Day -119 – What does the City Do Best?

by Mike Andruff Venture Capitalists   Should the City of Vancouver engage in the venture capital market, or should it stick to its own knitting? A report by Ian McKay, Vancouver Economic Commission is encouraging this new civic direction. More importantly, Jeff Lee in his recent article in the Vancouver Sun indicates, “But the concept belongs to Vision Vancouver Mayor Robertson …”.

But wait, remember the Great Salad Days of Alterrus Systems Inc.? Well, as the article linked above indicated, the salad venture days are over. This venture, in the nature of trade, sponsored by the taxpayer, was considered as another goofy Vision Vancouver idea. The article also reminds of the City’s ill fated relationship with PublicBike System Inc.

What type of business venture might be the next best solution for the City of Vancouver? Let’s see, they’ve tried chickens, wheat, salad, hey what about a pig farm? (I feel a song coming on here.)

If you have an opinion on the City’s foray into managing areas outside their competency, November 15, go out to a voting district, and say so with your VOTE!

Day -123 – The Triple Dip – Courtesy Vancouver’s Recent Capital Budget Proposal

by Mike Andruff

tripledip

It’s a Mug’s Game really. Those behind the curtain at City Hall propose a budget they know eligible voters won’t vote against basically, because they don’t vote. That thin band of supporters that elect the majority council will vote, and win the plebiscite.

The plebiscite is neatly cloaked in a veil of civic improvements, but what they really pay for in the next four years is, non-productive spending on behalf of you the tax payer and renter.

If one ever needed a reason to get out and vote, the latest Vision Vancouver Capital Plan announced last week is as good as any.

The plan is obviously reflects the party’s platform for the November election. (Nice of them to introduce the plan in the dog days of summer, with no one paying attention – note to self, diarize this post for a re-read November 14th). Do they deserve to be re-elected on the basis of the agenda they have laid out? As indicated in Jeff Lee’s Vancouver Sun article Thusday, this capital plan will shift emphasis from renewal and expansion of roads, water and sewer lines, and fire and safety, to in addition, now focus on green and social issues.

There you have it. The conventional spending approach vs. the new vision for civic social spending.

Mr. Renter you are involved here too. As landlords continue to face escalating government fees and taxes, they must pass them on to you as higher rent. This is in contrast to the City’s stated goal creating affordable housing. Somebody’s going to luck out here, but it will be on the back’s of taxpayers, landlords, AND renters.

We all pay federal taxes which go into social housing. We pay provincial taxes which pay for the same social housing. Now the City wants in to have you carry a triple dip, and have the bulk of their capital budget go into making us green, and a purveyor of yet more social housing. When does the taxpayer or renter stand up and say, “That’s enough!”

If you feel it is time to stop this ramp up of taxation, you can say so with your vote. November 15th is the next civic election. This is one of the many issues you can address with your vote. Please join the MyVoteMatters.ca movement and VOTE!

 

Day -133 – The Case for Political All Sorts

by Mike Andruff

All Sorts

Are you looking for ideas on how to park your votes in the next civic election? Given civic party politics has been so polarized and disagreeable, perhaps the all sorts option should be considered.

Have a look at a recent post by CityHallWatch.com on the topic of Vision Vancouver’s 2011 policy platform. Yes, at least they had one! We must acknowledge them for that. But, what does it say, and how well did they perform to its standards? You be the judge.

We have seen time and time again, platforms are merely, promises, promises, promises. How often do we see directions taken that were never a part of a platform. e.g.. where in that document did it say, ” … and we will close Pt. Grey Road, at a cost of $3-4 million, to promote safer bike transit.”

Jak King makes the argument that community activists are at a distinct disadvantage to civic bureaucrats. Those that have the ear of a councillor with the community’s interest in mind, stand a better chance to get a fairer hearing.

Again, we have seen a majority council in action, with a very thin mandate from the public (voting in municipal elections is boring, right?), and what has emerged? Civic opposition by injunction. With no viable political opposition, the outraged public has had to use the courts to express their opposition to numerous ideological directions taken, often contrary to the public’s interest.

The panacea for our civic political party headaches is what can be called, political all sorts. As far as civic council goes, offer your votes to two Vision, two NPA, two Cope, two Green, and hey, let’s make it the year of the independent, and vote for two of them.

This eliminates broken promises, stops wild campaign spending from buying the election (that’s not very democratic), requires selecting the best of each party, and most importantly, brings a plurality to the council chamber that includes the public’s interests of the widest spectrum. No longer is an election a developer’s Full Employment Act, based on a controlling majority party’s whim. Instead, such a council is designed to serve the tax payer with thoughtful dialogue, prudent spending, and debate that necessitates compromises.

Have you booked your appointment in your voting district? Have you followed any declared candidates? (CKNW has them on the radio everyday.) Is it possible that the bad political taste in your mouth can be salved by selecting some political all sorts?November 15th – Vote!

Day -140 – Tommy Flanagan’s Pathological Liars Anonymous – Vancouver Chapter?

by Mike Andruff

Do you know anyone that offers you half truths all the time?

It is frustrating dealing with that type. While Tommy Flanagan makes us laugh with his half truths, those who offer the same in real life are less funny.

Take the City of Vancouver for example. Its current system of financial reports are confusing at best. If, as a citizen, you want information on certain areas where your tax dollars are applied, you can ask by way of a “Request to Access Information” form.

Say you wanted to know the cost of closing Pt. Grey Rd., for example. At the time you make the request, you are five months into the year. The response comes back and reports one dollar amount for the first three months of the year. Is that a half truth?

Maybe you were curious to know just how much revenue the City claims for parking. If they report one number that is vastly different than those reported in the papers, is it a half truth?

Or, let’s talk about the elephant in the City, bike lanes. If you simply asked, How much have we spent on bike lanes? Couldn’t you getting something on paper, other than, “The information you are requesting is quite broad and it will be difficult to fulfill this request …”

I guess to be fair, we all likely deal in half truths (I will likely be accused of writing half truths in this blog). But in fact, we are attempting to use the truth to lie.

I have learned in my experience with the City, that it is frustrating to find answers to your questions. How do you dear reader feel about the lack of openness and transparency in financial reporting? Is civic business so sensitive, why even the ordinary citizen should be protected from the truth?

As we move toward November 15th, and your chance to vote for a new administration, cast an ear to the other candidates to see what they say about open and transparent governance. Then go to that voting district at the appointed time, and using your understanding of how candidates should serve you, VOTE!

 

Day -154 – Silly Civic Selection System Sucks

by Mike Andruff

 

What are the chances of an independent, star candidate arriving on the Vancouver civic scene to snatch victory from party politicians? On the basis of our poll results (these are not statistically significant, but they allow us to enter the discussion), one would assume that a capable individual would have a running chance of success. Independent candidates are more likely to get elected at the municipal level than they are at higher levels of government. However,civic politics in the Lower Mainland has been party driven.

In the 2011Vancouver civic election, an individual needed at least 48,600 votes to become an elected councillor. As an independent candidate, Sandy Garossino had the strongest showing with 20,866 votes placing 22nd among candidates.

Jonathan Baker, himself a former councillor, recalled, “The only independent I can remember who got elected was Carol Taylor.” Baker successfully ran with the NPA for two terms, but was defeated when he ran as an independent in his third term.

Let’s face it, with dozens of names to choose from, on a huge ballot, isn’t the party solution the easier way to mange voting? Additionally, with names listed alphabetically, those at the top of the ballot likely have an advantage (in Oregon they set their ballots with a random letter generator – that sounds fair).

So we tend to rely on civic parties to help us deal with a voting system that is not very user friendly. Does this make sense? What chance does a good independent candidate have with the existing voting maze? When we talk about electoral reform, the best we are offered is an extended term for politicians. Why? Why do we perpetuate a system screaming for change.

Other jurisdictions have more enlightened democracy. As we head to our next civic election, study the candidates or parties that are open to changing our antiquated voting system. Set your calendar to November 15th to go to your voting district, and then practice your democratic right on that day, help create the chance for change, and VOTE!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day -162 – He who pays the piper calls the tune

by Mike Andruff

 

 

Property Taxes

Do  you get value for your property tax dollars today ? Are you confident in the value you receive, or are you confused? I received my semi-annual tax bill in the mail last week – YIKES! I decided to assess the value I was receiving for money paid.

PiperNow, I’m not going to get into a rant about how much I have to pay (no boohoohoo, here), but, I wanted to reflect on how things have changed, say over the last 10 years. In an earlier time, the city services were straight forward, and you knew for what you were paying. Today we pay more than we ever have, and yet, it is unclear what we are actually receiving for our, after income tax paid, property tax dollars.

For instance in 2004, the City clearly said they provided the following services: fire and police protection, garbage disposal, by-law enforcement, water and sewage services, community facilities and services, recreation programs, library services, animal control, street and traffic services, and zoning and building regulations. They also portrayed how model taxes by a taxpayer, was divided up to pay for services and programs. General Administration and Debt was covered by 11% of model taxes paid.

In 2014, General and Administration has grown on a percentage basis to 22% of operating expenditures, and the budget talks in terms of service plans and metrics. Language now addresses, “ensuring a strong economy, being the greenest city in the world, eliminating street homelessness, and being a safe, creative, and inclusive community”.

As a tax payer, I require openness, transparency and accountability. Today’s consumers demand, and are receiving, full disclosure for services rendered and on products offered. It should be no different for services rendered by the City of Vancouver.

In the days of yore, the king generally paid the piper because he called the tune(s). The customer/tax payer, are the king/queen today, and they should have their say in how their tax dollars are dedicated (the City used 426 people on the 311 line to obtain citizen input). City administrators need to weigh spending priorities with care, and consideration of the value for dollar attached to each service considered. A question to consider in heading to the polls in November is,  Are our civic administrators providing a duplication of services from other level of governments? Are taxpayers paying twice for, say social programs?

If you feel like calling the tune, question candidates and parties on how closely they will play your music, schedule your date with your polling station, and lastly, on November 15th, VOTE!

 

 

Day -167 – The Rebranding of VVI

by Mike Andruff

old-spice-man-chainsaw

Elvis did it, that guy with Old Spice did it, Apple did it. They all successfully rebranded.  Time had come for change and their change was welcomed.

The spirit of the VancouverDecides2014 Voting Initiative  will now be served by the My Vote Matters (MVM) Society.

Voter turnout has declined in this city, as it has in others. This same trend extends to both the provincial and federal elections.

True democracy depends on voters turning up to cast their ballot. The strategies and methodologies in drawing out the vote is a puzzle to most agencies. This is particularly the case in the 18-35 year old voter bracket. MVM is committed to not just the next civic election, but to improving the democratic process.

MyVoteMatters.ca is the website of the non-partisan, non-profit society that has a broader commitment to enhancing democracy through improved voter engagement. It is designed to receive donations to fund a variety of initiatives, to attract volunteers who can sign on to work with the society, and to address attributes of a healthy democracy. You are welcomed and encouraged to follow us on both blogs. Also you can use facebook and Twitter.

Does this mean VancouverDecides2014 is going away any time soon? Well, yes in 167 days. We plan to stay focused in future posts on Who is fit to run this city. The Voting Initiative is now a compliment to MyVoteMatters.ca. We hope you will follow both, and on November 15th – VOTE!

 

Day -175 – Mr. Robertson, Tear Down Those Barricades – Pt. Grey Road

By Mike Andruff

The closing of Pt. Grey Rd. was a rash decision, hastily made, and without due regard for the broader public interest. This discussion is not about bikes vs. cars, as much as it is about the process of decision making.

The most recent poll results (BTW, they are unscientific – the poll was taken - results hidden, and open for one month) addressing the opening of the roadway, indicates that approximately 4 out of 5 people want the roadway opened by the next civic administration, who ever they may be.

How much would it cost to open the road? More importantly, what did it cost to close it up? On May 13, 2014 a Freedom of Information  request was filed with the City of Vancouver to find answers. The Information officer has advised, the City would respond by June 25, 2014.

Lots of people want Pt. Grey Rd. opened, some, likely those who live there, don’t, but don’t we all deserve a fair shake on which neighbourhoods get closed, and which stay open? If you want to make your wishes known, support the candidates that best support your interests, and on November 15th, VOTE!

 

 

Day -183 – Candidate Selection Poll

by Mike Andruff

 

 

 

 

Day -188 – Angry Old White Men Redux

by Mike Andruff

Rodney DangerfieldI am drawn to the subject of leadership, as I read remarks made this week by Mayor Robertson at Vision Vancouver’s AGM. He said he NPA is a party of “angry old white men”. In the words of a Rodney Dangerfieldesque comedian, “Hey, I resemble that remark”. Although not an NPA supporter, am I also now a marginalized, non-entity (only people who are not white, young and happy are important to the Mayor)? These words have emanated from a Mayor who also used words like, ” Who are these f__king people?” in council chambers.

Hmm… do his children hear this usage? Do they hear it often? Do voters want to hear it? How does this reflect on him, as a leader of a world city state? I know politics, in general, is a difficult world in which to succeed. Negative advertising is an art form, that taken to its zenith, causes a lot of political opponents to suffer a brutal and public death of character. Somehow, that has become a norm in our lives. I also agree that those who run for, and serve in public office, deserve our gratitude for their service. And, if they don’t pan out, we have the vehicle to tell them so, our vote.
As an old white man, I recognize, perhaps through personal experience, that salty language and ridicule can be a reflection of inner self. Is the inner self of Mayor Robertson in a Happy Planet kinda place, or have the years in office tainted him in a fashion that we see today (i.e., is he himself becoming an angry old white man)? Arrogant, withdrawn (in terms of accessibility to the public), dismissive conduct, are evidence of a politician who is past his “best before” date.
There are many capable people in this community. That politics draws out unfortunate characteristics evidenced by the Mayor, is among the many reasons that they may lack interest in stepping forward to make their contribution to this city.
I am often asked, who are the candidates for mayor in the next civic election (November 15th)? Stepping forward to be pilloried by Mayor Robertson, and his crew of media spinners, is obviously a daunting prospect. But, answering the question asked in this blog, “Who is fit to run this city?“, is Mayor Robertson the best we can do for a leader, or is someone out there ready to step forward and provide common sense, truthful leadership, who may not necessarily be attached to a civic party? Are you dear voter, ready for that change?
Leadership is spawned from champions. Champions are the product of sacrifice. I suggest Vancouver is ready for new leadership, who may not necessarily be a household brand name, but can provide the championship calibre of conduct that the City of Vancouver deserves.
On November 15th, go to the ballot box appointment you have set for yourself, select the candidate(s) that best reflects you choice of champions, and VOTE!