Sorry, there is too much going on and no time to sit down and bash out these notes. Amazing how busy we can be when we rarely leave our house. We had a Council Meeting on May 25, as always, follow this link to the Agenda and reports for more information, because the stuff below is (inevitably) a view through my filter, and not official positions of anyone other than me:
The following items were Moved on Consent:
At-Risk and Vulnerable Populations Task Force: Food Security Planning and Responses During COVID-19 Recovery
This was actually a tough one for me. One of the local food service organizations has lost its senior government funding. Until another founder (potentially a charity?) can be found, they have asked the City to help. So we have the choice of seeing people go without needed food or stepping in to help. Standing by while people go hungry seems like the worst outcome, so I will support this temporary measure. But not without calling out senior governments who get 92% of tax revenues, and are completely failing here such that local food security teams are forced to go hat-in-hand to charities to assure people have access to food. I’m not the fiscal conservative on Council, but how much blood are we expecting to get from this stone?
That said, there is a second request here for the city to help with some coordination in the food security role. Again, assuring people in poverty have food is probably something best handled by the province, but we definitely are best positioned right now to provide local coordination. I think this is an appropriate use of Affordable Housing Reserve fund and an interim measure.
516 Brunette Avenue: BNSF Railway Telecommunication Tower – Statement of Concurrence
BNSF wants to build a communications tower on their property in Sapperton. The City has no power to regulate this, but BNSF are required to let us know they are doing it, and we have at least theoretical ability to take any concerns to Industry Canada. However, there are no concerns being raised by the City.
Bosa Development: 660 Quayside Drive – Request for Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption
A new pedestrian connection to Pier Park at the end of 6th Street is being provided in partnership with Bosa, and it requires a span over the rail lines along Front Street. That span needs to be installed with a crane, and due to traffic and rail safety concerns, that work needs to happen at night. There will be some disruptions of traffic and work during one late Saturday night in June or early July. Council approved a noise bylaw exemption to allow this to happen.
2020 Spring Freshet and Snow Pack Level
Still keeping an eye on the snowpack, as freshet flooding is still possible. Some higher-than-average April temperatures helped remove some snowmelt, reducing flood risk a bit, but it is noteworthy that snowpacks in the mid- and upper-Fraser basins is among the highest ever recorded at this time of year, so there is still significant risk of flooding depending on how the weather between now and late June turns out. The City is doing some flood preparation work and dike patrols, just in case.
Major Purchases January 1 to April 30, 2020
Here is our every-four-months report on significant purchases the City has made, and the results of our open procurement policy. Want to know how we spend money, the details are in here.
Investment Report to April 30, 2020
This is our regular report on how our investments are doing. The City has significant reserve funds right now because we have been putting money aside for a couple of large projects, most notably the Canada Games Pool, and a pretty typical delay on delivery of a few capital projects. The City earned $1.3M on its investments over the year ending April 30. Notably the TSE Index went down 10% over that same period. We will naturally be impacted by the general market downturn related to COVID, but the City is required by law and by policy to be very conservative in its investment strategy, so our risk is lower than most.
2019 Filming Activity Update
Film revenue in the City was a little down in 2019 compared to the average over the previous 5 years but there were still 140 filming days in the City with almost $800K in revenue.
The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:
COVID-19 Pandemic Response – Update and Progress from the Five COVID-19 Task Forces
This is the regular report on our COVID response, organized by Task Force. Want to know what the City is doing, it is here. The general trend these days is less organizing and preparing, more operations and planning for a transition to a recovery or post-Pandemic phase.
Education and Enforcement Task Force: Lessons Learned and Proposed Reprioritization
Right up front, I think the Covid Compliance Hotline was a positive initiative – it is unfortunate that the local media (social- and traditional-) chose to use a pejorative in referring to it, but it was effective at reducing the load on Police and 911 calls and providing people a place to address their concerns. It also provided an opportunity to educate the public at a time when many are clearly feeling anxiety, no doubt ramped up by so much bad information circulating through local media platforms where there is no editorial control to filter it. It also allowed the City and its communications staff to better understand where the anxieties were in the community so we can assure we are being effective in our response.
We are transitioning to more of a “personal responsibility” phase, with more expectation that people will be self-policing and less need for direct staff intervention across the City. The presence of compliance officers and Champions in public spaces, along with the rapid response to signage and communication was really excellent, but staff now feel we can scale back a bit.
We are still going to communicate and track compliance. I read a comment last week that came ti mind during this discussion: “Public health policy is predicated on the idea that common sense doesn’t scale up to society, because it’s individually defined, and often self-interested. ‘Common sense’ won’t protect other people from your selfishness. You can’t run a government on “just use your common sense””. – Dr Charlotte Lydia Riley
Sidewalk/Street Patios and Parklets to Support Business Recovery
The City is moving forward with support for re-allocation of space for patios and decks, through streamlining applications and working to implement the changes in the Provincial Liquor rules announced last week by the Attorney General. I’m excited to see how we can support businesses in making our streetscapes more active and functional, including the re-allocation of curbside parking.
There are a few models of this – public parklets open to everyone that restaurant customers can use as a sort of place to sit with their “take out”; extended patios in the “Montreal Style” where they occupy much of the sidewalk, but an alternative boardwalk is installed in the parking lane to assure accessible 2m of sidewalk is maintained, or having a restaurant license a parking spot or two for food/drink service.
This isn’t as simple as we think, there are still provincial and City rules that need to be aligned, and food-primary, liquor-primary and liquor-manufacturing are three different provincial categories that need their own approaches. We also need to remember some “red tape” exists for a great reason- like assuring that street/sidewalk furniture doesn’t create an accessibility barrier for people who need the sidewalk, and assuring transit service is not disrupted, but Council was pretty clear to staff that we want the City to try to do this as quick as possible so restaurants can other businesses can make this part of their re-opening plans. If it takes two or three months, it will be too late to provide the assistance small business need right now.
Pop-Up Recycling Events
As the closure of the recycling centre was earlier than expected due to the Pandemic, and the construction of the new facility on the New West/Coquitlam Border is still ongoing, we have a gap to fill. The planned pop-up recycling events were delayed due to the Public Health Officer orders, but they can now be run, with the first one planned for May 30th at the Public Works Yard on First Street in Glenbrook North. Unfortunately, neither Recycle BC nor any other contractor will accept Styrofoam right now, so that cannot be included. Yes, our recycling system is broken, but add that to the pile.
And that was a Council meeting! See you next week!