Friday, October 31, 2014

A Bureaucrat Went to a Seminar

That's usually how it begins.

And presto--registration, hotel, meals and mileage later--a new program pops up.
Roll out the concept.
Give it "weight" by advertising it in the newspaper under the city's redesigned logo and banner.

No matter that it's at odds with something called "appropriate timing".
Or rolled out despite timing.

Consider the City of Vernon's Boulevard Tree Program.
(Bureaucrat:  Ignore the satirical URL: "lifestyles", "sustainability".)

It appears that the City of Vernon has a "tree canopy goal", as referenced in the document.
Who knew?
Sure trees have a canopy; their branches also hang down and extend outwards in all directions.
Some of them have roots that do that too.

I heard of an East Hill "bylaw infraction" just last week:   
The owner was contacted by a Vernon Bylaw officer and given less than a week--before being fined--to prune an elm tree's profusion of stringy branches "overhanging a sidewalk" (but rooted in the owners back yard), and up-prune branches of a maple tree that was "reducing driver visibility".

But when I read the program's additional benefit:  "increase infrastructure longevity", I could almost hear laughter.

The same property owner had plumbing issues a few years ago...slow running drains.  A plumber was hired, then another a year later -- this time with a pipe camera.  The plumber's camera (an unrelated 7-minute video is here) showed a break exactly where the property's drain connected to the city's sewer at the property line.  And, yup, you guessed it!  "You can't fight City Hall" came to mind as this result proves:  The City of Vernon said the problem began on the homeowner's side of the sewer connection!

But the REAL issue with the City's Boulevard Tree Program is timing.

Haven't we sucked in our collective breath on receiving the October quarterly water invoice?
Haven't we heard that golf courses are about to go belly-up because even effluent water rates are spiking?
A recent commenter on a blog story offered:  5 or 6 Middleton Mountain residents told the landscaper they were shocked to see October water bills of between $350 and $500...

So, it's with amusement we read further on the City's boulevard tree program:

"Residents will be responsible for basic ongoing care, including watering and weeding
(and) sign a commitment to provide this care for the tree(s) next to their property"

In an attempt to prevent additional bylaw officer tours--via his City-provided-and-fuelled vehicle, I'd bet a sunny summer day the East Hill property owner will not ask the City to plant boulevard trees in front of his residence.

Wonder if anyone will notice that another "benefit" of a boulevard tree is that it "improves views".

Graphic of Edmonton's planned boulevard tree program.

"I can still see the Speedo-suited neighbour mowing his lawn," complains Kia, "so much about improving views".

You'll see him forever because branches lower down the trunk aren't allowed...

Maybe he'll move next door to the bureaucrat...

Thursday, October 30, 2014

No End to Unparalleled Gouging on Water Rates

Water continues to go uphill, at least its rates.

Even wastewater (effluent) rates, despite the Mayors of Vernon and Coldstream--who sit on the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee--knowing full well that effluent must be used for irrigation to prevent further discharges to Okanagan Lake.

Effluent should be a win-win situation for golf courses and communities.
Most certainly, effluent irrigation should be extended to orchards and fields. 

But No siree, Bob!

Bureaucrats at Greater Vernon Water have been busy beavers moving decimal points, despite residents' wishes the bureaucrats themselves would simply pack up and go away.

Ready to give bureaucrats a last ride out of town are owners of area golf courses that use effluent, and for good reason.

"Treated wastewaters are an inexpensive water source," states a Saskatchewan publication on page 2 of 6.
Maybe in Saskatchewan.
But not in Bring Cash, especially in the North Okanagan. 

The same bureaucrats at North Okanagan Regional District who are gouging area golf courses are also now dumping effluent sludge--from Metro Vancouver, 325 km distant via diesel haulers--on a future North Okanagan park. 

Here are the damages when per hectare costs soar in 10 years from $224 per hectare to $3,199, which is a staggering  1,328 % increase.

Predator Ridge:  2014 price was $143,352; in 2015 the price is slated to be $234,587.  Up 63.6 %

The Rise, fresh from a court-ordered sale:  2014 was $31,103; in 2015 it'll be $50,400.  Up 62 %

Vernon Golf and Country Club:  2014 was Zero (agreement); in 2015 it's $141,000.  Whammy!

Hillview Golf and Highlands Golf have no access to effluent, and are forced to use potable water at horrendous rates.  Soon that chlorinated water will be filtered too.  (Interesting that this 45-page Okanagan Basin Water Board-commissioned study (Dobson) didn't know Highlands existed at the study's publication in 2010...Highlands Golf has been in the yellow pages of the phone book since 2002).

And since Highlands' third quarter water bill is payable to the District of Coldstream tomorrow, I checked versus the same period in 2013.  Yup...61.9 % increase for Highlands Golf over last year!

Spallumcheen Golf and Country Club pays $15,000 annually because they're lucky enough to be in Spallumcheen, north of us.

The real clincher, though, is what other golf courses, some south of us, pay...big championship golf courses:
Kelowna Golf Club:  $16,000 a year for potable irrigation water.
Gallagher's Canyon Golf Club: $12,000 a year for potable irrigation water.

Effluent-using golf courses south of us:  Penticton Golf and Country Club:  no charge for effluent.
Osoyoos Golf and Country Club pays one dollar a year.

"Those effluent rates give an entirely new meaning to 'are you sitting down?' states Kia. 

Maybe we should all relocate to Saskatchewan.
Shorter golf season AND inexpensive water.

Or ask Al Horning to move here.  He's a champion of the Black Mountain Water District, just 35 km south of us.

Maybe he will visit.
And bring a big stick.

"Hate bureaucracy, and the bureaucrats that practice it."
Jack Welch, former Chairman, GM

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Councillor Kiss' Stance Corroborated by Five Mayoralty Candidates

Frankly, it's high time that Gyula Kiss' long-held opinion on the amended Master Water Plan received stronger support than that received from his own mayor--Jim Garlick of the District of Coldstream, who is also a Greater Vernon Advisory Committee member.

Councillor Kiss has been stalwart in his condemnation of Greater Vernon Water's plans for a $70 million referendum this November.  His educated and reasoned opinions were this week corroborated--indeed vindicated--by all five candidates vying to be Mayor of Vernon.
All five will vote "No" in the referendum.

This blog has featured Gyula Kiss' stance on the topic:   June 28th story here and April 9th story here and February 7th story here and June 27th story here and October 9th story here and March 8th story here.  And more.

The five candidates in Vernon have obviously listened to neighbours and residents.

Acclaimed District of Coldstream mayor, Jim Garlick will again likely not support Councillor Kiss' relentless pursuit of a peer review for the plan...he certainly didn't push very hard when he had the opportunity.
Actually, opportunities.
Also silent on the topic are the District of Coldstream's candidates for councillor positions.

"The referendum will receive assent from a few engineers at Greater Vernon Water," forecasts Kia.

What really ticks people off is the continual fear-mongering by engineers at GVW that "Interior Health could order the work" (if the referendum fails).

After almost a year of silence, an Interior Health official last week stated that wasn't necessarily going to occur.


It's refreshing indeed to hear candidates for political office share residents' opinions--versus that of the majority of elected officials (except Councillor Kiss) on this topic.

At least for now...until bureaucrats begin chipping away at successful candidates.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Letters of Significance

Occasionally, letters to the editor offer interesting and reflective opinions.
Letters in yesterday's Morning Star were a welcome break from the customary litany of lint.

The first is from Dana Mills:

"I find the current master water plan presented to Vernon and district taxpayers to be very limited in scope and lacking innovative thought.

The Regional District of North Okanagan and Interior Health Authority are telling you to borrow $70 million because the need is exigent, but what's really needed is time for a much more critical review of the actual situation.

I can't understand why RDNO and their "experts" are so adamant about separation and large, single or dual treatment facilities as opposed to a more distributed approach.  It appears that the existing treated water from the Duteau facility is actually pretty good most of the time.

By removing chlorination and other disinfection from there, the water would be cheaper and could still be used for both agricultural and domestic purposes without significant changes to existing infrastructure or operations.  The Duteau plant is more than what's needed but the point is, it's already there, in operation, and paid for (sort of).

With minor system upgrades, a few simple, small-scale facilities could then be installed to finish the treated water already available.  The water would then be potable for introduction to your various domestic distribution systems.

Primarily, these would be disinfection stations to provide a barrier and a residual to inactivate pathogens.  Trihalomethane (fact sheets here) problems, if you really have any now, should actually go away due to reduced dosage and contact time.   Industrial and agricultural users could easily filter and disinfect on-site if required; a lot already do.

That still leaves the turbidity event problem.  It seems to me that turbidity guidelines from the existing Duteau plant are exceeded for only a couple of short periods during each year, and these events generally fall outside times of heavy agricultural use.

I think RDNO could deal with these events at an operational level by using a different, unaffected source and maybe drawing down the potable water stored in existing reservoirs.

In other words, turn off the Duteau water available to domestic users until the event is over and the turbidity levels are again acceptable.  If you do not actually use turbid water for drinking water then you are not technically violating IHA demands.  This should allow RDNO at least a decade to develop a much more cost effective master water plan, and there's no harm in asking IHA for a variance either.

I know, I know -- fire flows, etc. would be affected but these are just excuses.  Also note that treatment plants in a box are already available.  A number of world class companies are making some very good products and a lot of research is ongoing to make treatment more environmentally friendly.

Please seriously consider other options and vote no in the upcoming referendum.  IHA is not going to risk a public relations nightmare by immediately forcing you to spend the money anyway.

Don't be swayed by RDNO scare tactics -- your water is already safe.  I was raised in Vernon and my siblings and 85 year old mother still reside there.

They tell me Vernon is becoming a very expensive place to live."
Dana Mills 

"Hear, hear!" applauds Kia, adding "Coldstream councillor Kiss requested a peer review of the new master water plan, but was denied.  He wasn't supported by RDNO--nor, for that matter--his own mayor, who waffled under the power of the advisory committee and regional district."

The second letter is from Donna Lochhead:

"If I could change some things in this city, I would start at Vernon city hall.

Ya ya, I know all of you folks out there that would say the cost to change would far outweigh any savings we would see but...

  1. Smaller buses would use less fuel.  Less fuel, more economical, and perhaps fewer traffic jams in the downtown core at peak periods.
  2. Stop sending fire trucks out every time an ambulance is called only to have them turn around and head back to the fire hall because they are not needed.  Less fuel, more savings.
  3. Pay firemen one rate when they are actually putting out fires and another when they are on call waiting at the fire hall.  I'm sure you would find savings when you look at their salaries versus calls.
  4. Put some money into the not so pretty arteries of this city.  Update ancient (I'm not even calling it old anymore) infrastructure.  It's the stuff you can't see that needs the most work.  Spend less on road calming, road diets, pretty roundabouts and more on sidewalks, sewer and water lines.
  5. Go back to the clear bag recycling.  Put the people back to work that lost their jobs at the recycling depot and help the environment by not driving.  Now that Christy Clark and her gang have implemented this new recycling (without any dialogue with the public), I'm waiting for her to raise the gas tax because we now have to drive to the recycling depot to drop off what we use(sic) to be able to leave curbside.
  6. Find opportunities to work with developers on affordable housing and business leaders on creating jobs.
Do we need more million or half-million-dollar homes carving up the hills?  We need affordable homes and some jobs so that young people can afford to buy them.

Oh boy, what if?"
                                         Donna Lochhead                                                            

"Disagree with the suggestion for an 'on-call' fireman rate... ambulance attendants get only $2.00 an hour while sitting in the station waiting for calls...nobody can raise a family on that pittance," states Kia.

What's that maxim about ratios of letters received?
Something about...for each letter...thousands (who did not write) concur...


Thursday, October 23, 2014

When Bureaucracy Becomes a Three-Sided Coin

That's when ridiculousness materializes.

When the loudest noise is the invisible wheels of local government screeching to a hard stop.

That noise is generally only a fleeting annoyance to the public as we read the local paper.

But every now and then, reading the local paper's take on bureaucratic "issues" immediately produces another noise...."oh puh-lease" from readers.

Take two recent examples:

It's local election time and, naturally, candidate signs have been popping up at roadsides in communities.

The soil hadn't yet settled around signs' posts when Vernon's bureaucrats reminded the sitting council that candidates were in violation of the Sign Bylaw they themselves enacted or--more accurately--approved.  (Bylaws are generally enacted after submission of a "staff (bureaucratic) report".

Turns out that Vernon's bylaw "doesn't permit election signs on public right(sic)-of-way," as editorialized by Rolke in The Morning Star yesterday.  Sitting councillor Brian Quiring had the pluck to state what I felt myself on reading the story "I think it's's like Christmas for the bylaw guys -- let's yank these things down."

Some candidates' signs were on rights-of-way, some were posted on private property with the permission of the landowner.  If rights-of-way signage were to be pulled down by the bylaw guys, the "city would be seen to favour some candidates over others."   And Vernon's top bureaucrat attests "we don't."

Rolke had his take on it:  "By shelving the rules for politicians, the wrong message is being sent...consider that candidates can post signs where they want without ramification but if a non-profit agency hangs a fundraising banner without the required permit ... it gets ripped down."

Reporter Rolke suggests if election candidates are de facto exempt from the bylaw, "they may ... have bent the law."

That's two sides of the coin.

The third side of the coin, to this member of the public, assumes that both aspiring and sitting politicians -- and bureaucrats haven't forgotten a recent provincial focus to reduce and eliminate Red Tape.
Unnecessary red tape.

Remember that?
I do.
But bureaucrats obviously don't. 

So what are bureaucrats' plans four years from now?
Send election hopefuls a $50 invoice for legal placement of an election sign?
Is that why communities have a Sign Bylaw in the first place?

Maybe it's the bureaucratic way of preventing this...

Farm properties' (business) signs in Oliver, B.C.

or perhaps to prevent a physical repeat by the biggest sign landlord in the province, Pattison Ltd., whose highway billboards are so numerous that they denote sign pollution...think Highway 97 west of Kelowna's bridge.

Yet another three-sided coin:
The public's "oh puh-lease" sour mood can be forgiven from this second feature--albeit front-page:   "Officials delay action on gateway signs", crumbling gateway signs, featured in the October 17th issue. 

Seems the Regional District of North Okanagan "doesn't have a function for the operation and maintenance of these signs", said RDNO top bureaucrat David Sewell.  Sewell stated repairs were a "challenge".

These signs were installed six years ago by Greater Vernon's "then-economic development function...which disbanded in 2009" reports the newspaper. 

Even if the "service" ("function" maintain the signs) were created, it would apparently depend on whether Vernon, Coldstream and two electoral areas "wanted to participate" (read:  pay for it).  They must've been involved when the three signs were planned and installed.  Was there no thought given to maintaining the signs?

But "even if the signs were demolished," director Sawatzky (and current Vernon mayor, who has chosen to retire from politics) said "You'd still need a budget to take them down."

"Oh puh-lease" pops into my mind, the only printable response to those quotes.


That word alone is another three-sided coin.
It's a noun and a verb, but Regional District bureaucrats don't seem to understand it.

Regional District directors should've more accurately named it a Department, a noun, as in "department of".

Vernon councillor Mary-Jo O'Keefe called it correctly during last year's "amalgamation" non-study when she considered the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee directorship of the regional district "'s dysfunctional."

"Three-sided coins lead to the public's sour moods," affirms Kia.

And it will ever be thus.
To the laughter of bureaucrats.

"Hate bureaucracy, and the bureaucrats that practise it."
Jack Welch, former Chairman, GM 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Unabashed Un-bashing

Sorry, Morning Star newspaper.
You did feature new Coldstream councillor candidate, Shane Hillman, wayyyyy early in the campaign, back on September 7th, 2014 (posted October 14th, 2014).
I missed it.

The blog bashed the newspaper October 16th for neglecting a Hillman bio, "November Elections Mark End of Silly Season".

So here's a verbatim cut-n-paste of the Morning Star article, written and photographed by Jennifer Smith.

"Hockey and politics may be completely different leagues, but a local player/referee/coach is hoping to move off the sidelines in his community and score a seat on council.

Shane Hillman is putting his name forward for Coldstream councillor in the November election.

Along with providing a fresh set of eyes to various issues, Hillman says his on-ice experience makes him a good fit for the job.
“As a referee there’s two things you learn very quickly. One: You have to have thick skin. Two: You’re never going to be able to please everybody.”

Shane Hillman (J.Smith photo, Morning Star)

The 32-year-old is a stay-at-home dad to his five-year-old daughter, but with kindergarten about to start soon Hillman will have the time necessary to dedicate to the position.

If elected, Hillman plans to look at every subject objectively, taking everyone into consideration.

“I’m the type of person that’s going to look at an issue and I’m going to understand both sides of it. I’m not going to go into it with a pre-conceived notion.”

He is eager to preserve Coldstream’s motto: rural living at its best. Using the pellet plant as one example, Hillman says it looks as though it will proceed, but that doesn’t mean efforts have to stop for a healthy industry.

“We need to find a way to make sure the health and environment in our community is our top priority.”

Hillman is happy with the current council, but is hoping to add a different face to the mix.

“I do think that after six years with the same council, it’s time for at least a new view or a fresh look at the issues.”

Hillman was born and raised in Vancouver but spent many summers in the Okanagan and moved to Coldstream in 2006 with his wife."

"Welcome to Coldstream, Shane, we need a referee," suggests Kia, "between residents and our 'pragmatic socialist' mayor."

Good that Shane's not an acreage owner...he'd hightail it back to the Coast once he discovered RU10/RU30 and its effect on people here.

A tip o' the hat to Shane for allowing his name to stand.
He's done what numerous other folks refused to do.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Three-Time Mayor of Distinction

No, it's not Jim Garlick, Coldstream's recently acclaimed third-time mayor.

The mayor of distinction was one hell of a mayor, intent on taking a zero from the budget, quickly declaring that "sustainability starts when you take two zeros from your budget." 

At a time when mayors all over the province of British Columbia are increasingly chastised by taxpayers for spending, spending, spending--with no relief in sight--he turned his city into the world's greenest.

He is Jamie Lerner, the three-time mayor of the city of Curitiba, the eighth most populous city in Brazil.  Its three million inhabitants are the benefactors of Mr. Lerner's creativity and ambition and common sense.  So is Mother Earth.  After three terms as mayor, he twice became governor of the state of Parana, Brazil.

"You have to keep things simple, and just start working.
You have a lot of complexity-sellers in this life.
We should beat them, beat them with a slipper."
Jamie Lerner

Curitiba, Brazil? of the host cities for last year's FIFA World Cup, the city in 2010 was awarded the Global Sustainable City Award, given to cities and municipalities that excel in sustainable urban development.

Aerial view of two neighbourhoods of Curitiba, Brazel (Wikipedia)

He brought credentials to the mayor's job, being an architect and urban planner.  But it's his common sense that led to world-wide acclaim:  a number of major awards for his transportation, design, and environmental work, including the United Nations Environment Award; the Prince Claus Award, given by the Netherlands; Urban Heroes Principal Award, and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Architecture in 1997, given by the University of Virginia. In 2002, Lerner was elected president of the International Union of Architects, Child and Peace Award from UNICEF (1996), the 2001 World Technology Award for Transportation, and the 2002 Sir Robert Mathew Prize for the Improvement of Quality of Human Settlements.

In 2010 Lerner was nominated among the 25 most influential thinkers in the world by the Time magazine and in 2011, in recognition for his leadership, vision and contribution in the field or sustainable urban mobility, he received the Leadership in Transport Award, granted by the International Transport Forum at the OECD.  His firm Jamie Lerner Associated Architects develops projects for the public and private sectors for cities in Brazil and abroad, such as Porto Alegre, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Brasília, Florianópolis, Recife, Luanda (Angola), David (Panama), Durango, Oaxaca, Mazatlán (Mexico) and Santiago de Los Caballeros (Dominican Republic).

In Curitiba, Mr. Lerner's leadership built parks instead of canals to reduce flooding; used parks to make the city more liveable; pedestrianised the downtown area, where no cars are allowed; invented and built Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), a bus system whose 6-minute intervals assure ridership on articulating buses.  It works like a light rail system but is 10 times cheaper and it carries six million riders daily.  He began a massive recycling scheme that included giving people bus tokens in return for waste.  Under Mr. Lerner, the city purchased a block of land that would house 50,000 lower income people, all of whom would construct their own houses following a free one-hour meeting with an architect.

Wikipedia sums up Brazil's political system at the time Mr. Lerner became mayor:  "In the days before free, direct elections, mayors were political appointees who were no more than pawns in the game of power politics and were subject to replacement at any time. For an idealistic young architect like Lerner, retaining the mayor's office was particularly precarious. Those holding the reins of power at the time were under the mistaken impression that Lerner's youth would make him easy to control. As it turned out, he was no milquetoast, and subsequently set about enthusiastically pursuing reform."

Recycling in Curitiba was a challenge, and results under Jamie Lerner proved to be a radical, but successful, reform.  Compare that to the abject abandonment by North Okanagan politicians when residents recently complained of our area's new recycling program that now requires numerous automobile trips to various community depots which still accept recyclables that the new recycling company (unaffectionately termed Mini-Material B.C.) will not!

"I've often equated automobiles with mothers-in-law.
We have to get along with our mother-in-law,
but not let them run our lives."
Jamie Lerner

What did Lerner do?  In 1989, nearby slum residents were dumping their trash in rivers and fields, as there were no collections from their narrow streets. Lerner arranged for a truck to visit the slum at fixed times each week, and residents' rubbish was exchanged for bus tickets, football tickets and shows. Soon, the locals were cleaning the rivers and fields of old rubbish to sell. Schoolchildren were given new plastic toys for old bottles and bags in a scheme called "Garbage that's not garbage".  Separation of organic and non-organic waste improved efficiencies further.  Local homeless people and alcoholics were employed at the recycling plant, where they also retrained on computers they rescued from the city's bins. Curitiba's fishermen were even paid to fish for rubbish.

He says that cities can be the solution to climate change, not the problem, if handled correctly.  And it wasn't to borrow more money (another region borrowed $800 million from the World Bank), and Lerner stated emphatically that pollution is changed through mentality, not loans, not money.  He got the people on side through common sense.

Mr. Lerner's reputation is now known world-wide, and his firm Jamie Lerner Associated Architects has urban planning projects that are innovative and productive. 

Sao Paulo elevated parks project (JLAA photo)

"portable streets" allow vendors to set up virtually anywhere in a town.  (JLAA photo)

The best 30 minutes of a mayor's day, or an urban planner's day, is this 15-minute video of Jamie Lerner speaking at a symposium, followed by the 15-minute video of Curitiba's successful transformation here at YouTube.

"Any chance Jamie Lerner would like to the North Okanagan? muses Kia.

...where there are a lot of "complexity sellers", most of whom are bureaucrats.

Jamie Lerner would "see" through all that, yet our elected (and acclaimed) officials do not.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

November Elections Mark End of Silly Season

At the least, the end of silly season may extend the months-long yawning produced by frivolous media "stories" that run the gamut from ensuring your smoke detectors are functional to pages-long features on which car(s) your family can no longer afford to purchase (not necessarily a bad thing given the profusion of manufacturer recalls scant months later).

At best, local elections could offer a resurgence to stories of substance.
They should.
It depends on the hopefuls, both nominees and voters.  

Hopeful voters?
Yes indeed.

And a renewed fervor to feel our votes ensure that democracy is alive and well in our personal hamlets.  We somehow missed Democracy Week--observed at Okanagan College by then-nominee Mel Arnold for member of parliament (Conservative)--fueling a subconscious twinge of a time when a functional democracy wasn't relegated to one week a year. 

First a message to the one percenters:  
Despite the likelihood they're exercising their snowbird option in mid-November, they most assuredly own property in an adjacent community.  Do they remember they can vote in a municipal election wherever they own property?  (see pages 3 and 4 of 10 here).   I know...I know...a bit of a pain all that driving around with the requisite B.C. Assessment appraisal(s) in hand as proof of ownership (here is Coldstream's Non-Resident Property Elector Consent Form) just so one can vote for--or more accurately, against--candidates whose election can affect what you own.  Think Greater Vernon Advisory Committee.  Or, if you live in Vernon, the effect RU10/RU30--still on the books in Coldstream's edited Official Community Plan--has on your East Coldstream acreage(s).

Back to this year's election in our personal hamlets.
Belying the 5 kilometre proximity between the City of Vernon and District of Coldstream, Vernon's hopefuls for mayor number five candidates to Coldstream's unchallenged two-timer and "pragmatic socialist" Jim Garlick.  For Council, Vernon has 14 vying, to Coldstream's seven, for 6 councillor seats in each jurisdiction.  (Here is Vernon's official list of candidates, with the list for that bastion of NIMBY-ism--Coldstream--list here.)

Shame on the Morning Star newspaper for excluding a "getting to know you" story on Shane Hillman, the only new candidate for Coldstream council about whom nothing appears to be known by the electorate.  Hopefully the publication will step up and do a story on Mr. Hillman toute de suite.   (Glen Taylor--another candidate for council--previously served). 

Reporter Rolke--in an editorial mid-September--sought to provide the pros and cons of numerous--versus few--candidates, but he omitted one factor that is widely discussed among residents:  unelected bureaucrats run our communities (and elected officials, mostly around in circles like mules at a gristmill, think Greater Vernon Advisory Committee...again). 

Perhaps that's the reason Coldstream Mayor Garlick was acclaimed mayor; residents know that the regional district's unelected officials have imposed a decidedly-socialist Growth Management Strategy (verbatim text originated from Victoria's socialist bureaucrats).  Despite Garlick's claims of "progress" having been made on various projects, including the unbelievably misleading phrase of "OCP housekeeping", maybe it really doesn't matter who is elected as mayor. 

Truth be known, two re-writes of Coldstream's Official Community Plan (see Sept. 19th story here) which--despite vehement opposition by the Coldstream Acreage Owners' Association--maintains its push to enact RU10/RU30.

Two rewrites?  Yup.  Read the Sept 19th blog entry about the waste of our money, then remind yourself incumbent Garlick "takes pride in completing tasks, no matter how big or small."

Back to bureaucrats running things.
And their wages.

Legislative reporter Tom Fletcher's recent Black Press (owner of Vernon's Morning Star newspaper) article entitled "Does CUPE (and here) run city hall?" provides some insight to burgeoning wages of bureaucrats, with Coldstream's Mayor Garlick in a media release dated October 7th bringing the topic home.  "The new agreement will see incremental wage increases of 8.5 per cent over the term of the five-year small adjustments to existing benefits..." gushed the mayor over the "hard work of both negotiating teams in reaching the settlement."

"As local election turnout has gone from bad to worse, municipal employees themselves have become an
increasingly dominant voting bloc." Tom Fletcher

Fletcher's article says "Things have been going pretty well for the main municipal union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, for the last couple of decades.  As local election turnout has gone from bad to worse, municipal employees themselves have become an increasingly dominant voting bloc."

He continued that Ernst and Young numbers show pay increases for municipal union staff of 38 per cent between 2001 and 2012, compared to 19 per cent for unionized provincial staff.  Plus what municipalities are spending generally!  A Globe and Mail story highlights the disparity among reports.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark chastised politicians attending the September UBCM meeting at Whistler, saying in effect that municipal bureaucrats were, in some cases, earning more than deputy ministers in Victoria.  A 2011 story by Farrell's excellent blog Northern Insights on Executive Compensation--even at just B.C. Ferries and B.C. Hydro--proves that municipal leaders shouldn't flinch from the shadow cast by Premier Clark's executives.

Seems municipal politicians have learned from the best.
And we're stuck paying for the rest.

Sour grapes as we enter election season in the North Okanagan?
Nope, not at all.

I'm simply envious that Taxpayers First hasn't made a sojourn northward about 40 km.

Will I vote?
Damn right I will.

You'll know me by my lapel pin: 

Socialism is a philosophy of failure,
the creed of ignorance,
and the gospel of envy,
 its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.
(Winston Churchill)

"I'm unfortunately unable to vote," muses Kia, adding "but as Alan Wilson said in a recent letter to the editor, 'give us something to vote for'."

Any business owner out there who had a 38 per cent wage increase in 10 years?
Or even 19 per cent?
Didn't think so.
Me neither.

A future blog story will feature the most wonderful mayor in the world...nope, it's nobody from this area, as you likely guessed.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Investigative Journalism, Where Are You?

Incompatible software may be an issue for the engineering department at Greater Vernon Water, as stated in Rolke's story (the Morning Star, October 5, 2014), but that has certainly never led to "making it difficult to set water rates", as the writer intimates.

GVW has been gouging residents for years, first begun in Michael Stamhuis' reign while it was still called the North Okanagan Water Authority, then successive heads Badke, Cotsworth and now Marcolin.

Ask any water user in the area and they'll be quick to tell you their water rates have gone up 400 per cent in 10 years, with a $70 million borrowing water referendum on the ballot still ahead in November.

So how in hell could incompatible software within the City of Vernon, District of Coldstream and the Regional District of North Okanagan make it difficult to set water rates, as Rolke's article so blindly apes.

Wonder what water rates would be if software programs had been compatible?
Yes, I do too.
You can bet the car that they wouldn't be lower than today's uberprice.

So how can a newspaper reporter print that abject drivel...

The engineering department's "struggles" aside, an astute reader will realize how pro-amalgamation the solution is (and always has been).  Even the Regional District's new head honcho, David Sewell, jumped in with both feet when he suggested "We could consider moving to a single billing jurisdiction."

Ya think?

Yes we could.
And down the road we will.
Perhaps for more than billing.

"If his business card states 'investigative journalist', he's  impersonating a professional," says Kia matter-of-factly.

It all just reads like press releases.
Unedited press releases.

Maybe there's a supply of airsickness bags in his cubicle.

Swaying Directors 101

First, baffle 'em with bullshit...apart from the requisite myriad lengthy reports, prevent any director (and heaven forbid, multiple directors) from declaring that a bureaucrat's incompetence should lead to their termination.

Secondly, remember the motto "time heals all"...Greater Vernon directors are--monthly--faced with an Agenda that frequently exceeds 70 pages (the October 2/14 agenda was 82 pages), so if a bureaucrat drags an issue with successive "reports"--preferably lengthy reports--from one meeting to another, to yet another, directors will by then have grown tired of the issue's "lack of newness" and want it to go away.

Seemed to work.

Case in point:  the Highlands Golf private fire hydrant.
You may recall earlier blog entries (here and here and here and here and here) where I first tried to donate my private fire hydrant to Coldstream, then to Greater Vernon Water, with some to-and-fro'ing.

All because my annual tax on it is $560 this year, up from $470 last year.
But there's more to it than that, as many other "private fire hydrant" owners have never been charged Penny One for their hydrants.
So I was asking for procedural fairness, an obviously unknown term at Engineering.

And RDNO engineer McTaggart either outright lied when he said there were 17 private fire hydrant owners, and then a month later that there were 123 private fire hydrant owners...or proved his incompetence with the disparity between the two numbers.  It could be either. or both.

Back to how to sway Greater Vernon Advisory Committee directors.

The latest bureaucratic installment to directors on private fire hydrants is the 3-pager found on pages 10 thru 12 here.
Doubt there's anyone who believes that that document addresses the lack of procedural fairness in charging me $560.

Nor does it touch on--let alone reply to--GVAC chair Juliette Cunningham's comment at the September meeting regarding the $560 annual rate:  "I think we (directors) agree the rate for your private fire hydrant is exorbitant."

So, while Engineering has not addressed the "exorbitant rate" with an explanation--any explanation at all, they have managed to confuse directors.

Confuse them?
Engineering has confused directors.

Taking the heat of incompetence off themselves, Engineering has now soft-shoed nicely and pointed directors to new (albeit related) issues: 
  • that there are indeed people who use unmetered fire hydrants for washing driveways (ours has never issued a drop for any purpose, even to fight a fire),
  • that the annual tax for my fire hydrant is higher than that levied by the City of Vancouver ($500), the City of Kelowna ($301.44 flat fee), and the City of Prince George ($150 annual fire hydrant maintenance fee),
  • that some owners contract parking lot, road and sidewalk cleaning, (we do not...ever) with contractors connecting to a private hydrant, which is unmetered water use that puts the drinking water supply at risk from cross connection contamination,
  • that Engineering proposes staff develop policies and procedures on use and maintenance of private hydrants.  They want to track annual maintenance of fire hydrants, outline acceptable uses and conditions (requiring backflow prevention), educate private hydrant owners and develop enforcement measures for non-compliance.   Policy direction would see rates for unmetered use reexamined in 2015 based on policy conditions.  Use?  we do not use it...ever... and lastly,
  • that staff time will be required to not only develop the policy and procedures, staff time is also needed to track annual maintenance, liaison with private hydrant owners and provide education on the GVW policy and carry out enforcement.
It took a year to find out that public hydrants are charged $133 annually versus my charge of $560.
No-one (not directors, not politicians, not bureaucrats) have given a reason for the disparity.

Did I receive procedural fairness?

No, not even an explanation why I was charged so much when other private fire hydrant owners (some are large facilities in Vernon) were not charged at all...ever.  On the contrary, Greater Vernon engineering tars everyone with the same brush by announcing to directors that some private fire hydrant owners use hydrant water to wash parking lots and driveways. 

And naturally, Engineering blames the three separate software programs in Coldstream, Vernon and the Regional District for not being able to put together a valid and substantial--and meaningful--list.

Any business owner or someone with a modicum of accounting acumen would know what to do:  get a clerk in each community to enter each annual invoice to a spreadsheet by certain categories, i.e. name/address, size and quantity of connection(s), metered/unmetered, historical cubic metres consumed, and invoice amounts, regardless of the software used to produce their invoices.

So my "exorbitant rate" issue will likely lead to the hiring of more bureaucrats, as well as new bylaws.

"Do you think GVAC directors know they've been led through a maze by their noses?" queries Kia.

Most certainly.

It's sure a far cry from:  "I think we (directors) agree the rate for your private fire hydrant is exorbitant."

Like any old issue in an 80-page agenda each month, directors just want the topic to go away.

It's by design that the individual on the scale is small and insignificant.

Two Week Hiatus

Bloody wonderful, frankly.
Ignoring stuff, both the earth-shattering and yawn-producing stuff.

Following the tedious annual six-hour irrigation line blow-out at the golf course on Monday October 6th and the clubhouse shutdown, where chairs and tables inexplicably seem to become heavier each year, I had a new incentive to get finished...spending lots of time with our only grandchild, five-month old Theron.

Theron Bryce
Delightful lad, always cheerful and happy.
Kinda like his grandma before maddening, infuriating stuff occurred, thanks to government (partially) and bureaucrats (mostly).

Oh yes, the maddening stuff.
Back to that, now that my two-week break is over and the golf course is closed until Spring.

My year-long (yup, it's been one year!) attempt to achieve a semblance of procedural fairness from Greater Vernon Water's discriminatory practices on private fire hydrant billing was again brought to the fore when I ran into old friend Dave Lowry the other day while shopping. 

After the heartfelt hug and exchanged assurances on good health, Dave asked "what happened with your private fire hydrant issue?"

Apart from the (too-early, in my view) resurrection of the maddening stuff, Dave's baritone voice had piqued the attention of several shoppers in that checkout line, obvious from the turning of their heads having heard Dave's question, first to Dave, then to me.

Waiting to hear the answer.

So I replied, attempting to match the timbre of Dave's voice so that listeners could clearly hear.  

"Initially I was encouraged by GVAC chair Juliette Cunningham's comment at my September 'delegation' at RDNO when she summed up 'I think we (directors) all agree the rate for your private fire hydrant is exorbitant'.  No director opposed her summation."

Dave's wry smile told me he knew what I was up to.
After all, how often does one get a captive audience such as these few folks waiting to pay for their purchases at the cashier?

So I continued, knowing I had to immediately gain empathy by making a connection with them.

"Just like water rates--where it's not at all about conservation of water but it is about gaining as much revenue as possible--bureaucrats are running the show.  They muddy the waters with four-page reports, time after time, to directors which achieve the intended goal of glazing over directors' eyes.  Directors waffle--rather than direct--and bureaucrats get off the hook with their spurious billing practices.  The word 'exorbitant' was suddenly, somehow lost."

A furtive glance at listeners behind Dave indicated wholehearted agreement.
One even nodded slightly, not at all embarrassed at having listened.

One more sentence, and my gentle tirade would be finished:  "And the new master water plan's referendum this Fall must fail."

Another nod from the same man in the line.

The line started to move again, my minute-and-a-half sermon was over, and Dave and I said our good-byes, promising to stay in touch.

"Who'd have thought a checkout line would become an effective soapbox?" asks Kia.

Yeah, when the topic applies to everyone such as water billing.

Thank you to a Trainee cashier.

Friday, October 3, 2014

"We're being screwed"

That's what a resident said at a public meeting on the Master Water Plan and the upcoming $70 million borrowing referendum in November.

And that's the sentiment of the majority of residents as they discuss the area's water woes.

Councillor Kiss of Coldstream hit the nail on the head when he said that Greater Vernon Water needs to justify building the Duteau Creek treatment plant--whose customers are 80 to 85 per cent crop irrigators.  Otherwise the $29 million construction cost--$12 million of which was paid for by the Federal government--would've been wasted money, n'est-ce pas?

It's hard to believe anything that comes out of Greater Vernon Water...taps.
We'll soon all be irrigating not only with chlorinated water, it'll be filtered too.

Manager Marcolin said the $70 million referendum, if passed, would see the average water bill climb by about $36 a year or an extra $180 by 2019.

Wait a minute. 
The average water bill?
Water bills arrive every 3 months, so four of 'em a year.
So since she said "a year", that would mean the average water bill would increase by $9.00.
(where is that doubtful icon when you need it?)

Yet an $180 increase five years from now, following the above assumption, would in 2019 then mean either $45 more per water bill...or if the amount quoted as per bill, would mean $720 more a year.

All of which was followed by the thinly-veiled threat that the Interior Health Authority could order the water utility to proceed with the work, even if the referendum fails. 

In other words...careful what you wish for, folks, is what Greater Vernon Water appears to be saying.

GVW has an insatiable appetite for revenue, that's certain.

Greater Vernon Water's insatiable appetite for revenue

"The desertification of the North Okanagan continues unabated," muses Kia.

We've gotta start getting more answers by finding all the people that have managed that facility over the last 10 or 15 years...(Stamhuis-architect of the previous master water plan that's been shelved; Badke, Cotsworth) seems they're Managers for a couple of years, then (poof) presto, they're gone.  No responsibility, no accountability, no liability, no justification.  No truth.

The only aspect that remains the same is the consultants who designed the system.  They're the same.

"If only Brian Harvey--the former VID manager--were still around," offers Kia.