a building permit occurs on page 10 of 22, and deals primarily with developing land/subdivision, presumably for multiple dwellings:
"6.1 Application for Building Permit. An Owner who wishes to Develop land must make an Application for Building Permit in accordance with the Building Bylaw and provide the City with such other information, documents, agreements, covenants, bonds and Fees as it requires to consider the Application for Building Permit. The Building Inspector may impose such conditions on his approval of the Application for Building Permit as are required by the City in connection with the Development including, without limitation, the requirement that the Owner provide Works and Services, and that the Owner provide the City with a Servicing Agreement. If the City advises the Owner that Works and Services are required, the Application for Building Permit must include..." (list follows in their PDF file)

The next page, 11, qualifies--and appears to separate Homeowners (without mentioning it)--from Developers of multiple units, to ensure that lakes/waterways are protected by city-wide hook-up to sewer:
"BL8572 amended Section 6.1(h):  (h) The Owner of any land or parcel on which exclusively a Building Permit is desired, and which is not being Subdivided or otherwise Developed, must service the building with a sanitary sewage collection and disposal system, including a service connection, designed and constructed in accordance with the Works and Services Requirements. In the absence of a Sewer collection system in the area, an on-site sewage disposal system will be considered, if:
 the on-site disposal system complies with Schedule 4, Section 2.18, AND
 If the parcel is within 150m of Okanagan Lake or Mission Creek, the Ministry of Health Special Conditions for placing septic systems within Environmental Control Zones will apply;"

This important sentence follows:  "and if the Works and Services include Excess or Extended Services:
(i) Design Drawings as referred to in Paragraph 11.1(a);
(ii) an estimate of the cost of Excess or Extended Services as referred to in Paragraph 11.1(b); and
(iii) subject to Section 11.2, a Latecomer Agreement duly executed by the Owner; ..."

"If", would indicate that exceptions exist, otherwise the word "when" would have been substituted. 

The next section deals with Performance Bonds--typically not required for a Homeowner applying for a building permit for, say, a garage addition to a residence.

"BL8680 amended subsection 7.1:  7.1 Performance Bond. If the Owner wishes to submit an Application for Subdivision Approval or Application for Building Permit to the City before a Certificate of Substantial Performance has been issued in respect of Works and Services, the Owner, in accordance with Paragraphs 5.2(o)(xi) and 6.1(k), must provide the City with a Performance Bond..."

Works/services not necessarily used to service the property / not immediately required is covered on page 13:
"8.1 Design and Construction of Works and Services. The City may elect to design and Construct all or certain parts of the Works and Services (other than Excess or Extended Services) that are otherwise required to be designed and Constructed by an Owner pursuant to this bylaw. These Works and Services would be part of a larger project being planned by the City and are not immediately required to service the
development. In such an event:
(a) the City will advise the Owner of the specific Works and Services that it has elected to design and Construct;
(b) the Owner must pay the City, in cash, 125% of the cost, as estimated by the Consulting Engineer and approved by the City Engineer, of designing and Constructing such Works and Services; and

(c) such Works and Services will be designed and Constructed as and when required by the City..."

Or, if the property connection to services is involved, same page:
"8.2 Connection to City Works and Services. The City may elect to connect all or certain parts of the Works and Services to the City’s Works and Services. In such an event:
(a) the City will advise the Owner of the specific Works and Services that it has elected to connect to the City’s Works and Services;
(b) the Owner must pay the City, in cash, the cost, as estimated by the City Engineer, of connecting such Works and Services; and
(c) such Works and Services will be connected following confirmation that the
provisions of Section 9.7 have been satisfied..."

Here's (page 14) where Kelowna's bylaw gets interesting.  Is it a Subdivision? or Development?  A stand-alone building permit may be splitting hairs, but in the general sense of a development or subdivision, a building permit for a renovation to a residence would not, in my view, be included. 

"BL8993 amended sub-section 9.3:
9.3 Required Works and Services
(1) (a) The Owner shall design and construct such Works and Services as are required by the City, which are:
(i) in the case of a Subdivision:
 all onsite Works and Services, and
 all offsite Works and Services on that portion of a highway(s) immediately adjacent to the site, up to the centre line of that adjacent highway(s), insofar as their requirement is directly attributable to the Subdivision.
(ii) in the case of a Development via Building Permit:
 all onsite Works and Services, insofar as their requirement is directly attributable to the Development; and
all offsite Works and Services on that portion of a highway(s) immediately adjacent to the site, up to the centre line of that adjacent highway(s), insofar as their requirement is directly attributable to the Development.
(b) The determination of which Works and Services are required, in the case of a Subdivision shall be made by the Approving Officer, and in the case of a Development via Building Permit shall be made by the Building Inspector.
(c) The Approving Officer or Building Inspector, as applicable, in determining whether a directly attributable impact is present shall have regard to the guidelines outlined in Schedule 7 to this Bylaw “Guidelines for Determining Servicing Requirements for Certain Developments Having a Directly Attributable Impact on Infrastructure”.
Where a determination has been made that certain Works and Services are required either at Subdivision or at Building Permit, those Works and Services shall be designed and constructed to the applicable standard for the zone or proposed zone in which the parcel or proposed parcel is located, as set out in Schedule 1 to this Bylaw “Works and Services Requirements."

Obviously, the key phrases (above) would appear to define the exceptions...whether the application for a permit  has any impact on infrastructure AND/OR whether the determination has been made that Works and Services are required on that application, i.e. some applications would be exempt if works and services are not required and/or infrastructure is not impacted (or, presumably already exist).

The next pertinent section, on page 17, obviously (to this blog author, anyway) refers to City infrastructure...big systems...hooking up the development or subdivision to City Systems...presumably natural gas hook-ups, sewer/stormwater hook-ups, light standards, etc.:

"9.7 Connections to and Use of City Systems.   Subject to the City’s election to perform the work in accordance with Section 8.2, the Owner must connect the Works and Services to the City’s Works and Services; provided that the Owner must not connect the Works and Services to any of the City’s Works and Services or use the City’s Works and Services until:
(a) the Approving Officer or Building Inspector, as the case may be, has approved the Owner’s Application for Subdivision Approval or Application for Building Permit;
(b) the Owner has registered in the Kamloops Land Title Office all documents required by the City to be registered therein;
(c) the Owner, in his capacity as a Latecomer wishing to use or connect to Excess or Extended Services, if applicable, has complied with the provisions of Section 11.3 of this bylaw; and
(d) the Owner has made a Service Application, paid any assessed charges and the Service is installed..."  

It'd be a decidedly severe stretch of the imagination (even for Coldstream) to view page 17 to include a multi-use/bicycle path as any city's Works and Services.  More like an imagination gone insane...

The next section, #6, EXCESS OR EXTENDED SERVICES AND LATECOMERS is the fuzzy one.
Could this section of Kelowna's bylaw be what triggered the Coldstream fiasco?  Judge for yourself:

From page 19:  Here's the word 'IF' again...
11.1 Information Requirements. If the City requires the Owner to provide Excess or
Extended Services
, the Owner, in addition to providing the information set out in Part 2 of this bylaw, and prior to Constructing any Works and Services, must provide the City with such information, documents and agreements as may be required by the City Engineer, including without limitation:
(a) Design Drawings for the Excess or Extended Services showing:
(i) the size and length of the Excess or Extended Services required by the City; and
(ii) the size and length of the Works and Services, prescribed by Part 2 of this Bylaw, that would be required to serve the Subdivision or Development if Excess or Extended Services were not required by the City;

While I scratch my head at what might denote an Excess or Extended Service, I cannot believe this section could even remotely include a Multi-Use/Bicycle Path...sounds as though it would be something that the owner of that property required, something unique to that property so that permit work could be completed, or something required if its absence would prevent the work from being completed.

And latecomers?  Aren't we all, in a sense, latecomers to our communities? But as it relates to Services (true and necessary infrastructure) such as sewers and waterlines, it does make sense that whichever property  benefits should pay a proportion of the cost of what someone else has put in place. 
Kelowna's bylaw explains here, on page 19, again qualified with the word "IF" and also, in this case, "WHETHER":
"...11.2 Latecomer Agreements. If the City determines that all or part of the costs referred to in Paragraph 11.1(b) are excessive and should be paid for by the Owner, the City will:
(a) determine, by Council resolution:
(i) whether all or part of the costs of the Excess or Extended Services referred to in Paragraphs 11.1(b) must be paid for by the Owner;
(ii) which lands are Benefiting Lands;
(iii) which part of the Excess or Extended Services would benefit each of the Benefiting Lands; and
(iv) the Latecomer Charges that would apply to each of the Benefiting Lands;

Sounds as though Kelowna is insisting that lands that benefit, later, must (correctly, in my view) follow the User Pay philosophy, which supposedly Coldstream also supports (at least in lip-service).  How does that relate to Coldstream?

I'm reminded of Judy Paterson's application for a garage building permit on her 80-year old residence which triggered the "off site Works" of a ~$300,000 multi-use/bicycle path along her substantial Kidson Road frontage.  At first we heard from Mayor Garlick during an All Candidates' Forum that "600 people on Kidston Road approached us...", then an Anonymous comment on this blog stated it was "370 people and a couple of dozen emails...".  Even long-serving councillor Dirk espouses User Pay as fundamental.

Whatever the number of petitioners was, the petitioning residences are benefitters of the works, as the path certainly was not an Excess Service required to build a garage on the property.  Successfully constructing a garage did not depend on a multi-use path fronting the property. 

While the above excerpts are just that -- excerpts -- from a bylaw that reads akin to an insurance policy and could be a drug-free remedy for insomnia, the excerpts do seem to prove Kelowna's sensibilities when officials state "we don't do that (to homeowners)"...

ADDITIONAL LINK (POSTED 2:51 P.M.) This is Kelowna's list of determining factors for impact on infrastructure.

Sounds as though Kelowna and Coldstream officials should get together for lunch...soon.

"Lunch?" awakens Kia.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Abyssmal Voter Turnout

With approximately 33 per cent turnout by Coldstream's eligible voters -- down 19 per cent from three years ago -- some would point to complacency as the cause.  "My friends say that nothing will change, so why go?" intones a resident in the parking lot outside the voting station yesterday. 

A high voter turnout is generally seen as evidence of the legitimacy of the current system, according to political scientists and economists, as this Wikipedia definition explains.

The article continues:  "Assuming that low turnout is a reflection of disenchantment or indifference, a poll with very low turnout may not be an accurate reflection of the will of the people. On the other hand, if low turnout is a reflection of contentment of voters about likely winners or parties, then low turnout is as legitimate as high turnout, as long as the right to vote exists. Still, low turnouts can lead to unequal representation among various parts of the population." published a quote from Coldstream's mayor Jim Garlick that may--or may not--be a factor:  the contentious homeowner-as-a-developer debate.  "We'll be looking to an example from Kelowna," admits the mayor.  But tweaking it to Coldstream, apparently. 

Candidates' votes received:
In Coldstream incumbent Mayor Garlick 1578, Hrabchuk 829.
Councillors:  Dirk 1668, Cochrane 1630, Besso 1602, Kiss 1451, McClean 1299, Enns 1263.

An even lower voter turnout was experienced in Vernon...just 31 per cent.
in Vernon:  new Mayor Sawatzky 4421, Lippert 2538, Davies 1858.
Councillors: David 5634, Cunningham 4019, Lord 3829, Spiers 3714, Quiring 3413, O'Keefe 3353

in Lumbyincumbent Mayor Acton 306, McEwan 229, Green 133.
Councillors:  Ostafichuk 500, Mindnich 403, Fisher 337, Hodge 299.

And, since Mayor Garlick wishes to look at Kelowna's subdivision bylaw for guidance, here are the numbers for candidates there, you may wish to know names of their elected members...they might have tips how their servicing bylaw affects Kelowna homeowners:
in Kelownanew Mayor Walter Gray 13995, Shepherd 13574, Condy 1000, Chung 749, Ouellette 370.
Councillors: Zimmerman 18857, Given 13111, Basran 13073, Hobson 12413, Blanleil 12081, Stack 10279, DeHart 10206, Singh 10077.

Whether or not your personal candidate(s) were successful...all who let their names stand in this election deserve thanks from those who did vote.

"I'll arf that sentiment," adds Kia.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Homeowner as Developer

One last chance to reach voters, states The Morning Star today, ahead of tomorrow's municipal elections.

Or to deceive them, as in Coldstream's case.

Replying to the question "What is the No. 1 issue in Coldstream and why should residents vote for you as mayor?" incumbent Garlick provided a litany that covered four paragraphs.  And he left nothing out in those four paragraphs.

Hedging his bet, he included all the right "stuff", stopping just shy of actuallly wearing out the cliches.
But one phrase should've caught in his throat:  "...ensure fairness to all parties..."

How can Mayor Jim Garlick -- and indeed, incumbent councillors -- look in the mirror each morning while brushing their teeth and not cringe at the abject prejudice that triggered a $300,000 "charge" of a multi-use path for a Kidston Road homeowner's building permit application for a garage? 


Residents of Coldstream not only HOPE for fairness, we DEMAND it.
Ignore it at your peril.

It was your job to be fair...

Tomorrow night as the votes are tallied, reflect on it.
Because it may also be your legacy.

You and incumbent councillors have said you will not rescind the "Homeowner as Developer" designation--which triggers unpredictable off-site works. 

"Is this available in a bumper sticker?" queries Kia, and adding "there's no space on the tag for the consecutive numbers of Coldstream people that'll need one."  

Remember to ask for a volume discount. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Occupy the Voting Booth

So says Tom Fletcher, columnist at Black Press.

And he's right.
Stating "local government elections are always overshadowed by louder events," such as the Occupy movement, teachers' strike, and the economy, local government elections are often relegated to the complacency bin.  Do your eyes glaze over at the sight of yet another grouping of "Elect me" roadside signs?  Has it been three years?  Feels like much, much longer in some communities.

Tom adds:  "Public indifference to local government has left it mainly to self-serving politicians and special interest groups.  Community newspapers soldier on through the three years between elections to highlight issues and choices, but few people join the debate when it's time to vote."  (Coldstream's electorate turnout at 2008 civic elections was 51 per cent). 

Complacency comes at a price, to which Coldstream residents can most fervently attest.

"The recent Union of BC Municipalities--(this blog author's absolutely favourite thing to hate)--convention demonstrated this," he states, "as local politicians love to tell senior governments what to do.  They'd much rather debate smart meters or bad old Ottawa's RCMP costs than talk about their own performance."

Tom says "Most of the mayors and councillors on hand were unhappy with the province's plan to appoint a municipal auditor-general to examine the efficiency of municipal spending." He continues:  "There is much that is not discussed and it goes beyond technical details like performance auditing.  How about amalgamation in places where there are clearly too many municipal boundaries...and administration is duplicated?"

Tom Fletcher must've spent some time in the North Okanagan--specifically Coldstream.

"Candidates don't want to talk about the fact that B.C. municipal spending, adjusted for inflation, is now growing almost four times as fast as population growth.  Pay and benefits for municipal employees grow much faster than private sector rates."

The link to the November 2011 release of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business Municipal Spending Watch is here.   Last year's municipal spending watch is here, and that year's blog story is here.

Little tiny Coldstream--with its ~10,000 residents and over half the land locked within the Agricultural Land Reserve--may smugly pat itself on the back for being far down on the "bad list" of per capita spending of $541 in 2009 versus $566 in 2008 and $501 in 2007, but the 60.7% increase in per capita operating spending from 2000 to 2008 should ring some alarm bells when a community isn't -- or can't -- growing.

What the municipal spending report lacks, in my view, is debt accumulation.

With the upcoming referendum on the Mechanic's Shop, where residents will vote on whether to borrow $1.3 million, little tiny Coldstream's debt will total $5.3 million if the referendum passes.

Businesses know what debt means.
Families know what debt means.

Ominously foretelling of debt yet to come to Coldstream's residents, an incumbent councillor said during the October 28th event "The legislation limits debt to $19 million."

Gee, thanks, B.C. Government, for setting a limit.
Thanks a pantload, too, B.C. Government, for allowing our municipalities to do this to their residents.

Municipal spending is growing at almost four times the rate of population growth.

A family--or business owner--might ask, so how can debt be repaid without things completely grinding to a halt in the years to come? 

Perhaps this Mayor and Council plan to not reside in Coldstream to help residents repay the debt...  Almost seems so, as their modus operandi was obviously learned from another industry -- Baffle them with Bullshit.

North Okanagan amalgamation won't occur in time to reel in the rod of debt.
So bring on the municipal auditor-general.

"People have to clean up in Dog Parks," muses Kia, "but who cleans up after bull?"
That's why we have to Occupy the voting booth.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Mayor Garlick's comment

The comment occurred during the All Candidates forum at OUC last week.

Ostensibly offering a reason for the now-obvious singling out of Judy Paterson's building permit application--which triggered the contentious Servicing Bylaw for off-site works of a Multi-Use Path along her roadfrontage--the Mayor stated "six hundred people on Kidston Road approached us..."


Do six hundred people even live on Kidston Road?
Click on the link and have a look for yourself.,+British+Columbia&hl=en&ll=50.213287,-119.272513&spn=0.009269,0.016844&sll=49.891235,-97.15369&sspn=38.417382,68.994141&vpsrc=6&hnear=Kidston+Rd,+North+Okanagan+Regional+District,+British+Columbia&t=h&z=16

Six hundred people?

The incumbent Mayor qualified the nearly $300,000 cost to Judy Paterson for off-site works with that statement, offering that any group of people, on any road in the area, could "get a petition together" to submit to Council asking for improvements to the area that would, unknowingly (until it was too late), trigger the bylaw to a single homeowner? (Judy Paterson has now, understandably, cancelled her permit application).EDIT*  5:55 p.m. Judy Paterson has not cancelled the building permit application.

Holy cow, to put it bluntly.

"Maybe they counted the cows," offers Kia.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

In Coldstream, it all comes down to one word

Since Coldstream homeowners are now considered Developers by the incumbent mayor and council, election signs appear to underscore what has otherwise taken (how many??) previous Blog pages to convey.

But "developers" isn't the word...not today.

"My" or "your" Coldstream...the crux of the issue.

."My" or "your" Coldstream...what philosphy would you support a Mayor possessing?

For our incumbent mayor, it appears to come down to the first-person possessive.
That Coldstream is his.

Candidate Hrabchuk's "your" denotes plural ownership.
That Coldstream belongs to all who reside here.

"My, my..." sighs Kia, adding "primum non nocere." 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Buying a house in Coldstream? Check Mayor Garlick's "Have/Have Not" list before you buy.

...especially if you plan to renovate the home.

And don't count on your realtor to advise you...the list will likely only be available at Coldstream Municipal Hall.

"What list?", you ask.
Let's back up a bit to answer that.

At last night's third--and thankfully, final--All Candidates' meetings at Okanagan University College, all candidates except incumbent Doug Dirk were present.  One audience-posed question was:  (for each candidate) "Yes OR No...will you remove the Homeowner as Developer designation?"(which triggers the off-site servicing/works bylaw if the building permit amount exceeds $50,000 in supplies and labour in any consecutive five-year period).

Saved the banality of speeches, the audience of ~55 heard:
NO:  from incumbents Mayor Garlick, Councillors Besso, Enns, Kiss, Cochrane
YES:  from new candidates: for Mayor:  Hrabchuk;  for council: Taylor, Hegler, McClean.

Is that the list? 
No, but we're getting there...

Referring to the incumbent mayor's remark from the last meeting:  "We may have to look at certain roads/areas in Coldstream where work is needed". 

And the list is born. 
"Have" areas will, understandably (because they were built recently), start with the subdivisions on Middleton Mountain, some older areas such as Priest Valley and Long Lake Estates, as well as Kalavista and Coldstream Estates.

It's the "Have Not" list that should pique a purchaser's interest.  And interestingly, this list would include what the incumbents would have you believe is their chief priority these days...rural areas, including farmlands.  Whether it's rural Kalamalka Lake Road East, Warren or Buchanan Roads, Hill Drive or Springfield Road, all are decidedly rural, but they share another commonality:  no sidewalks, no curbs, no sewer, no cable TV (and only recently, highspeed internet, no kids-n-pony-n-bike paths (which isn't infrastructure anyway!), no streetlights, no mail or newspaper delivery, etc.

So, Mr. Purchaser from the attention.
Think that 5-acre parcel on Hill Drive, complete with quaint cottage that you've been hankerin' to own is fairly priced?  Perhaps.  Imagine that you purchase it with help from the bank.  You and the Missus take your drafted renovation plans to the Municipality to apply for a building permit.  You'll add a three-car garage and enlarge the home's footprint with an additional two bedrooms.  Maybe a pool in a few years.  You soon learn that the building official, accompanied perhaps by a senior bureaucrat, will visit the property to ascertain what off-site works are necessary....on your dime! 

Shell-shocked?  Probably, as off-site works could escalate to $300,000 if you have a large road frontage.  You know you cannot go back to the bank for more money...because you can't get a loan (or insurance for that matter) on something that you don't own (which--to the bank--cannot be repossessed), i.e. road frontage owned by the District. 

Enraged that your realtor didn't warn you?  Your realtor isn't at fault.  Realtor Carla Dahlen advised during the last meeting "I don't know what to say to prospective purchasers of land in Coldstream!" She received no reassurance whatsoever.

Is Mayor Garlick and his entire council so naive as to not see the potential for abuse during the bylaw's enforcement?  What abuse, especially if this bylaw was enacted four years ago and, according to Mayor Garlick "has only been employed once."  Candidate McClean reminds him "no, it's been more than once, twice to my knowledge."  Maybe three times...apparently the raving-mad contractor and his client have  contracted the contagion "loss of clarity".  Their about-face likely means neither are well health-wise.

Warning of the potential for abuse and corruption doesn't mean it exists now, it's merely a warning that it CAN (and probably will) occur.  Human nature being what it is...will we wait for the bylaw official to be on an all-expense paid cruise before the Homeowner as Developer bylaw is relegated to the shredder?  Will postcards to the District from Japan, penned Wish you were here, prompt a hasty rollcall to see which bureaucrat has been absent for two weeks?

But fret not, existing homeowners and property sellers in the Have Not areas of Coldstream.
You can always appeal your property tax valuation with B.C. Assessment come January.
Because valuations will drop like a stone once the "lists" are published.
Or maybe not published.
Just held in a vault.

We residents know in which Have/Have Not Coldstream area we reside.
Purchasers will, however, be blind-sided if this Mayor and Council have their way.

"Have Not seen a dog biscuit this week," Kia attests, adding "I may move...but first I'll vote on November 19th."

Friday, November 4, 2011

Nulli Secundus

The District of Coldstream's motto--Nulli Secundus--needs to be changed.

Translated from Latin meaning "second to none", it's now become a sad reminder of this Mayor and Council's term.

They just don't seem to get it.

When communities such as adjacent Kelowna and Armstrong state "we don't do that to residences," Coldstream's elected officials are not prepared to let go of this newly-found Golden Goose.  Stating "no, we won't rescind the bylaw (designating residential homeowners as Developers and triggering unpredictable and varied off-site works charges)," incumbent mayor Jim Garlick appeared frustrated during the second All Candidates' Forum at Coldstream School on Tuesday night, presumably because such a hue and cry from building contractors and their association, realtors, and homeowners had resulted.

Ignoring his own councillor's twice-uttered statement "This is a public relations nightmare," (Councillor Cochrane), Mayor Garlick stated that the bylaw was under review...again.  This even after Council and the Mayor in October gave third reading to the $50,000 "trigger point" at which--in any consecutive five-year period--a homeowner's building permit application could, and would, trigger off-site works charges.

"We may have to look at certain roads/areas in Coldstream where work is needed", Mayor Garlick offered as a consideration to the audience of 100+ attendees on Tuesday. 

As though that would provide any predictability!

He's obviously forgotten Carla Dahlen's presentation to council in October, where she indicated she was a Realtor and asked Council "what do I tell prospective buyers of property in Coldstream? do you tell someone that the District may require costs/gifts for off-site works?"  Neither her question, nor summation, and indeed not her occupation were recorded in the minutes of the meeting, as she offered "Or do I just tell people not to buy in Coldstream?"

So how was Mrs. Dahlen's presentation recorded?  Judge for yourself whether Carla Dahlen's comments were accurately reflected in the minutes:  "Carla Dahlen (address removed by blog author) expressed her concern that the Subdivision, Development and Serving bylaw was too subjective overall. She also requested that Council consider a threshold greater than $50,000 as proposed in Bylaw 1595" (reprinted from Council Agenda, page 2 of 138 here.


If those "minutes" reflect the accuracy of Council's recorded meetings, perhaps residents should donate a tape recorder for future meetings.

Back to the All Candidates' Forum:
Incumbents and new candidates were asked--by way of an audience-posed question on a card--whether they would rescind the homeowner as Developer designation (Yes or No).  Some didn't listen to the question, and stated they would NOT rescind the BYLAW (that wasn't the question, folks...the homeowner as a Developer was the question!).  Other candidates squirmed and waffled and offered a speech. 

The incumbents seem to want it all...a sports field at the College, "because our (regional) partners are requesting it," offered Jim Garlick.  Whether or not a sports field is of prime importance during an economic downturn never came up, neither did the necessity of "making do" (as many residents have been forced to accept during these times) with a retrofitted Mechanics Shop--utilizing the old Fire Hall and the existing Shop, neither did the feasibility of incurring further debt with the Shop referendum...and on and on, including the much-touted Town Centre.  It seems the old Fire Hall was rented out in May of 2011 to Friends of the Library (pages 15 and 16 of 294 pages) for the budget-balancing and whopping tune of ~$480 a month.  Sigh.

The incumbents simply aren't doing what we elected them to do, which is to "look after the municipality".

Yes, Nulli Secundus is no longer something to brag about.

Coldstream's new motto?  Primum non nocere.
First, do no harm.

The next All Candidates' meeting, prior to the November 19th election, is slated for:
7 p.m. Monday, November 7th, at Okanagan College, Room D310.

"Do no harm?  I'm not allowed to bite people," reminds Kia.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Coldstream All Candidates' Meeting

The first of three scheduled meet-the-Coldstream-candidates Q&A sessions was held last night at Lavington School, leading up to the November 19th municipal election and corresponding Shop referendum.

There were some surprises--and I may have been alone in my feeling that they were positive--but they nevertheless occurred.  And, having not had time to speak to any audience acquaintances before--or following--the meeting, positive sentiments are likely mine alone.  Perhaps the results of the election and referendum will determine if that's the case.

In no particular order...
With the exception of one, all incumbents attended, joined by mayoralty candidate Dave Hrabchuk, and two of three councillor candidates Peter McClean and John Hegler.  Candidate Glen Taylor sent an email stating he was unable to attend.  Present Councillor Bill Firman did not attend as he withdrew his candidacy for this term last week, stating he was getting too old and that he had had enough of personal attacks.

Unknown to mayoralty candidate Hrabchuk, it's "a given" with the audience that he could not be expected to relay issues in an in-depth manner due to the very fact he hasn't been involved in the inner workings of the municipality.  Despite that, he tried hard to be "up" on all the issues, but I felt that his placing blame on this Council for pre-existing issues was misguided.  In particular, appearing to blame this council for the onerous environmental impact on a creek from the location of a 50-year old Shop was off the mark.

What the candidate for mayor should have blamed this council for, beginning with the Shop issue is for things that occurred during their term, not for things that society's evolution has taught us are now critically important on the environment.  So, on the Shop, what occurred on "their watch"?    
  • their decision, with the expensive work of Kelowna-based consultants Urban Systems, to erect a new shop.  Mitigating the environmental impact of stormwater runoff on the creek, including equipment oil and grease leaks--indeed the serious impact of an old buried fuel tank--should be the chief focus, not building a new Shop.  But wouldn't the old--and too small--Shop still affect the creek?  No.  At considerably lower cost, sloping berms could be constructed, leading to catch basins, from which contaminants could be recovered and disposed of properly.  Even the sloping-to-the-creek staff parking lot north of the recently-constructed municipal hall--which isn't being addressed in the plans, can and will in time contain oil/battery acid/anti-freeze contaminants.  Building a new ~$2 million Shop won't address that.  The projected cost of the new Shop does not include what might be discovered in the soil when the old fuel tank is dug up, so projected costs are conservative. 
So what should occur?
This is exactly what raised the ire of taxpayers last time with the referendum on the (now-built) new Municipal Hall.  The question on the referendum wasn't whether to build a new municipal hall, it was whether to borrow money for a new municipal hall.  And this referendum is no different.  The referendum does not pose the question:  "Should we construct a new Shop?"  No, its question is "Are you in favour of the Council of the District of Coldstream adopting Bylaw No. 1590, 2011 to authorize the borrowing of up to $1,335,320 to construct a new Mechanic Shop, address environmental concerns, WorkSafe BC standards, and works yard site improvements?"  There should be NO referendum on a new Shop!

After digging up and the (expected) soil remediation of the old buried fuel tank and construction of berms and catch basins on both sides of the creek, retrofit the existing shop for employee safety (a WCB requirement) by installing a new venting/heating system.  So where would the equipment go?  In the existing retrofitted shop PLUS the empty old two-bay Fire Hall for additional equipment storage.  And, frankly, during difficult economic times, employees don't NEED a new lunchroom!

Yes, there'd be space for the new mower (already accounted for as "new mower" in the drawings, appearing to predate this council's public announcement to leave the regional--Greater Vernon--parks and recreation function).  The word "function" was placed in italics because I'll never understand the incorrect use of a verb as a noun for something as important as this...why isn't it just called a "department"?  Could it be that many of our regional disagreements resulted from this misnomer? 

What else "on their watch"?
  •  Urban Systems.  Coldstream municipality apparently was billed close to $2 million by this Kelowna consulting company in the last year, culminating in the plans for the new Shop.  Two things rattle my nerves on this issue:  (1)  why do we hire a consulting firm from diversity-rich and thriving Kelowna to the south to formulate specs on and in Coldstream?   (2)  why are drawings for a Shop or plans for a street or a multi-use path not done in-house?  
Are there no consultants of merit in our own community? Seems to fly in the face of this council's dedication to "supporting local businesses", I'd say.  Coldstream has well-remunerated engineers on staff and, frankly, the drawing for the Shop referendum handout at last night's forum could've been designed by a drafting student at Okanagan College University located here in our own community.  Could it be because staff engineers' job descriptions don't include using their skills for our community's advantage?  (Same thing occurs at the water authority...Al Cotsworth, Arnold Badke, etc. are all professional engineers, yet they hire a consultant(s) who are also professional engineers to design water systems).  Why are bureaucrats, overseen by elected officials, not more business-savvy?  Unless their chief goal is to expand employment, which they certainly appear to be doing!  And the lack of business savvy among elected officials is increasingly evident.  All of which leads to increased costs for taxpayers!  This, in itself, leads taxpayers to believe cost saving isn't of paramount importance to either this Council or bureaucrats.

Another issue:
  • Antwerp Springs well(s) contamination of drinking water lawsuit launched by the provincial Ministry of Environment against the District of Coldstream and a private farmer (Palfrey) whose cows graze on adjacent pasture.   This was a once in one hundred years "rain on frozen ground event" and was anticipated, as the following excerpt will prove.  Can that be blamed on this council?  What can be blamed on this--and previous officials' terms--is that Antwerp Springs well(s) were not to be used for domestic water beyond a certain time.  But that hasn't been the case.
When bureaucrats move into different job responsibilities, there's often a loss of continuity.  No-one at the water authority seems to have provided necessary continuity.  Or they haven't read the file left by Mike Stamhuis, the architect of the Master Water Plan when three local irrigation districts were amalgamated, who is now chief administrative officer at the municipality.  And those elected officials who proudly state they're lifelong--indeed two and three-generational residents here--are implicit in this as well.  Perhaps it was easier to allow the residential water hook-ups to remain on Antwerp wells versus designing and implementing a system (yes, in-house!) that would keep these residents safe from contamination.  Whatever the reason, domestic use continued well beyond the phase-out recommended in the 10+ year old report from Associated Engineering (B.C.) Ltd. for the account of North Okanagan Water Authority (available on the internet): 

(bold type and underscoring for emphasis: this author)
In the upper portion of the valley, the Antwerp Springs groundwater wells have supplied
the Lavington water system for a number of years. This water, however, is very hard
(325 mg/L) and has necessitated the use of home water softeners. While the continued
use of this water source was contemplated in the early stages of the plan, the feedback
from water users was that the hardness made the long-term use of the water unacceptable,
particularly if a high-quality water was available from a regional treatment plant.
Evaluations carried out comparing hardness removal from the Antwerp Springs supply
versus supply from the Middleton Mountain water treatment plant concluded that the
latter was more cost effective. The decision was thus made to discontinue the Antwerp
Springs supply as a domestic water source, after the regional water treatment plant was
Groundwater in the Coldstream Valley will continue to play a role in irrigation water
supply. The existing Wells Nos. 1 and 2 in the western part of the valley will continue to
feed into the existing irrigation water system. The current Antwerp Springs wells could
be used for either local irrigation or will be tied into the regional irrigation grid. This
should be evaluated further in the preliminary engineering stage.
As the Antwerp Springs supply will continue to be used as a domestic source until 2008,
a well-head survey, conducted in 2002 or 2003, is recommended to confirm that the wells
are not influenced by surface runoff and the current method of disinfection provides an
adequate level of public health protection. (end of excerpt).

Now for the biggest bone of contention, the recent bylaw regarding subdivision servicing.  I'll "cut to the chase" here, since we all know what has recently been said by bureaucrats and elected officials.
Incumbent councillor Richard Enns--during the October 11th council meeting--queried the open meeting's audience "Do you want me to vote 'no', resulting in a Zero trigger point?"  And again at last night's meeting, the same councillor queried the audience "would you rather that ALL taxpayers are charged for the work (there)?"  

This shows a flagrant and ongoing disregard for the property rights of homeowners to NOT be designated developers as well as the fact that a multi-use "kids and pony" path is NOT infrastructure.   What the incumbent mayor and council--conveniently--seem to not understand is that we demand that homeowners are not to be classified as developers.  The City of Kelowna has verified "we don't do that (to homeowners)".  If this council desires revenue and the much-touted "smart growth", why on earth would they want residents, fearful of the horrendous costs of off-site works, employ a tactic that sends residential building permits plummeting?  Or, as many people have said, "sends renovations underground". 

Homeowners who apply for a building permit for, say, a new garage, or an additional bedroom, or for a larger kitchen place NO ADDITIONAL BURDENS on the municipality's infrastructure -- unlike Developers' construction of subdivisions of 60 homes, or Developers' four-storey apartment complexes housing 30 units.  And since NO ADDITIONAL BURDENS on the municipality's infrastructure are imposed by residential permit applications, NO triggering of off-site works should occur.   Many people have stated that election results could "hang" on this issue alone.

Since we're talking money, let's address Council's spending.  In a community of 10,000 residents where nearly three-quarters of the land is locked within the Agricultural Land Reserve, is it RIGHT to be $4 million in debt?  "The legislation limits debt to $19 million, but we just have to balance our budget, and it is", offered an incumbent. 

  • "We needed those two new fire halls," stated Councillor Doug Dirk last night.
 ...and ostensibly also the new municipal hall, and new shop, and new Town Centre plan.
Seemingly blind to everyday realities, this council is convinced that a doctor's query whether he could open an office in the proposed Town Centre is justification for having a Town Centre.  Proof was stated last night by a member of the audience when he reminded council that three-quarters of leasable space at the newly renovated Polson Shops--a stone's throw distant--remains unleased by merchants.  And the proposed Trintec shopping mall at the corner of Aberdeen and Hwy 6 has been searching for an anchor tenant for two years!  Which merchant--in their right mind--would ignore the number one tenet for justification of store location:  demographics/population/competition.  Of those who do, they soon learn the peril of retail...they're not in the phone book any more.  Just because an idea is on the wish list of this mayor and council doesn't mean it would fly. 

Sure it would be nice for residents to drive ( on a snowy cold January morning only 1 kilometre for a litre of milk.  But reality says it won't work because locating in a small, isolated community is not to a merchant's benefit, unless a property-tax-free deal (or no development cost charges deal) is negotiated.  And how would that benefit the municipality's coffers? 

That's what's sorely missed in this Council...retail experience, commonly referred to as "real world" experience.  With the exception of one councillor who has a mobile/service business that doesn't require a bricks-and-mortar location, nobody on this council has so much as owned a hot dog stand to earn a living.   They'd learn some valuable lessons about debt then.

It was said that the former Coldstream Market (across from the municipal hall) should not have closed.  That's all very well that people would like a store there but the owner chose to avail himself of what became application for a Rural Liquor Agency licence.  The proposal was not supported by Council because it would mean that alcohol would be sold next to an elementary school.   Yet today, numerous gas/grocery stores sell liquor in this municipality.  But not next to an elementary school, you say?  Not in Coldstream...yet down the road in the City of Vernon, there's East Side Liquor Store (with no groceries) right across the street from W.L. Seaton School...a secondary school.    This isn't the first time this Mayor and Council have tied the hands of a commercial enterprise.  No point in resurrecting that dead horse.

After the servicing bylaw, the next bone of contention:
  • Water Rates and the Interior Health Authority demand for filtration.  
The concrete foundation of the new Duteau Creek Water Treatment plant has barely cured and now we're told that "separation of irrigation water should have occurred first because the plant(s) cannot handle the volume of water without separation."  A bureaucratic faux pas?  Perhaps.  Pandering to residential complaints about "brown water"?  Likely.  Dealing with the brown water would reduce the volume--not of water--but of complaint phone calls to the water authority.   So that was done first "because grants supporting that work were available, whereas the B.C. government didn't support the separation of irrigation water from that of domestic."    Not surprising view from the B.C. government, considering they spend their lives in an urban environment.  Rather than spending time convincing the B.C. government of their need to expland their understanding, council and bureaucrats took the easy way out and accessed the treatment plant's grant, knowing full well that--not a year later--the treatment plant would not be able to cope with the health authority's demand.

As to the horrendous rates, as one woman from the audience reported, Councillor Dirk's lengthy diatribe on the evolution of the water system pointed to other players being responsible, especially for today's rates.  He failed to mention that a councillor from each jurisdiction currently sits on the board as director.  Councillor Dirk also failed to mention that the directors were the ones who ratified the water authority's request a couple of years ago, in the interest of conservation of water, that rates would be doubled for the third quarter.  Councillor Dirk also failed to mention that this year, when reservoirs were full and we were assured that sufficient water was available for the entire winter, those same directors never thought to put forward a Board motion to rescind the doubling of water rates for Q3.  So, does that sound like a conservation focus?  Sounds like a revenue issue.  This is not unlike the B.C. hydro "conservation" tactic, where prejudicial Step 2 (higher) rates "kick in" at approximately 1350 kW hours usage per month.   Prejudicial?  Yes.  Someone at B.C. Hydro forgot to factor in that there are rural homes to whom natural gas lines are not available, yet those very homes were included in the averaging that determined at what point Step 2 would occur.

And, yes, like our water authority, there's the hydro revenue dilemma when people conserve too much electricity.  

Rather than going on ad nauseum about each incumbent's comments about the troubles that today affect Coldstream, I'll add two that no-one else has mentioned:  unelected committees and rent-a-cow "farmers".
  •  unelected committees.  We can't vote them in or out, much like bureaucrats, yet they either volunteer or are appointed--hopefully because they have something to offer other than available time--to many committees that today provide recommendations to the Mayor and Council, mostly unbeknownst to residents.  Is there a screening mechanism in place where council weeds out the NIMBY-ists?  In my view, there's an overabundance of committees making recommendations to Coldstream council.  Perhaps a sign of the times, the Okanagan Basin Water Board and many many other appointed, unelected committees now decide on many factors affecting residents everywhere.  From virtually a fledgling group doing water studies years ago, the OBWB now bestows grants from the Provincial government to absolutely meteoric rise to power.  Unelected power.
  • rent-a-cow farmers.  While a majority of locals are struggling to pay their property taxes and water bills, there is a minority of farm classifications that don't deserve support because they increase costs for the rest of us by not paying their fair share.   You don't need a calculator to figure out that a "farmer" whose sole farm income--not to mention activity and effort--is the difference between what he paid to rent a few cows for 3 or 4 months from a bona fide rancher and that of the cows' selling price does not give him $2,500 in "farm income".  Yet using this creative accounting for which dubious paperwork likely exists, he qualifies for the much lower farm property tax rate and the farm irrigation water rate.   You and I pay more for property taxes and water because, unlike these "farmers", we don't play the system.
So what were the positive surprises during last night's meeting?  It was the depth of discussion offered by incumbents.  While I haven't attended many of this council's meetings (for good reason), I have attended enough meetings during my  residency to wonder where these deep discussions actually occur because it's seldom evident in open council meetings.  The discussion period that is provided during council meetings on various agenda items seems to provide abbreviated results, and rarely gets into "the guts" of a topic, with each councillor expressing reservations or support.  So, are topics decided in-camera so no dissention is in the public eye?  During conference calls?  Via email among the councillors prior to public meetings?  In-person and privately?  Hmmm.  Almost seems so.  

From many, many residents:  Thanks to the new candidates who have let their names stand for the November 19th election:   Dave Hrabchuk as the new mayoralty candidate, John Hegler, Peter McClean and Glen Taylor for Council.  

Good luck! 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Coldstream vs. Residential Homeowners

and I know who'll win.

Tonight's open Council meeting should--in itself--be viewed as an indication of the failure of Mayor Garlick and his Council's term in office.   One after another, attendees addressed the Mayor from the podium indicating their abject disgust at how this Council is handling a bylaw that sees homeowners as Developers, which automatically triggers a requirement for off-site works, similar to the process with Commercial and large developments.

Back-peddling by saying the bylaw has been in place since 2008, Mayor Garlick agreed--when questioned--that the bylaw has been idle until recently, when Judy Paterson's building permit application mysteriously resurrected it.

Quickly switching the municipality into reverse gear, Mayor and Council now wish to be seen as heroes, advising that District of Coldstream Subdivison, Development and Servicing Bylaw No. 1535, 2008, Amendment Bylaw No. 1595, 2011, Amendment No. 1--which is slated for third reading (and passing) tonight--would exempt off-site works and service requirements for development with a construction value less than or equal to fifty thousand dollars ($50,000) cumulatively over any given five year period.

No matter, it seems, that real estate representatives stated they could not in all honesty recommend to their prospective purchasers that a planned renovation might incur a set dollar cost--with a factual formula.  There is no formula, as each case is "judged" on its own (dollars-to-the-community) merit.  "So can I recommend to a purchaser that they buy a 'reno house' in Coldstream...I think not," concluded the rep.

No matter that a building contractor stated he could not in all honesty hope to gain work for his employees doing renovations in Coldstream, as a $50,000 renovation budget would--to quote Councillor Firman--"not build you a shithouse" (This candor from the same councillor who was overheard to say at Fisher's Hardware two weeks ago, "I'm only drunk half the time now.")   Contractor Dahlen indicated that renovations would "go underground", or stop entirely. 

And a Mr. Hegler indicated that in the Council's next newsletter--instead of promoting their "works"--that the publication informs the public that residents are now considered Developers, and are subjec to off-site development costs.

No matter that several residents stated they would not choose to renovate in Coldstream and trigger the off-site works and services bylaw... for drainage...or perhaps for sidewalks and curbs...or for a bike path.  One resident said that a prospective building permit for a renovation in Coldstream Estates might trigger a sidewalk development cost.  He reminded the Mayor and Council that "there isn't another piece of sidewalk or curb for miles on either side of that property."

Dave Paterson took the microphone to indicate that for any bylaw to be legal, it must be transparent and must know what will be incurred if you apply for a permit.  Judy Paterson's research quoted text after text which indicated the District of Coldstream's bylaw borders on a travesty as it teeters precariously on the legal fence.

So, are Garlick et al heroes for "upping" the building permit application trigger to $50,000 from the previous Zero Dollars?  That's what they'd like you to believe.

Councillor Enns put it in his most patronizingly superior attitude, "so, let me get this'd like me to vote tonight to turn down the bylaw amendment (and return it to Zero Dollars trigger)."  He and Mayor Garlick reminded attendees that the "Zero" bylaw in 2008 (which had never been enacted) was "put in place by a previous Council"...(yes, Mayor Garlick was a Councillor on that previous council).

...and earlier, amateur councillor Mario Besso tried to make a point by reminding attendees--only a little less condescendingly than Enns--"that Coldstream is bestowed with broad powers...", trailing off, as though that were sufficient to quell the unrest from the public, ultimately making no point at all.  This the same councillor who--as one resident reported--"attends every bloody meeting there is for 100 miles around, and claims her dollar "attendance fee" even if she's not on the bloody committee."

And all through the hour-long "delegation" process, Councillor Dirk--the longest serving councillor in Coldstream--made no effort to hide what has become his trademark when things aren't going well for council...a smirk.  A smirk so permanent for the hour-long to-and-fro that I squinted to more easily see if tape on each corner held his mouth upturned at the ends.  No tape was evident on Councillor Smirk.

CHBC-TV recorded what I've missed reporting here, and the link to their news broadcast will be added here tomorrow.  

What wasn't reported by anyone at the podium was this:
  • Mayor and Council have a duty to represent (act on behalf of--not against) their citizens.  Part of that duty is fiscal responsibility.  If at this juncture of their elected term they decided the municipality is short of funds for their precious Wish List that includes bike paths, they need to spend less money.  Plain and simple.  Just like families do.  Just like business does.
  • The bylaw at hand is a farce.  Had the Mayor and Council wished to be transparent in their dealings with residents, we would now be at third reading of the bylaw with its "trigger amount" at $500,000., not the paltry $50,000.  How could this Mayor and Council dare to be at third reading for the $50,000 trigger amount?  How stupid do they think residents are that we'll believe they're doing us a favour in enacting that!
But we should have seen this coming.  Remember when this Mayor and Council indicated that with the closure of the Owens-Illinois (Consumers Glass) plant in Lavington they were short the property tax dollars, and they'd have to raise taxes to make up the shortfall?

I remember it.  A business owner would've lowered their budget, as would a family if income dropped suddenly. 
They're even believing their own press...the loss of group conscience and responsibility to their taxpayers isn't a good sign.

Long before the meeting ended, I left, feeling disgusted with being over-governed and under-served.

Municipal elections are a month away.
Time to clean house.

I believe we now know the questions we'll put to candidates for mayor and council. 

"I'd love a $50,000 doghouse," offers Kia, adding "but streetlights would keep me awake."

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Coldstream Municipality's Brow-Beating of Taxpayers

...and "selected" taxpayers, at that.

Crying "we're broke" is no excuse for Mayor Garlick and his council--spurred on to dizzying heights of sleaziness by the ever-protected bureaucrats at the municipal hall--to use tactics that place only a thin veil on what otherwise would be called extortion.
Extortion is a felony, but apparently only for vassals.

Since applying for a building permit to renovate her Kidston Road property,  Judy Paterson has been told that "the wealthy should give back to the community" by either gifting land, money or adopting the project of building a multi-use path (affectionately termed a kids-n-ponies path) along her roadfront to the tune of $~300,000.00, she's been told she is a Developer because she applied for a building permit to renovate her 80 year-old farmhouse.  By declaring Judy a developer, all alterations to buildings are now considered "development" and subject to off-site works and services - like road works, sewer, etc.

CHBC-TV interview with Judy Paterson is found here:

So are these Coldstream's scare tactics?  Likely.
But why, if funds for a kids-n-ponies path are available through the provincial Gas Tax Fund and the Healthy Communities Act  "to plan for, develop and operate environmentally sustainable infrastructure".  

Judy Paterson has an answer to that:  because communities need to own the land on which they wish to develop environmentally sustainable infrastructure.  "And I own these 5 acres," says Judy.   

Wait a minute.  A kids-n-ponies (multi-use) path is infrastructure?  (Eligible projects are listed on page 31 of 48 pages here).  

Not according to Wikipedia: 
The term infrastructure typically refers to ... roads, water supply, sewers, electrical grids, telecommunications...facilitates the production of goods and services, and distribution of finished products to markets, as well as basic social services such as schools and hospitals, etc. 

So, a kids-n-ponies path is relegated to a community's Wish List, not infrastructure, especially when the path leads to nothing but a Provincial Park.  But since the municipality of Coldstream is broke, councillors fervently believe the end justifies the means.  They are complicit in this brow-beating of Judy Paterson.

One good thing the Union of B.C. Municipalities meetings have stressed:  Point 3.3, bottom of page 11 here:  public Annual Reporting and Annual Meetings to ensure transparency and accountability.

Transparency and accountability?
As transparency and accountability requirements have somehow been lost during this Mayor and Council's term in Coldstream, how about adding:   decency and respect for residents.

Speaking of transparency and accountability, imagine this scenario:

Wealthy Judy Paterson is no longer wealthy.
Judy has written a cheque to the District of Coldstream for $300,000.00., ostensibly to end this nightmare.
So, Coldstream Municipality:  where / how is Judy's gift recorded on your Financial Statement? 

Probably under "Lost and Found," offers Kia.

Look under Lost principles.
Or Natural Justice and Procedural Fairness.
Neither of which have been used by Mayor Garlick and this Council for some time.