Thursday, October 31, 2013


Worse than doublespeak.

"This is a community issue...those decisions need to come from the bottom up," replied British Columbia Premier Christy Clark when asked by the media whether government--in light of the citizen petition to amalgamate local areas--will force amalgamation of Vernon, Coldstream and Areas B and C.

Bottom up?

Local MLA Eric Foster recently told me "the people have to convince their Mayors/Councils that their citizens want to amalgamate, and the Mayors/Councils, and area reps then approach me.  That's the process."

Thinking of the bottom up comment, I asked him "what if our Mayors/Councils won't do that?"  Eric replied:  "Then you can express your dissatisfaction in November 2014" (during the election).

So it remains pecking order, no matter how displeased the bottom-up people are.
And local governments can then stymie the wishes of least put it off for a year.
Mayors Sawatzky and Garlick--and areas B and C directors, led by RDNO Chairman Nicol--obviously know that, and have absolutely Zero to say when asked about amalgamation.


"The absolute silence from local municipal politicians is interesting..." offers a Letter to the Editor from Michael Tindall, adding "Are citizens to assume they would rather continue wasting taxpayers' money than ask a simple question about future governance?"

Eric added, as reported in the Morning Star, "If there is a large groundswell of support for this, it will be important for local government to take it seriously."

Large groundswell.


Today's the day the petition timeline ends.
"If any one area has less than 10 per cent signatures, the petition fails," Coldstream Mayor Garlick was quoted as saying some time ago.  "Not so," affirms a canvasser for the Society.

Michael's letter closes with "You were all elected to govern; staying silent is not an acceptable option."

Another citizen wrote "...I do know that I don't want to see my taxes go up because the City of Vernon cannot rein in its spending habits."

Fear...something the Society for Future Governance of Vernon hasn't been able to assuage to date.
Yet I trust the Society.

But I fear something too.

That governments--all of them--are ignoring an entire segment called Citizens.
Citizens--and not mayors and councils--are what "bottom up" means.

"The zero-speaking mayors will receive a reminder," affirms Kia.

Amalgamation isn't going to go away by ignoring it.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Two Term Limits

The email arrived with those three words in the subject line.

The next two lines--as in the rest of the poem--evidenced remarkable creativity and humour:

Limit all politicians to two terms.
One in office, one in prison.

The poem itself is about Senator Duffy.
Here, verbatim, is the anonymous and imaginative work:

The Ode to Fluffy
Fluffy Duffy, sat in the House
Fluffy Duffy, was a real louse.
Trying to figure, “Where is his home?”;
On taxpayers’ money, he continued to roam.
Wheeling and dealing, like Wallin and Mack
But all of a sudden, he seemed to lose track.
Of how much he took, and where it all went
Said he had no idea, how it got spent.
So back to the trough, to try to get more
Said to his wife, “We’ll never be poor”.
The rules are unclear, and colleagues so dumb
From PEI, I’ll tell them I’m from.
Two principal homes, he claimed to possess
Saying if he gets caught, he’ll never confess.
He feared he might have, a big heart attack
So the money he’ll need, and not give it back.
Then along came that scoundrel, Robert S. Fife
His nosing around, upset Fluffy’s life.
He blabbed to the world, Fluffy’s nothing but dirt
And God only knows, how much that hurt.
He prodded and poked, and gossip he bought
Fluffy had no idea, he’d ever get caught.
“He’s an honest man”, Harper he claimed
Fluffy’s response to them all, was “He had been defamed”.
When it seemed to them all, that Fluffy was done
The mess he was in, was not really fun.
They thought they had brought him, down to his knees
Till Harper sent Nigel, with his 90 gs.
So off he did run, right up to the bank
Still trying to figure, just who to thank.
Taxpayers, or Harper or Nigel his “friend”;
But they all remained silent, right up to the end.
The money he took, has thus been put back
So the auditors now, will cease to attack.
Fluffy’s honesty, integrity, and all he’s stood for
Is now in his cabin, behind a locked door.
They’ll not snoop around, it is plain for to see
As the help he now has, from R-C-M-P.
His Senator friends, may give him a fine
But do as they wish, he’ll never resign.
With an exorbitant salary, which they’ll never freeze
He continues along, and cheats as he please.
Double dipping he’ll show you, can be so easy
When a Senator learns, how to be sleazy.
With taxpayers’ dollars, he’s now off the hook,
And he’ll make some more money, when he publishes a book.
And it’s onward and upward, he’ll never be blue
As he continues his game, and make fools out of you.
You can’t kiss him goodbye, while he’s still alive
Until of course, when he’s seventy-five.
But by then you will see, before he is off,
He’ll continue to feed, till he empties the trough. 

It can’t get much better, as he’s still hale and hearty
He got where he is, as a “friend” of the party.
They covered his back, as the truth they can’t tell,
So, unless you’re a Tory, go directly to hell.
Politics as you know, is always so sleazy
And ripping you off, they’ve made all too easy
So really good people, won’t get in the game
As cheating and lying, will ruin their good name.
It has happened before, and never will change
Attracting those people, who really are strange.
They claim working for you, is not really easy,
As the way they succeed, just has to be sleazy.

One in office, one in prison....hmmmmm.

"Don't the 'white collars' ever go to jail?" asks Kia.

A Senator in Jail?
Only if he's playing Monopoly.

So really good people, won’t get in the game

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Morning Star's thinly-veiled "leak"

The newspaper wanted to get "it" out there...
And what better way than to do a story on him?

So what is "it"?
Especially since we know from Adrian Johnson's recent letter to the editor (supporting amalgamation), he is president of the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce.  He and the membership of Greater Vernon businesses  support amalgamation of the area's numerous governments into one municipality.

"It" is that he works for KPMG--a senior manager no less--of the company that recommended amalgamation during their Core Services Review, conducted for the City of Vernon last year.

Yes, the same Core Services Review that Mayor Sawatzky and Council brushed off after reading, and put on the shelf.

Interesting, but no shocking revelation, sorry.

"It" makes Adrian no less credible; on the contrary, it evidences something synonymous with what our area's politicians lack:  the courage of one's conviction and taking the requisite steps to further that goal.

How so?

Well, consider the juxtaposition evidenced by Vernon Council: 

They authorized a Core Services Review because there was sufficient demand--in their view--from the public to warrant money being spent on the study.

After the Mayor and Councillors read it, they put it on the shelf, citing "lack of interest" from the community.

"They need hairspray for those frequent hat changes," offers Kia.

Shawn Lee KNOWS What Over-Governance Is... only a former councillor would.

"Four separate jurisdictions is an expensive way to govern only 50,000 people living in such close proximity."   Shawn Lee, former Vernon city councillor 

We'll begin with his closing, in the Letter to the Editor printed October 27th.

"The answer is clear.  We are over governed here in the sunny North Okanagan.  If you think, as I do, that the option of one government for Greater Vernon should be thoroughly examined and then put to a vote, make your wishes known and sign the online petition."

He provides a good explanation in the rest of his letter:

"The frustration can be palpable."

"Greater Vernon does not have a single municipal government.  What does our area now have in terms of governance?

Greater Vernon has two mayors, 12 councillors and two electoral area representatives.  These 16 elected individuals are supported by their respective municipal and regional district staffs.  The administrative employees strive to keep things running smoothly.  The staff are to provide recommendations to the elected officials who then set policy and budgets.  Sounds pretty good, so what is (sic) problem?

Four separate jurisdictions is an expensive way to govern only 50,000 people living in such close proximity.  This situation is inherently inefficient because of duplication of staff and services.  Some costs, like policing are not being shared equitably.  Businesses and individuals trying to invest in Greater Vernon often face a labyrinth of obstacles perpetuated by the number of local jurisdictions.  The frustration can be palpable.

To be fair, efforts have been made to cooperate among local jurisdictions.

"We are one community.  Shouldn't we be governed as such?"

Historically, an advantage was seen in working together to provide services to residents of the area that were shared across local political boundaries, the Greater Vernon parks and recreation function being the prime example of such an endeavor. 

"Who owns what?

  Who does what?  Who pays for what? 

And just who is in charge?"

The tricky part of these types of agreements is the working out of the details.  Who owns what?  Who does what?  Who pays for what?  And just who is in charge?  Questions all more readily answered if there was only one local government.

"..the new parks agreement...separates us more
than it unites us." 

Recently, our elected officials at GVAC have spent the better part of a year endeavouring to address anew just such questions.  The result is the new parks agreement that separates us more than it unites us.  It creates more players and boundaries instead of reducing them.  During their protracted negotiations, they missed asking a question obvious to many.  We are one community.  Shouldn't we be governed as such?

This question is the elephant in the room for anyone that has had to deal with our local governments.

The option of one local municipal government has been recently raised by the Greater Vernon Governance Society.  The society has launched an online petition that has at its heart the premise that things could be run better and more efficiently if there was one municipal government in our area.  For many individuals, amalgamation is an emotional issue and elicits an emotional response.  Though honest and understandable, this response is not desirable.  A more thoughtful and detailed approach is required so that a wise decision can be made. 

The KPMG report to Vernon council pointed to efficiencies and cost savings that could be realized by the amalgamation of the local governments into one entity.  Though the report lacked detail, KPMG recommended the option be pursued.  Council chose a quick, emotional response instead of thoughtful investigation.  No action was taken.  Lack of interest from the community was cited as the justification for doing nothing.

The ongoing interest in the GVGS online petition shows that Vernon City Council was mistaken.  Citizens from all areas of Greater Vernon have signed this petition.  These taxpayers would like to see a detailed proposal outlining both benefits and pitfalls of amalgamation put to a referendum.  The province's policy is that such a referendum would only come if sufficient public support is manifest.  So what then should be done?

The answer is clear..."
Shawn Lee, former city councillor, Vernon

"Despicable that Council chose a quick and emotional response," says Kia, adding "but that's OK, those folks won't form the new governance as they've shown they're not suited to the task."

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Attaboy, Adrian

Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce president, Adrian Johnson, wrote a compelling letter to the editor, printed in today's Morning Star.

It's not only written in a fluid and interesting style, the points he raises are credible.  He thinks "outside the box", a decidedly 180-degree turn from the utterings of the elected officials and bureaucrats that surround us.
No fear-mongering, no circling the wagons.
Just optimism.

Mr. Johnson's letter follows:

"A typical day for me starts off with a glass of water supplied by the Regional District of the North Okanagan (and returned to the RDNO a day later).

Then I leave my home in the City of Vernon to drive along the newly paved roads of RDNO's Area C to drop my daughter, Isla, off at a wonderful daycare.  The sort of rural daycare that could only be found in the regional district.

After that, I travel to my office in the City of Vernon to work with my clients -- businesses from across the North Okanagan.

If I'm lucky, I'll spend a very pleasant evening with Isla and my wife at the beautiful Kal Beach in Coldstream.

These common and connected activities are enabled by three different local governments and three different costly administrations.

Every day, I depend on the roads, parks and other facilities of these three local governments.  These are generally paid for by the property taxes of their residents.  In some cases, they are paid through a costly, convoluted and often contentious cost-sharing scheme between the areas.

But I only pay property taxes to the City of Vernon.

The City of Vernon was incorporated in 1892 and the District of Coldstream in 1906.  Back then, there were few motor cars to allow a five-minute commute between the two.

People generally worked, played and lived in one municipality.

People drew their water from one municipality and disposed of their waste in one municipality.

Even the Grey Canal, which allowed farming in our united region to flourish, had yet to be built.

One hundred years ago, the geographical administrative boundaries made sense.
That was a long time ago.

They don't make sense any more.  Now, decisions made by the City of Vernon can be of huge importance to the residents of Coldstream.  And vice versa.

The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce was incorporated in 1961, 52 years ago.  The business leaders of that time recognized that, even in 1961, the businesses and people of these municipalities and areas were heavily co-dependent. 

The municipal boundaries were no longer appropriate for effective governance and administration.

Sensibly, the chamber encompasses Vernon, Coldstream and Areas B and C.  The business community was able to make this decision.

Much has changed since 1892.  We residents of these municipalities and areas now live, work and play together.  We should be allowed to decide if we want to be governed together.

The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce supports calls for a referendum on the unification of the District of Coldstream, Areas B and C and the City of Vernon."
Adrian Johnson, Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce president

"My only concern is that he's returning the water to RDNO an entire day later?"  quips Kia.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

I don't give a rat's ass what Eric thinks about the amalgamation drive

...because he was dead against it last time, when a governance review was called by then-minister Ida Chong.

But obviously the Morning Star newspaper contacted the Vernon-Monashee MLA for a story, the first sentence in today's issue which states "Victoria will not dictate the future of Greater Vernon."

The inverse is also true.
We won't allow Victoria to dictate the future of Lesser Vernon...again.
Which is what Victoria did by ignoring calls for amalgamation last time.

Is it any wonder that people aren't contacting Eric?
He stated "I thought I would see a lot of letters...or emails to my office."  The Rolke article states "Foster would not speculate on why he has not been contacted by residents on possible amalgamation."

Gee, lemmee guess (... eyes return to first sentence...)

So let's end Eric's doe-eyed wonderment.
People haven't contacted his office because he was the hold-out last time the amalgamation issue was raised by residents and some elected officials.  There was a good chance it could have proceeded had Eric Foster NOT pooh-poohed the amalgamation concept among his colleagues in Victoria.

He is enamored and smitten--for reasons unknown--with the philosophy of regional districts.

Maybe it's because there are more meetings for him to attend.

Maybe he likes things moving in never-ending circles...if that can be called moving

"I have heard almost nothing," states our Member of the Legislative Assembly in the story.

Ya think? 

Let's hope the new Minister in Victoria knows that Eric Foster can't be trusted by his constituents.

Welcome aboard, Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development minister Coralee Oakes

"The new minister is from the Cariboo," offers Kia, adding "none of Eric's pontificating goes very far up there."

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Kudos to Catherine Lord

But you've gotta ask:  is she the only Vernon Councillor who thought the 35-page draft parking enforcement policy was ludicrous?

Yup...35 pages.
 On parking enforcement policy at Vernon City Hall.

Thirty-five pages!

Today's Morning Star newspaper reported:  City staff say the goal of the policy is to educate the public on issues related to parking and meters.

"It's absolutely ridiculous."
Catherine Lord, City of Vernon councillor

"We're trying to put everything out there in a plain and transparent manner," said Amanda Watson, a transportation technician.

"A lot of it is common sense, and we've done away with that."
Catherine Lord

But Lord counters that the magnitude of the document means most residents will never turn a page, reports the story.  "None of my neighbours will read the policy on how to avoid getting a parking ticket," said the councillor.

Educating the public...on how to not get a parking ticket.

The bureaucrats must've missed the letter to the editor a few weeks ago where a woman--obviously of slight stature--complained that the new parking meters were too high for her to see the screen and whether her coin actually gave her parking minutes!

So much bureaucratic crap... 

"What is a transportation technician anyway?" enquires Kia.

Ask only Catherine Lord that question.