Thursday, January 31, 2013

I Hate Year-End

...not because it's a few days' work.
Because it's proof of local government's gouging. 

"Up, up and away, in my beautiful balloon..."

Sure I knew what I paid in 2012.
After all, I wrote the cheques. 

But year end is a chance to see it in black and white.
Or red, or in brackets.
In all its ugliness.
That's when the inequities, the unfairness, the lack of justice becomes apparent.
And it's always local government's invoices.
They hope nobody notices their tactics.

Consider water taxes.
I'll cut to the chase and declare that this property's water costs increased by 28% from last year.
Yup...twenty-eight per cent! 

Water taxes really get my goat.
And this goat knows they're only blowing smoke up your skirt when they say it's about Water Conservation.

There are 4 water invoices for this property:  The fire hydrant is billed annually, but the residence, irrigation, and clubhouse are billed quarterly.

Maybe quarterly billings are employed to make it easier for us to pay?
Kinda like paying for your car or fire insurance in installments.
Nah, it's so they can charge you a flat amount PLUS consumption in each Q.
Funny thing...I'm old enough to remember when a basic (minimum) charge was levied only if there was no consumption.
But I digress.

"It's to teach us to conserve the precious resource," you might say.
Echoing bureaucrats' statements doesn't make it more palatable.

Last year, Highlands Golf irrigation usage was lower than in 2011.
Noteworthy for the previous year is that our irrigation consumption warranted a letter from the Regional District that proved we used only 10% (yes, one-tenth) of our paid-up annual water allocation.
No congratulations, but that's okay.

So we are conserving the water resource.
Yet our total water costs increased by $595.73 over the previous year.
That's why they call it precious.

And they manipulate timing of reading meters to serve their purposes, as in this example from Coldstream.
No date mentioned on when the meter was read.
Is that even legal?

Bureaucrats are the Tails that wag the Dogs, the elected officials.

Bureaucrats use reverse accounting to fill municipal coffers.
Governments decide upfront how much money they want and divide by the number of customers.

Governments extort money from residents with unsavory tactics.  Interesting indeed there's an example of how to report such tactics from, of all places, Quebec, that historical hotbed of graft and corruption.  Another deals with public sector transparency from Asia, also well-known for underhanded dealings.

Even where a community's population is increasing--and it hasn't appreciably around here--up go the rates.More than inflation, more than taxpayers' wage increases, more than can be justified...ever.
If only business could do that!

So it's increased service that raises rates?

An example is the unparalleled gouging for Highlands' private fire hydrant which, in 10 years, has never consumed the "precious resource". 

In 2012, the fire hydrant tax was $454.38.
In 2011, it was $383.80.
In 2002, it was $266.00.

And property 2012 property taxes increased by 37.8 per cent (yup...thirty-seven point eight per cent) over 2011. I posted a sign in the clubhouse to show that.
Customers expressed outrage and recounted their own tales of local government gouging. 

"My kibbles only increased 3 per cent last year," admonishes Kia.

Should've bought Gold in 2005.
Just to keep up with local government's gouging. 
It was $518.00 per ounce then.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

No Balls, No Vision

Ignoring Study results.
Politicians are good at that in the North Okanagan.

They ask for input from the public, then ignore the common sense ideas.
More and more residents are aware of that, proven again in yet another Letter to the Editor by Sally Gorby of Vernon, stating "They ask people what they want; then do exactly as they please."

That's nothing new to those of us living in Coldstream. 
The new Municipal Hall comes to mind.

Politicians commission expensive studies from consultants, and then ignore crucial findings. 
Recently, the most noteworthy is KPMG's report, whose recommendations included "amalgamating Vernon, Coldstream and the electoral areas."

"The best way is likely difficult to achieve, if not impossible.  You need to restructure local government to be more efficient."
                                                                                        KPMG Senior Manager Bourne      
Seems Vernon's Mayor Sawatzky isn't keen to "open old wounds".
Open old wounds?

No balls for constructive change is more like it.
No vision beyond his term.

And, while today mute on the subject, Coldstream's Mayor Garlick is in lockstep with that position.
No Amalgamation.

Governance change--and the Amalgamation issue--sure to consistently save taxpayer money over the current model (if it can be called a model) aren't new ideas here.  Even sometime-minister Ida Chong requested a review, based on demands from officials and the public, then waffled and did nothing.

KPMG's senior manager, Brian Bourne, noted of the amalgamation recommendation, "The best way is likely difficult to achieve, if not impossible.  You need to restructure local government to be more efficient."
He probably lives here.

Even former councillors can see further into the future, evidenced by Shawn Lee's comment regarding a resident's request to be annexed into Vernon:  "Perhaps if some sort of boundary could be determined by the province that would delineate Vernon's ultimate geographic area that could reduce the amount of governance of Greater Vernon."  He concludes:  "...the debate over this most recent request to join Vernon demonstrates the political unsustainability of municipal boundaries as they now stand."

Over-governance quickly enters the realm of the ridiculous.
Take Coldstream's new method for dealing with water concerns.
Calling the new plan "better service", Coldstream's chief poobah Stamhuis said people would previously be told to call the regional district office when they phoned the municipal office to complain about, say, dirty water coming out of their tap.  Just such an incident over the Christmas holidays led to a three-day delay before the Coldstream homeowner actually had someone from the Regional District attend her water event (where it was eventually determined zero residual chlorine was present in her household's waterline.)

Don't politicians see that residents can't get the hang of who is in control of what in these myriad administrations?  Little of it makes sense.
A sure sign of over-governance.

So what happened?  Coldstream has decided that a Coldstream bureaucrat will make the phone call on the homeowners' behalf to the Regional District a mile north.

Heaven forbid we mere taxpayers could also circumvent the sleeping switchboard's recorded message ourselves. 

Back to the "A" word...amalgamation.
Despite having seen Ottawa's amalgamation with 10 municipalities, our elected officials have no taste for getting down to real business and saving real taxpayer money.   Now 10 years later, people now understand its benefits.
Local government isn't above using the phrase economies of scale, but only when it suits them.
Case in point the poorly handled issue of the Okanagan Landing Firefighters, where firefighter training and call-outs are being consolidated.  Yup, for economies of scale.

Open your window.
Audible are sighs of relief from bureaucrats in Coldstream and Vernon and the Regional District that there'll be no amalgamation.

Politicians hate change.

Taxpayers have no choice whether to accept change...a mind-boggling list of new bylaws, regulations and permits abound...everything from where you can park on your property and how many vehicles can be parked there, to the "form and character" of what you want to build on your property.

So let's look at 'form and character'.
And see government disobeying their own bylaws.
Proof is the recent replacement of Vernon Secondary School, smack amid the built-up South Hill.  Numerous neighbours state "it looks like a prison, where's the form and character in that?"

"Where's the 'form and character' here?  It resembles a prison."
The old Vernon Secondary School, now being "deconstructed", chock-full of  'form and character.'

Where indeed!

Politicians say they're working hard to reduce taxes for 2013.
But that they have to focus on water, parks, fire training consolidation, and the proposed sports facility which is going to referendum in spring.  

Vernon's tax hike is currently running at 4.7 per cent.
To help fill coffers, Vernon is considering upping parking rates.  Downtown Vernon Merchants are shaking their heads in disbelief as more and more cars opt for the free parking at malls in Vernon's north end.  Vernon has plans (again) for revitalizing downtown...oh oh, say the merchants, now what are they doing to us?

Coldstream says it has "financial pressures", and taxes will increase by 4.12 per cent.
Financial pressures?  Ya think?

But Mayor Garlick still wants a Town Centre for Coldstream; we suppose he hasn't seen the For Rent, For Lease and For Sale signs for retail and commercial space from here to Enderby.  The Shops at Polson remain half empty, partially because the new connection road (that would eliminate the two uphill Mall Exits during icy winters) was never built; and partially because commercial lease rates in the Okanagan aren't justifiable for the small population it can attract.  Garlick's other wishlist at Trintec can't find an anchor tenant, again because lessees consider demographics.   The former Consumers Glass facility remains empty, chiefly because Mayor Garlick decided he didn't want to split it up into marketable units.
Because a film studio might one day be interested in the site...sheesh.
Guess he doesn't realize international films consider the strength of the Canadian dollar...and opt not to come here.

Coldstream Councillor Kiss' comment from a meeting last year still reverberates:  "We can be $19 million in debt."
Unless residents intercede, Coldstream will be.

"No guts, no glory," offers Kia, anticipating more of the over-governance we've come to know, but not love.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Idle No More

Really, Bridle No More.

As in the verb.

Every now and then something comes across my computer screen that I wish I'd written.
This is one of those, so it's reprinted here in its entirety.

Unfortunately, the author was--and remains--anonymous.
Otherwise I'd be sending him or her my thanks for putting to words what many, many people feel.  

"On a very serious note and regarding the "Idle No More" movement, I offer the following:

Over the years we have all listened and watched as successive Canadian governments have tried to deal with the residue of our colonial past.   On the evidence, a wide range of policies, and a huge amount of our money, has failed to solve a seemingly insolvable problem of abortive aboriginal treaties, perceived entitlements, and social disasters.   Many good people on both sides of the fence have spent lives of frustration using different administrative models to no lasting effect.

The only consistent result of over 100 years of wasted time, money and lives is the fact that, for many, being a treaty aboriginal has become a business in and of itself; Aboriginal Incorporated has become a way of life, a leadership management philosophy, a negotiating tool, a public spectacle, and a very lucrative business model, at least for a few.   The latest public display of Chief Spence and her Aboriginal Inc. handlers has backfired and, with the release of the audit report on her financial management of millions of tax dollars, we see what really is the issue: The criminal misappropriation of funds intended to help the social ills of an important but socially failing segment of the Canadian population.

This has to stop.  The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over, and over, while expecting a different result.    A failed policy approach is a failed policy approach and over 100 years should be sufficient evidence that enough is enough.   We need to start from first principles:

1) No one in Canada is above the law of the land.
2) Your economic well-being is your responsibility.   It is not the government's job to pay you to fish and hunt.
3) Employment rules apply to everyone.   If you can't get a job where you live, then move.    Idle No More at our expense!
4) If you receive public funds, you are accountable.   Penalties apply.
5) Theft is theft; see 1) above.
6) If the funds are badly spent or the recipients do not care for the infrastructure and benefits provided, the funds will not be replaced.
7) Treaties will be respected in the context of the date of the treaty and the standards of the day.
8) Your administrative costs and the pay of your local leadership will be set by the people that fund your operation.
9) As our municipalities are governed by provincial rules, so the reserves will be governed by federal rules.

I believe this list is a good start but is clearly a work in progress.   I further believe that a valid counter to the Idle No More movement needs to be a strong Enough Is Enough movement.   Plainly said: we have had enough!

I truly hope the government gets the picture and puts its foot down once and for all.

If enough Canadians repeat this message then perhaps the abusive power of Aboriginal Inc. will be lessened and the real needs of the thousands of aboriginal Canadians in need can be met.

Enough Is Enough!"

(Author unknown) 

As an aside, interesting comment that municipalities are governed by provincial rules; the spurious actions of Coldstream tend to illustrate how screwed up British Columbia really is.

"Government putting their foot down...oh oh..." admits Kia. 

Fire Hydrant Gouging

Eleven years ago when Highlands started up--as part of the Development Permit's commercial zoning rules--the requisite fire hydrant here had to be situated within "x" (if I recall, it was 75) meters from the clubhouse front door.

To comply, the hydrant was installed approximately 30 meters inside the fenceline, making it a "private" unmetered hydrant.  It provides fire protection for myself and my immediate neighbours, as no municipal fire hydrant is nearby to duplicate the service.  More than that, my private fire hydrant provides deep discounts for my immediate neighbours as they're now within the three hundred meter distance that fire insurers require as "full" protection.

So each year I get an invoice for my "private 150mm unmetered fire main" from the Regional District of North Okanagan.

What started in 2002 as yet another nuisance tax bill from one of the myriad local governments has, in 2012, culminated in my abject outrage at the ferocity of tax gouging.

The invoice in 2002?  $266.00
In 2011?  $383.80
In 2012?  $454.38!

These invoices appear to be growing inexplicably (my hydrant has never fought a fire, luckily).
So I phoned James dePfyffer at the Regional District to enquire about the "private" designation.

I asked James whether Coldstream is also charged for their private fire hydrants by the Regional District.
Since, like me, Coldstream doesn't own the water.
And like me, they do own the unmetered hydrants on their land (the road rights-of-way).

Maybe it's water ownership.  So who owns the water?  The Greater Vernon Water Authority, administered by the Regional District of North Okanagan.
Maybe it's hydrant ownership.  So who owns the hydrants in Coldstream?  The District of Coldstream, also located on their own land...municipal rights-of-way between fencelines and roads.
And also unmetered.

It could therefore be argued that Coldstream's hydrants are also "private".
Possibly successfully argued.

James dePfyffer said: "That's a good question."

"Certainly has nothing to do with downloading of any imaginary services," muses Kia.

The question stands:  Is Coldstream also taxed on their private fire hydrants on their land?

The "good" question was never answered.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Bike Path Liability typical of governments to not consider Cause and Effect.

And Coldstream has its own poorly-thought-out Bike Paths.
With plans for more.

But first, this compelling Letter to the Editor, about Vernon's bike paths, from January 13, 2013 in The Morning Star.

"I've had three occasions in the last year that could have in all likelihood ruined my life.  the most recent was travelling on Alexis Park Drive, heading north towards 43rd Avenue.  I apologize for sounding selfish in this regard because it could also, and more so, (have) ruined the lives of people I don't even know.  Actually, I'm still shaken from it.

"...a bike path that pretty much encourages kids to come out and play in high-density traffic."  G.Thomas

Two kids were riding their bikes on a bike path to the left of the parked cars.  Check it out yourself.  The sidewalk, of course, is where these kids should be on their bikes.  However, I passed one.  The one in front inadvertently nipped the mirror of a parked car, overreacted and was in my traffic lane.

I was fortunate for no oncoming traffic.  I veered to the left and missed hitting this child.  If there was oncoming traffic, there would be a collision to avoid hitting this kid.

Not myself or anyone else could prognosticate the potential horror of this, all because of a bike path that pretty much encourages kids to come out and play in high-density traffic.

The next incident involved an adult biker close to a turning lane off 20th Street and 46th Avenue.  The actual bike lane here moved to a ramp toward a part of the sidewalk.  Instead, this person turned left next to a jut-out curb and right in front of me.  I was forced to jam my brakes.

I hope this city gets rid of bike paths, especially those to the left of parked cars.  The other hope is my conscience for at least trying to forestall the eventuality of a tragic accident given my close calls."
Gordon Thomas

Bike paths ARE dangerous, especially when constructed to the left of parking lanes, as shown in this photo from the U.S.A. 

Mr. Thomas explained the problem, and intersections pose danger too: 

The danger of right turns...

 And whatever happened to the tenet--learned many years ago from our parents when we were youngsters--to ride facing traffic, as in this example:

Ride facing traffic
Both the District of Coldstream and the City of Vernon, in their mad rush for bike paths to comply to the wish lists of senior bureaucrats in Victoria, have built--and are planning more--paths that carelessly place cyclists among traffic on poorly placed and haphazardly designed paths.

What if--in Mr. Thomas' case--there had been oncoming traffic and a collision had occurred?

Is the builder of the bike path liable for poor construction?
Is the child on the bike liable for the collision of Mr. Thomas and the oncoming car?
Is Mr. Thomas liable?  Consider that a court might argue Mr. Thomas could have--in a split-second decision of the "lesser of two evils"--opted to strike an oncoming car instead of hitting the child?

At a minimum...all bikes using bike lanes must be equipped with handlebar rear-view mirrors (on both handlebars), front and rear lights (LED-activated by pedal), AND that all bicycles using bike lanes must have liability insurance.

These are all factors that put our communities--and its residents who pay the bills--in jeopardy because of their planning deficiencies.

Cause and effect...entirely lost on consultants and bureaucrats.

The solution?
Better design with cause and effect in mind.

Don't build bike paths where cars are parked at the right (and DON'T try to fix that by eliminating curb-side parking!).   Bureaucrats in Victoria need to add "requirements" to the bike helmet rule:  that all bikes using bike lanes MUST be equipped with handlebar rear-view mirrors (on both handlebars), front and rear lights (LED-activated by pedal), AND that all bicycles using bike lanes MUST HAVE LIABILITY INSURANCE.  Quite the money-grab for ICBC, but it is necessary.

A couple of the most dangerous "designs" are:  the exit lane (from 25th Avenue onto Hwy 6 where cars have the non-stop merge lane, yet is crossed by a green-painted bike naturally gives cyclists the "false assurance" they need not stop and look behind them for traffic turning right.  Another is at 25th Avenue and 34th Street, where cars and cyclists heading west "meet" if a car were to turn right.  Neither of these bicycle paths face traffic...which sadly resulted in a bicylist's death this year at the 37th Street intersection with 25th Avenue.

Coldstream's next bike path is its Phase II extension on Kidston Road.

Are planners looking ahead to preventing liability risks?  

"They can't see beyond their noses, so it's doubtful," offers Kia.

A sad case indeed...local governments heeding big government's wishes without sufficient forethought.
And sadder stories will come.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Coldstream's Billing Tactics Hitting the Fan


"Just to clarify, the sewer rate for the year is set using the first quarter readings ie: Jan 1 - Mar 31 each year (or whatever dates DoC actually read the meters prior). "  D.McDonald

Sure, water bills are high.
As are sewer charges.

Ever on the hunt for more money from residents' wallets, the District of Coldstream has resorted to inflating your sewer rates by reading the fourth quarter late--adding another week of water consumption--as discovered by Duncan McDonald of Coldstream when he gathered up his bills.

What tipped him off is they showed his household using more water in the fourth quarter, with no change in habits.
Every year.
Always in the fourth quarter.

Something stank in Coldstream.
Proof was when meters were read (which Duncan had noted).

It's the last quarter's water meter readings that determine residents' sewer charges for the year.

Reading water meters 7 or 8 days beyond the end of the last quarter equates to another week of consumption, hence, flushing the toilet!

How convenient this coincidence is for Coldstream's coffers!

Sure, invoices always state the period covered, and the quarters are always stated as ending when we expect them to end...March 31st for the 1st Q, June 30th for the 2nd Q, September 30th for the 3rd Q, and December 31st for the 4th Quarter...365 days a year divided by 4 equals meter readings approximately every 91 days.  Except the fourth quarter, which Duncan discovered was ~98 days.

He calculated that one additional week resulted in an additional $70 being added to his annual sewer charges.

"the district has picked up some much needed cash through deceptive practices."     D.McDonald

So he contacted the District.

Here is Duncan McDonald's "comment" (placed on this blog's "Developer" article of January 10, 2013).

"Duncan McDonald January 11, 2013

How's this for a pound flesh from potentially each and every sewer customer in Coldstream... different topic (to the Developer story) but related all the same.

Maybe it was only myself who was naive enough to believe that my water and sewer invoices were billed as indicated. I contacted DoC to find out what dates my water meter was read as it seemed we had pretty high usage for the first 8 days of January when the latest bill arrived. I was advised that the billing dates and the actual usage dates were not in sync and our meter had actually been read Sept 4th and again Dec 6th to comprise this latest bill, despite what is clearly stated on my invoice, "Billing Period: 01/10/12 - 31/12/12". Officially, the software DoC uses is apparently not sophisticated enough to reflect each individual users ACTUAL billing cycle. Right.

"I estimate I was overcharged roughly $70 for the year, which isn't a lot of money, but is (was!) mine. Of greater concern is whether or not everyone in Coldstream was subject to this "stretching" of their billing period as well. 3000 users (give or take) overpaying $70 each per year equals a tidy $210K... not bad for doing nothing."   D.McDonald.

No biggie except that when I then requested my meter reading dates from the past year they were as follows, according to the email from DoC; 'In your particular case, your water meter was read on December 6/12. Prior to this it was read September 4/12, June 4/12, March 9/12, and December 2/11.'

Dec 2/11 - March 9/11(
sic.../12) is 98 days, about 9% longer than an average quarter. Again, this would not matter at all except this is the period that DoC uses to calculate the sewer rate for the ENTIRE year! I estimate I was overcharged roughly $70 for the year, which isn't a lot of money, but is (was!) mine. Of greater concern is whether or not everyone in Coldstream was subject to this "stretching" of their billing period as well. 3000 users (give or take) overpaying $70 each per year equals a tidy $210K... not bad for doing nothing.

My query was very quickly escalated to senior management (Thanks Trev!) who promptly dismissed my query as an uninformed rate payer unable to understand basic mathematical principles. After several emails back and forth they simply ignored me and left their stance as follows (email from Seibel):

""""Your query was not dismissed and I certainly apologize if that is the way it came across. As noted previously, there is a defined process for the timing of the meter reads and this process is applied to everyone the same. There was not a miscalculation of the consumption rates for the 1st quarter 2012 billing cycle as it was based on the meter read taken at that time. I understand your concern with the 7 day variance between a “normal” (or equal) quarterly cycle of 91 days and the 98 days for the 2012 1st quarter read. However our meter reading process was followed consistently and all meter reads obtained under the same approach. There is no definitive way to say that the consumption values were equally incurred over the 98 days and as a result there is no way to validate the figures you provided.

There are many factors that impact the meter reading for the 1st quarter including weather, human resources and functioning equipment (meter reading equipment and obtaining a read from the house meter). Based on the fact that the process was applied consistently for all meter reads in the 1st quarter of 2012 I find no basis to provide a rebate to your account.

Thank you,
Trevor Seibel""""

In reading Mr Seibel's response, it is pretty clear that all residents were subjected to this little cash grab and the district has picked up some much needed cash through deceptive practices. So far, it appears the buck really starts and stops with the utility provider and is not regulated or overseen in any fashion.

I guess I will contact the mayor next, we'll see how that goes!"

"How convenient for Coldstream," admits Kia, "probably why the District NEEDED to hire a chartered accountant."

Coldstream received ~$210,000 over and above what residents owed for sewer!

Mr. McDonald will be interested to learn even that amount is conservative.
Because the Highlands Golf property is on septic ... as are most rural properties in Coldstream.
And rural properties on septic pay sewer charges.

Anybody willing to take odds on the same gouging tactic occurring in Vernon?
And the regional district's septic areas?

No takers...
No surprise there.

Sustaining Coldstream...Nulli Secundus.
Second to none in deceiving residents.
Add it to the list.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Our MLA's Foible?

Seems that Liberal Whip--and locally-elected MLA--Eric Foster isn't immune to the increasing public scrutiny enjoyed by his colleagues.

All right...not enjoyed.

Rather than going into all the to-and-fro details, two links provide details, much like Cause and Effect.

First the Cause.

And the Effect, courtesy Mr. Alex Tsakumis, political columnist and analyst blogger, known as "Rebel With a Clause".

"What's that saying about 'if you don't learn from history, you're bound to repeat it'?" asks Kia.
Nah...Glen Clarke of the 1999 NDP had a Cause and Effect too:  dubious details surrounding the renovation of his home, and Bingo-gate....Eric's simply paying for his constituency office renovations...albeit sans invoices .

At least it's Eric's office, and not his home!

Eric's constituency assistant is Min Sidhu, Vernon's Woman of the Year 2011.
Oh...and the Sidhu family owns the building.

Oh...and my own DH (dear husband) reminded me that her husband still owes us money for Apple Wax (we bought it in 45-gallon drums during our orchard/packinghouse years) that Sid Sidhu "bought" from us about 20 years ago.   Never saw a dime.

I bet Eric's good ole' days (mid-1980s) on the Riverside Forest Products' Canada Works Program (for program details, scroll to "Background") are looking pretty good right about now.

During headier and happier times in 2009, a photo of MLA Eric (second from right) during the wind turbine dedication ceremony at Highlands Golf:

left to right:  Bill Kennedy, Capri Insurance; Gerald and Phyllis Raboch, retired from Riverside Forest Products Ltd.; Paul Wende, Energy West Power Solutions; Barb Mitchell, owner Highlands Golf; Eric Foster, MLA; Janice Foster. 
"Seems it's open season on the provincial Libs," adds Kia.

Until the Spring election anyway.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Coldstream and Vernon Oligarchy

Here's the definition...after reading this Letter to the Editor, it sure seems to fit Coldstream and Vernon.

Entitled "Taxes", Peter Vander Sar's letter was published by The Morning Star on December 30th, 2012:

" ' Frustrated Taxpayer' Arthur Klukas, in his letter in The Morning Star of December 5, understated the problem of select groups, elected officials and bureaucrats in a dictatorial manner spending more on facilities than Vernon taxpayers are willing to pay.

He neglected to mention that in a referendum four years ago, Vernon taxpayers wisely rejected the idea of building a new library

The library board ignored the voters and got the money through the back door through a regional district-wide alternative approval process, which was a slam-dunk as 10 per cent of eligible voters had to schlep themselves to the regional district office to indicate disapproval.  That was not likely to happen.

Obviously since then, the powers-that-be have not changed their attitutde regarding grandiose building schemes to serve the few, using the tax money of all.

Let's be honest, how many Vernon taxpayers are served by the art gallery or the museum?

It appears likely that financing for the new facilities will be rejected, but unless the voters then follow up and keep the pressure, the money will be borrowed through that very undemocratic alternative approval process.

And Vernon will continue to get what it deserves:  government by oligarchy."      Peter Vander Sar

"So will Coldstream residents..." muses Kia, adding "remember the referendum to construct a new Municipal Hall?"


"Developers" get support

District of Coldstream take note. 
Even renters know the impact of what Coldstream and Vernon do to "Developers".

Remember the hue and cry last year when you labelled homeowners as Developers even if they were simply applying for a simple Building Permit for a renovation?

"...grabbing the last pound of flesh from every developer that walks in the door does nothing for improving the affordability of a home..."

Proof is this (partial) Letter to the Editor from I. Murphy, from the Morning Star issue of January 4, 2013, entitled "Rental Rates":

"...grabbing the last pound of flesh from every developer that walks in the door does nothing for improving the affordability of a home in Vernon.  A recent example illustrates the point where compulsory city costs in the form of infrastructure improvements, in addition to development cost charges, add almost $30,000 to the cost of a home that would otherwise be able to sell for $220,000.

Taking a leaf from the pages of other municipalities that have reduced or in some cases eliminated DCCs for appropriate developments would greatly assist homeowners and the local economy."  I.Murphy.

New Westminster has a DCC Relief Policy, as do numerous other communities in British Columbia.

One government even "does it" to an adjacent government, as proven by the proposed off-site works charges for the planned track and sports field at the College.  Coldstream has dictated a charge of $1 million for curb, gutter and sidewalks if the plan proceeds.  As though that'll lead to a successful referendum this Spring!

"But Coldstream NEEDS the pound of flesh to pay for their spurious projects," Kia reminds us.

Coldstream and Vernon haven't a clue about improving the lot of renters seeking to buy a home.
Or assisting the local economy.

So renovations went underground...

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Feds provide $187,500 to Middleton Mountain Park

Infrastructure Canada states "Feds spent $187,500 on this "BC Coldstream Mountain Park" in 2012.

The heading was "Sustainable landscaping that promotes physical activity".

Tell me HOW sustainable landscaping PROMOTES physical activity!
Maybe the Feds are agreeing with Coldstream that ugly paths don't encourage exercise, so a pretty path will.  Never mind.

There's a definition for it:  sustainable landscaping . Doubt you'll find Coldstream's mayor and council up on Middleton Mountain composting grass clippings and pulling weeds by hand, etc. etc.
Several of the residents would be happy (I'm told) to hand them their Roundup sprayers....

Maybe it's just me, but I don't see sustainable landscaping in this photo of the project:

The project is explained:  "A park that had been on a lot of wish lists for a very long time is now a reality, with the help of $187,500 from the federal Infrastructure Stimulus Fund.

Middleton Mountain dominates the landscape for most residents in the northern part of B.C.'s famed Okanagan Valley. Many people can access the mountain area directly from their own homes in the surrounding municipalities of Vernon, Coldstream and Lavington.

A trail looping around Middleton Mountain now provides an estimated 4,000 regular users with a safe, natural outdoor setting for physical activity. The easy access also helps promote a more active lifestyle for the 77,000-plus residents in the region. Local businesses hope it helps promote tourism.

The funding also supported a sports field and improved accessibility to the trail area for people with disabilities.

Incorporating sustainable landscaping and an enhanced wildlife habitat, the park was long overdue in many people's estimations. Mayor Jim Garlick of Coldstream calls the new recreation area a "much needed park facility" and a ""wonderful improvement to the area"."

I don't see 77,000 people using it.
Does anyone really believe that 77,000 people would be WELCOMED by residents there?
The list of other "infrastructure" projects in B.C. is here: (scroll down to the list of communities).

The funding "also supported a sports field?" 

This successful project is yet another example of creative wording in grant applications by our local governments.  It's fine to get the money (yes, taxpayer money) but the supporting text would make a tree hugger gag.

Local businesses hope it helps promote tourism.
They sure as hell do.
Hurry up, tourists, before there are no more businesses in Coldstream or Vernon!
The Shops at Polson sit half-empty a year after being built, vacancy signs are in every mall, downtown has "For Lease" signs in windows.

And Mayor Garlick wants to use yet more taxpayer money to build a Town Centre in Coldstream so residents can access businesses locally, perhaps on their bikes, without having to drive 3 or 4 miles into Vernon (sigh...)
So that more "for lease" buildings can litter the landscape.

Frankly, I think the next For Lease sign should be on the Municipal Hall in Coldstream.

Far too much fluff and puffery and bullshit comes out of there these years.

Ask any Coldstream resident...almost any stimulated Coldstream resident.

How Coldstream Went Bust

...could be the headline in a few years.

This Knowledge Network special (Tuesday, January 15, 2013 Bell Expressvu Satellite) should be required watching for all bureaucrats and elected officials.

You'd think local governments would be antsy about acquiring any new debt.
Not Coldstream, not Vernon.

Coldstream's Mayor Garlick and Council must feel they're above it all, as they've never had to spend money (from "uncollectible" property taxes, as provided for in this example from Kelowna, or this Yellowknife bylaw) which, in effect, is the budget equivalent to bailing out a corporation or individual.

There's hardly anyone left in Coldstream to "bail out";  Consumers Glass is gone.  Tolko has asked for property tax concessions in the communities where they operate, Coldstream's mayor has decided he doesn't like the idea of the former Consumers Glass property being divided into smaller pieces, just in case Hollywood needs a film set (*groan*) there the complex will sit, a roost for pigeons.

This from the mayor whose administration spent $16,000 to landscape a couple of traffic islands at Kal General Store!!  Sixteen thousand dollars!  To landscape a couple of 30-foot islands!

We don't have the Big Three auto manufacturers here, the Feds bailed them out in Ontario.

And our banks are safer than those in the U.S., if you believe the pundits.

Yet the Letters to the Editor continue, likely falling on elected officials' blind eyes.

This one is from Garry Haas, published by the Morning Star on January 2nd, 2013:

"Well, the mayor and council are trying to sell us this budget from his financial manager as holding the line and the best they can do.  How naive do they really think us, the taxpayers -- the people who voted you into office -- are?

To start with, the online version is 527 pages (no wonder the photocopiers are getting old).  Let's get rid of the glossy pictures and all of the pie charts and condense the paperwork.

If you published this thing for people to read, you are going to break the bank for publishing it.

The plan states that the raise rate is 1.9 per cent.  Does this include:

The hospital is asking for an increase of 13.9 for in(sic) indeterminate number of years, amounting to they say $10 per household, but this is based on last years assessments.

In order to fund future infrastructure upgrades, (administrator Will Pearce) is recommending council raise taxes at least 1.9 per cent a year, for the next 10 years in order to build up a pool of funds.

Administration also recommends council initiate a dedicated 1.9 per cent tax rate increase, to be cumulative for 10 years (that is 1.9 per cent dedicated tax rate increases each year for the 10 years proposed) in order to build the financial capacity of the city to deal with looming infrastructure issues.

Plus, the automatic wage and benefit increases for all union employees.  Do you have the nerve to put this number out for everyone to see?

There was $570,000 to demolish the old Coldstream hotel site.  He came to his senses and stopped it.  Add the sports complex that he is hoping to have built.

To do this they are suggesting:
Raise some of the rates at the pool.  This is the only place some people and the elderly can go and get exercise at a reasonable rate.
Raise the parking meter rates, the fines that go along with this and the weekly and monthly lot rates.  Well you might as well ring the death toll for downtown because nobody will want to go down (there) and shop or eat because of the extra cost.  Those that work in the downtown area will not be able to afford the high cost of parking.

Why do just about all the departments have a food and coffee account?  Are we supplying all employees with coffee and snacks?  Most of these are new in this budget.

Suggest reducing road sweeping, then why do you have a request for a new sweeper in this budget?

Now is the time to e-mail, write or call the mayor, council members and the regional district directors and let them know that we do not want increases in our taxes.  We want to get our debts paid off before we go bankrupt as is happening in other counties(sic), even Canada."
Garry Haas

In the same isssue of the local paper, a Chuck Johnson wrote a Letter to the Editor, entitled "Labour Under Attack".  Obviously pro-labour, Mr. Johnson suggests instead of placing the blame for all things financial on high union wages, that it's "time to register churches and put all of their financial information on the website so we can see how they are spending after law societies, medical associations and then accounting organizations....with all their tax-free information...we will all breathe a lot better."  

Mr. Johnson concludes:  "...if you really want transparency, go after the big guy.  Now is the time to go after the big guy, the one percent who really do make government policy in their back rooms and present it to you through lobbying groups.  Through the loop holes in the tax act, they get away with billions that could put our country on stable financial ground.  Share the wealth.

The 100 highest paid chief executives whose companies are listed on the S&P/TSX composite index made an average of $8.38 million in 2010.  This is 289 times more than the average Canadian makes in a year.  In 1998, the top 100 CEOs were paid 105 times the average wage.

The playing field is definitely tilted in the favour of the wealthy.  We are hungry and have no one except unions to speak to the disparity of wages.  The playing field that is tilted to the wealthiest.  Why is it you and your government want to destroy the working man and their voice in the unions...?"

A subsequent newspaper issue had this headline emblazoned across the front page:

"Referendum costs cut by $1 million."

"So maybe they're listening," offers Kia.
 The borrowing by local governments will continue.
 Because they believe their own propaganda about "broad powers".
Local governments think they're immune.

Because they just don't get it!