Day -23 The Time Line to Transparency

by Mike Andruff

Huh

Ordinary taxpayers must run a gaunlet of obstacles to get simple answers to simple questions. Here is a Time line to Transparency on the subject of the actual costs of the improvements recently made to Pt. Grey Rd. and Cornwall Avenue:

2013

July 16 Council approves Burrard Street Bridge South End Improvements  $6 million

July 29 Council approves Phase 1 of the completion of the Seaside Greenway and creation of the York Bikeway $6 million

2014

May 13 – FOI request emailed to City Hall regarding the actual cost of the work

Jun 23 – City Clerk’s Dept. provides part answer ($2,566,617 to March 31, 2014)

Jun 23 – The letter from the City invited the requester to send a note to the Information and Privacy Commissioner if not satisfied with the response, which I did.

July 2 – Advised by the Information and Privacy Commisioner that a file had been opened for Incomplete Documents.

Oct. 16 – Given Notice that an investigator had been assigned to this matter.

Oct. 20 – Investigator advised that the requestor should have requested documents, not an actual number. It was suggested that the City had actually complied with the Act. For future reference, it was suggested one actually ask for the records. In any event, a contact at the City was arranged for direct contact.

Oct. 20 – The Engineering Dept. was contacted by phone and asked for summary cost reports for the scope of work identified as the two projects noted above.  While offered clarity on the correct description of the work, cost information was not discussed, as there may be privacy issues related to some of the information requested. It was further suggested that next week the individual looking into reporting, may be back in the office.

I have to ask the straight forward question, “Shouldn’t taxpayers, committed by Council to spend some $12 million  have the opportunity to know if the City services department spent the money appropriately?”

The story here is still untold (and I will be happy to report any updates offered), but transparency at City Hall is critically impaired. So dear reader, as you consider your choices for candidates in the next election, perhaps you might ask them how they feel about being forthcoming with the City’s business. Learn their positions, study the issues important to you, and consider this an invitation to define your own time line to transparency, on November 15th – VOTE!

Day -27 The List – Candidates 19 & 20

Sarah Kirby Yung

Michael Wiebe

The park board is often a first stop in a budding politician’s resume. These two candidates will round out The List for park board. Meet Sarah Kirby-Yung and Michael Wiebe.

Sarah brings a marketing background to the table. A mentor of Sarah says “her passion for Vancouver together with her skills, experience and commitment, will make her an excellent Park Board Commissioner.”

Michael’s heart is in the game. He has been a community volunteer at an early age, has worked in government,  is a Mt. Pleasant restauranteur, and an advocate for his community. He wants the voice of the City to be improved to reflect the city’s beautiful attributes.

Day -30 CoV wants a 31% increase in Capital Plan Borrowing

by Mike Andruff

Capital IdeaWhen you walk into your local voting district (polling station) on election day, you won’t just be voting for 27 civic officials, you will be asked to approve the City of Vancouver’s Capital Borrowing Plan for nearly a quarter of a billion dollars ($235 million).

To provide some context in terms of the 2014 request, the City wants 31% more than you approved in 2011.

Now given the next civic term is four years in duration, all physical assets do need repair and replacement. The question remains how efficiently can we expect these funds to be used? And, will they be used for the purposes intended?

In my July 2013 post on Vision Vancouver’s transparency issues, I noted the cost of the bike lanes were not available to the public in the public records (please recognize I take no issues with bike lanes, only with the lack of transparency). Repeated FOI requests were rebuffed. But by tallying numbers used in City Council minutes, bike lane spending could be estimated at $75-$100 million. Here is what the 2011 Capital Borrowing Plan detailed:

B. Transit and Safety Improvements
To provide for modifications to the arterial and neighbourhood transportation networks, and to expand and make safety improvements to the system of greenways and cycle routes $8,500,000

One must be excused if over swept by a healthy sense of skepticism about how the current borrowed funds will be spent.

I recall Visionista,  Kevin Quinlan’s famous statement: “Vancouver’s still-embedded-but-painfully-outdated notion of civic government as non-partisan and being solely concerned with efficiency and delivering services is to be forever altered by Vision Vancouver”.

Well, as I read the Capital Plan, it has a lot ($95,700,000) to do with the basic services systems we rely upon. We are now being asked to authorize undefined capital spending that will be used at the whim of council and may include: recreational and exhibition facilities, public safety, street and bridge infrastructure, street care and communications, community facilities, and civic facilities and infrastructure. But maybe not, as we saw with bike lane spending over the last three years.

Community centres have been outraged over previous capital promises made and then changed on a whim. Other facilities need sharper definition before assent should be granted.

If only the Public Safety and Public Works were authorized, an accountability message would be sent to council  when spending the taxpayers’ money.

Being a voter is no easy task in the civic context. Continue to read about the issues, study the candidates, and remember on November 15th – VOTE!

 

 

Day -31 – The List – Candidate 18

Imtiaz Popat

 

The next selected candidate for The List for park board is Imtiaz Popat.

Imtiaz is recognized social advocate particularly for those who are marginalized. He is an excellent speaker, a hard worker, and will be an effective contributor to the activity of the park board.

Day -32 – The List – Candidates 16 &17

Sandy Sharma

Stacy Robertson

 

Today we have completed the roster for school board with candidates 16 & 17. Selections made to date are characterized by diversity of interests, experiences levels, and commitment to their community. This board will hopefully continue to work effectively as administrators. Selected candidate have shown concern for students and our expectations are for a quality learning environment.

Today’s selections are Sandy Sharma and Stacy Robertson.

Sandy has served on school board and PAC advisory committees. She is also an independent business owner. Her commitment to her community is exemplary.

Stacy has worked in his community to improve its betterment. He offers outstanding credentials which will be an asset to the business of the school board.

 

Day -34 – The List – Candidates 14 & 15

Janet Fraser

Stephane Mouttet

 

The List returns this Thanksgiving weekend and selects two outstanding community representatives. Janet Fraser – School Board and Stephane Mouttet – Park Board.

Janet has outstanding credentials to perform her role as a school board trustee. She has worked at the grass roots level of the school system, and also has been a committed member of her Marpole community.

Stephane is a tourism leader in the Vancouver community. He is a unique individual and a social networking machine. We need promoters of the City’s beautiful parks and this individual is preparing for his time to shine.