Saturday, September 3, 2011

Mayors and Councils are Puppets of the UBCM

My, my, how things have changed in communities all over B.C., thanks to the powerful Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM), whose umbrella of assistance and protection to bureaucrats now touches us all.
More on that later.

Thankfully when I was building Highlands Golf Course 10 years ago, then-Mayor Postill and Council of Coldstream were still “of the mind” to help a resident realize her goals.  Councils of the day encouraged staff—the bureaucrats—to be inclusive in development guidelines; in other words, to allow the development to occur if all development permit specs had been achieved.  I remain grateful for that, despite the near-requisite two years of red tape.  All the requirements of the day were met.

But I wouldn’t even apply for a development permit today.
Not with Coldstream’s present Mayor and Council, referring to Mayor Garlick’s quote in a recent Morning Star (in reply to Judy Paterson's appearance at Council), “you still don’t need a permit to paint.”  Really?  Really?  Implying that everything else does need a permit?  And for residents to be considered Developers is ludicrous.

Rather than being fiscally prudent, Coldstream’s Mayor and Council have little, if any, business experience and it shows.  They—and other communities’ officials—have become the bureaucratic ideal:  puppets of the UBCM.  Staff increases—in both quantity and dollars of remuneration—at both Vernon and Coldstream have left residents shaking their heads...tell us why a community like Coldstream—with ~78% of its land in the ALR and with only 10,000 residents—needs a Chartered Accountant.  Or an Executive Research Secretary.  And on and on.  By the way, the remuneration “standards” are set by, you guessed it, the UBCM.

So why do we need Mayors and Councils?
Why indeed!
Especially since Mayors and Councillors are today merely signatories to committee and bureaucratic recommendations.                                                              

If every bylaw text originates with the UBCM—and most texts do start there—then what purpose do municipal elections achieve?  Especially when additional committees—all unelected by taxpayers—make recommendations to Council for adoption:  the Technical Advisory Committee, Environmental Committee, Advisory Planning Committee, now also a Kal Neighbourhood Committee, etc. etc.  Add to that the growing list of “provincial” committees such as the Okanagan Basin Water Board and the Sterile Insect Management Board, etc., and there are literally tens of people making recommendations to Mayor and Council, all of whom are unelected by us.  Most of us don’t even know who these people are.

And that’s still not all.  The North Okanagan Regional District, on whose boards a councillor from each community sits, rarely agree on “Greater Vernon” issues, whether it be parks or water.  The RDNO has its own committees.  There are committees for growth management, bicycle paths and recycling and—one of my personal favourites—culture.  Culture?  Isn’t that the job of grandparents?  Or maybe a bureaucrat can do it better (sigh). 

One tiny example is the North Okanagan Regional District’s burning regulations—they allow burning for one month—whereas Coldstream allows a two-week burning window (spring and fall).  Anybody noticed that smoke doesn’t obey a vertical boundary (fenceline) between two jurisdictions?

But what could we have expected from the UBCM—whose power became entrenched during the NDP’s two terms of terror?  It seems that no-one is tugging on the reins of the UBCM’s power, even after the North Okanagan’s governance review call by sometime-minister Ida Chong a few years ago.  After 6 months of submissions and thoughtfully-worded suggestions, she chose the status quo.  And kept her job, I might add, after her boondoggle.  What a waste of time!

So what’s the solution?
Well let’s try it the unelected and bureaucratic way.
But with one proviso.
Governance by committee of unelected and appointed (by whom we’re not sure) people.  No mayors, no councilors except the “amalgamator” cities.  Put the responsibility squarely in the lap of the bureaucrats that are creating this socialist bureaucracy. 

Taxpayers are fed up with paying for over-governance, as fully 50 per cent of what we pay goes to wages and benefits. 
Shut down Regional District(s), amalgamate Areas B & C (affectionately called F’n’G) into their physically adjacent community.  For example, Cherryville would automatically become part of Lumby, and Lumby could certainly use the tax money.  No more NORD director for Cherryville.  Spallumcheen?  Give them to Armstrong or Vernon.   Etc. etc.  And Coldstream?  While I hate to see the historical name disappear after having been a resident for 35 years, give Coldstream to Vernon! 

There would be so much money left over for multi-use paths and bicycle lanes and park land and park benches, and mechanics' shops that residents’ taxes would be manageable.  Infrastructure upgrades could be planned each year instead of hoping for on-our-knees grants from either the Federal or Provincial governments. 

The North Okanagan would then comprise Lumby City, Vernon City, and Armstrong City.  The boundaries of each would not resemble the current delineations (akin to an inebriated individual throwing into the air an open box of pushpins, and where they landed designated the present boundaries).

We’re fed up.  You should be too.

...oh, and a sincere thanks to Judy Paterson for showing me just how bizarre the situation has truly become in the ensuing years.  Shame on all government bodies for allowing the UBCM so much power, and for permitting bureaucrats and committees of unelected people to set policy.

"I thought UBCM stood for United B.C. Mutts," mused Kia.