Council – July 13 2020 (pt1)

The last Council meeting before the summer break (pending emergency meetings, because, hey, it’s 2020, and we may need to address a local response to the meteor impact) had a lot on the Agenda and a lengthy Zoom meeting ensued. I think what I will do is split this report into two, because it is simply too much to write up in one sitting. I will also talk more in a follow up post about the special resolutions, but our business started with moving the following items On Consent:

Amendments to the 2020 Schedule of Regular Council Meetings
Staff are suggesting some adjustments of the Council schedule after the summer breaks, and as we anticipate we will still be meeting virtually in September, so the regular September meeting in Q’boro will be delayed until we can meet again. All this subject to change based on meteor forecast.

Terms of Reference – Grants Committees
We have been working on making our Grant process more streamlined and community-centered. This step will disband the 5 existing community volunteer committees that review the applications, and replace them with three committees that are aligned with the goals of the grants: have more directed focus: Community Livability and Social Equity; Social and Cultural Vibrancy; and Community Economic Activators. We are also re-assigning members of the “old” committees to the “new” ones, and dong a call out to the public to fill the vacant roles in the new ones. If you want to help the City decide how to spend $1M next year in making your community a more inclusive, livable, and vibrant place, watch this site for an opportunity to sign up.

Non-Profit Pandemic Recovery Response
New West has a lot of non-profit (or, I prefer “social profit”) organizations doing a bunch of important work that keeps our community livable. Arts, culture, social support, education, health, housing, so much of the important village-building work relies on these organizations, and they are stressed by COVID at the same time that the need for their work is made more pronounced by the pandemic.

The City has followed up on some province-wide work to connect with our social profit sector and find out what supports they most need, and what role the City has in facilitating that support. Through this, a number of tactics are discussed, and ones that don’t involve a lot of new direct expense for the City (as we are also in uncertain financial times) are moving forward, including facilitating a peer-network approach, and reviewing how we charge for City services like room rentals. There is more to do here, but this is a start. And the appendix of this report gives us a good “lay of the land” look at the City’s non-profit sector.

COVID-19 Pandemic Response – Update and Progress from the Five Task Forces
Here are the every-meeting updates on the action of the 5 internal city task forces. There is some interesting discussion here about how prepared we are for the “second wave”, but mostly these updates show a measured reduction in response activities.

Artist Selection – Queen’s Park Sportsplex Public Art Project
All new City buildings have a Public Art provision to make the space around them better. Generally, a budget is created (proportional to the cost of the building), a Call for Artists is done, and applications (in this case – 10 of them) are reviewed for a short list. Three short-listed artists/teams provide more design ideas and vision, and the Public Art Advisory Committee (a volunteer committee made up of subject matter experts from the community) makes a recommendation to Council. We then have the option to approve or reject the application, after which a contract is drawn up and the artist gets to work. We are now at the “Council approves” stage, which Council did.

631 Second Street: Heritage Revitalization Agreement – For Preliminary Review
This is a preliminary report on an application to subdivide a single family lot in Glenbrook North and build two single family homes on “compact lots”. This one is a bit complicated, because the house is older, but has been modified such that it doesn’t really qualify for Heritage Protection, so it would have to be restored by replacing with replica materials. (Enter the “form and character” debate). There is a lot going on here, with the lot somewhat restricted by access and grade. The eventual proposal would see one house replaced with two houses, each potentially with a basement suite, for up to 4 units where there is currently one (or two?). As a preliminary application, this will now go to public consultation and other reviews. If you have opinions, let us know what you think.

404 Second Street: Heritage Revitalization Agreement – Preliminary Report
This is a preliminary application to put an addition on the unusual butcher/deli business in Queens Park, formalize it current use, and allow some change of signage and awning to reflect its original character. Again, going to community consultation and review. Let us know if you have opinions.

Interdepartmental Working Group on the Overdose Epidemic: Update
There has been an ongoing Public Health Emergency since 2016, related to a poisoned illicit drug supply. It has killed many more people in British Columbia than COVID, and New Westminster is no less impacted than any other community in the province. This is another one of those areas that is, by strict definition, the responsibility of the Provincial Government, but costs related to managing emergency response still fall on Local Governments (Our Fire Service has administered Naloxone to more than 250 people since starting with the program a few years ago, more than 100 times in 2019 alone). The City cannot turn away from our residents being impacted by the emergency, and instead have been a participant in an action team coordinating efforts between Fraser Health and non-profit organizations. This report provides an update on the actions we are supporting, and next steps.

I am not going to bury the lede here: we can save lives with safe consumption sites and with a safe supply. These are both challenging ideas for some members of the community, but the data supporting both of these measures as public health interventions is unequivocal. This public emergency is killing people here in New Westminster, it is time for us to move on the things we know will help, we know will save lives. The direction Council is endorsing here is to work with Fraser Health and community partners to make these happen.

New Westminster Rent Bank Program Funding Renewal Request
The City has participated in the Rent Bank program for a couple of years now. This is a program where people facing temporary financial crisis can borrow money at low cost to cover rent or utility costs to prevent them becoming homeless. Credit Unions provide backing for the loans, and the City provides funding to support the administration of the program, after an initial seed funding contribution. The Province is also providing annual administrative support. The request here is for the City to continue to support administrative support for $35,000/year, which is already in our capital budget, so not new spending. Done.

618 Carnarvon (Urban One Project): Request for Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption
This project under construction on Downtown New West needs to remove and replace a street lamp which is so close to the SkyTrain line that they are not permitted to do it while the SkyTrian is running, meaning they need a permit to do the work between midnight and 5am. They will do this work on the night of July 17.

2019 Statement of Financial Information
Every year we do the SOFI, which reports all of our audited financial information in a standard form. It also reports those juicy details like how much we pay everyone (over $75,000/year – here comes that news story again), how much we paid every contractor in the City (over $25,000) and the expenses of City Councilors. In 2019 I attended the Lower Mainland LGA Conference in Harrison (part of my costs were covered by the LMLGA because I am on the executive), the one-day CivX conference in Vancouver, the UBCM Conference in Vancouver, and the FCM conference in Quebec City. It was a busy year for me conference-wise, which will be a very different story in 2020. I generally report out on my Blog about these events, so you know what I was up to. That was virtually all of my expenses for 2019. Happy to answer any questions you have.

2020 Deferral of Tax Sale Bylaw No. 8210, 2020
Taxes get paid. If a property owner defaults on property taxes, the City is able to required by law to sell the property for recovery of the delinquent taxes. There is a timeliness point to this, no doubt developed to keep the process fair and transparent. However, recognizing that we are giving some room to delay tax payment in 2020 because of the Pandemic, we are also delaying the Tax Sale aspect of the process, to give people more time to address any financial burden the property tax may cause.

Proposed Queensborough Community Learning Garden in Ryall Park
The Changes at Ryall Park around the Temporary Modular Housing project are coming along as the housing itself is ready to open. The opportunity here to bring urban agriculture public lands in Ryall Park is really exciting. The City is partnering with GROWcery Food Network to provide the community garden aspects, and the design will also include an urban orchard to bring food trees. There are a bunch of overlapping community benefits here, from locally sourced food to community-based gardening training and education, and will hopefully be a centre for cooperation between the community and the housing operators and residents. There are lots of partners here, but City staff have really done a great job creating and fostering a vision for this space. This is good work.

Correspondence: New Westminster Police Board letter dated July 7, 2020 regarding a motion regarding reforms to the New Westminster Police Department
I have written a couple of posts about the role of City Council and the role of the Police Board in how the Police are run and funded in the City. Obviously, both bodies have heard the calls from Black Lives Matter and people concerned about the culture of Policing in Canada, especially as it relates to the impacts on Indigenous and Black persons in our community. The Police Board have put together a plan of action and are asking the City Council to take part in the conversation, and Council has responded positively to the invite with the following motion:

THAT City Council work with the Police Board;
THAT the CAO be directed to work with the Police Chief and the Director of Human Resources to develop a comprehensive workplan and budget to implement the motion;
and THAT a Special joint meeting of City Council and the Police Board be held in September to discuss and deliberate on the comprehensive workplan and budget.

More to come.

We then had a Financial Plan Amendment report:

Five Year Financial Plan (2019-2023) Amendment Bylaw No. 8207, 2020
By now, diligent readers will know the City operates under a 5-year financial plan that is approved by Council as a Bylaw, and updated every year. As any plan that projects financial information forward into the next year is likely to need adjustment as estimates are improved or unanticipated financial changes occur, the 5-year plan is also updated within the year as needed to track as close as possible to reality. There is also a big adjustment at the end of the year to rectify our estimates with what actually came to pass. So here is the last adjustment of the 2019 budget, to reflect what actually happened vs. what we estimated. How much changed? That sounds like a fun follow-up blog post…

We reported this out in an earlier meeting and posted it on the website asking for comment. We received none. Council moved to give the Five-Year Financial Plan (2019-2023) Amendment Bylaw three readings and adoption.

…and I think that is all I will report now, more to come tomorrow (or the next day? As I find some time to write it up. In the meantime, go out, get some sun.

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