Aya Carumba, I been busy. Mostly good stuff, but a lot going on. I’m walking every day (come along!), there are Metro and TransLink meetings happening, and as we wish April Showers goodbye, it looks like my May calendar is already filling up to a distressing degree. So I don’t have time to blog much, but here is my oft-promised and always-late photo essay of things I have been doing that aren’t strictly work, though a lot of it is work.

I got to stand next to a ribbon being cut! This for the KIDS Queensborough Childcare centre, built through a partnership between the City, the Province, and Anthem Properties. This is a City-owned building that the development built as an amenity as part of their townhouse development, with funds from the City and the province to fit the spaces out.

I took a quick trip over to Victoria for the Municipal Finance Authority Annual General Meeting (New Westminster is a member). While I was there I was able to set up a couple of side-meetings, including with Jason Lum, who is Chair of the Fraser Valley Regional District and an all-around great guy. We talked about Metro-FV alignment on flood preparedness, air quality, and inter-regional transportation in preparation for the Lower Mainland LGA meeting coming up in May.

I also went out to the Fraser Valley to join Metro Vancouver senior staff and Board Members for a two-day Strategic Planning session that was informative and at times challenging, with the massive scale of infrastructure work Metro needs to do in coming years.

New Westminster hosted (for the first time!) the Pacific Contact conference at the Anvil Centre and Massey Theatre. This conference by the BC Touring Council brings performing artists and venues across BC together to showcase, network, and coordinate seasons for travelling performing artists. It was great for New West to showcase the Massey Theatre and Anvil Theatre, and I was able to provide a welcome to delegates and provide a bit of the background of the two theatres and the City’s continued commitment to performance arts. It was great to run into (and bend the ear of) Briana Doyle, who is more famous in New Westminster than you might expect!

Vaisakhi was on April 14th, and the good folks at the Gurdwara Sahib Sukh Sagar wanted to “share the harvest” and thank City staff for their work thought the pandemic, and offered a free lunch to crews at the City’s Works Yard. The food was delicious, and we lucked out with a sunny day that made for a great picnic for staff. This was a really generous offer by the folks at the Gurdwara, and it was great to be able to break bread with the outdoor crews in such a casual setting.

The Local HUB Cycling chapter invited me to their monthly meeting to talk about what the City is doing for active transportation, and to let me know what they see as the big priorities in the year ahead.

Like many Local Government folks around the region, I attended the UBCM Housing Conference in Vancouver. I don’t remember there ever being an event like this, with so many elected folks and planning staff from local governments, provincial government representatives (including the leaders of all three Provincial parties) and housing providers in the same room, talking about the need for different and more aggressive approaches to getting housing approved and built. The panels were great learning, but the networking and connections were the most valuable part, especially for the new members of Council.

One of the Conference days, I slipped out for an hour to run across the street and see the UBC SACRP Studio student project presentations, including one sponsored by the City of New Westminster on the topis of public washroom services.

I also dropped by the opening of the New West Artists pop-up gallery space at the Community Space at Columbia Square,

A few members of Council attended the Fraser River Discovery Centre Hall of Fame induction of SRY and SeaSpan. It was great to meet more of the people who work on the river, and bend the ears of the Port and marine carriers about our common interests.

And finally, Earth Day came and went, which brought a lot of activities to the City. I joined the Family Bike Ride organized by a couple of local “Rad Moms” and Babies for Climate Action with some support for the local HUB chapter. A few folks there were unsarcastcially thankful of City of New West for building safer bike infrastructure, though they do still need work to do to make the network complete.

Council – April 24, 2023

Our Council meeting this week started with a Public Hearing, as is pretty typical for last-meeting-of-the-month. But that wasn’t the only item on the agenda, so join me on a journey.

Official Community Plan Amendment Bylaw No. 8374, 2023 and Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 8375, 2023 for 102/104 Eighth Avenue and 728 First Street
This project would see 10 townhouses built in two buildings where there is currently a single family house and a duplex in Glenbrook North. The overall FSR would be 1.03 (0.87 above grade) and all units would be three-bedroom family-friendly (1,700 -1,800 sq ft) with a single parking spot which meets the parking requirement for this type of development. The project would exceed energy efficiency required by the BC Energy Step Code, achieving Step 4.

This requires not just a rezoning (from RS-1 single family residential to RT townhouse) but an amendment to the Official Community Plan to change the land use from RD (single family detached and duplex) to RGO (Ground-Oriented Infill Housing). This designation was considered as part of the OCP update 6 years ago now, but Council in its wisdom chose to not designate the entire block, and instead to allow piecemeal applications if they come up.

Since 2021, this project has gone through the Land Use Planning Committee (which led to minor modifications), the Advisory Planning Commission (supported) and Design Panel (supported), and there was consultation with First Nations and the School District (as required for an OCP amendment). There was also active and passive public consultation, including virtual open house and communications through the Glenbrook North Residents’ Association. Most of the feedback was positive, noting the lack of family-friendly townhouse building form in this part of New West, with the main concerns being lack of parking (natch), the desire for more affordability, and infrastructure not keeping up with growth.

We had two pieces of correspondence and about a half dozen delegates speak to council, including the proponent. We heard opposition to any change to the OCP, and we heard some concerns about parking, rodent control and construction impacts, which were directed to staff.

Overall, I am in support of this kind of infill missing middle housing, as it fills an important gap in our housing supply – family-sized ground oriented units in a high-service neighbourhood so close to schools, shops, parks, and everything families need. This is the kind of infill housing I hear residents in New West asking for more of.

Council voted in favour of the application, and in the Council meeting to follow, gave the Bylaws three readings.

Following some announcements and proclamations, we go our first Report for discussion:

Train Whistle Cessation – Update
Staff have started a practice of making quarterly reports on train whistle cessation. They are attached as information reports on the end of Council Agenda (as there is no decision for council to make, we are just being informed), but as with all information reports, a Councilor may ask to have them raised to the next council meeting for discussion. This one was raised from April 3. Most of the information here is also freely available on the City’s public website about Whistle Cessation.

The new part here is the renewed activity in the Rail Technical Working Group, and a few more details about timelines for the rail crossings where we are currently working on cessation and clarity about the funding sources for that work.

There is also a notion in here worth calling attention to. There has been political conversation about the desire to end “unnecessary whistling” in the community. This report takes the time to point out that “unnecessary whistling” is already illegal by federal law, and there have been no reports of “unnecessary whistling” being a problem in the City. The whistling we hear is a regulatory requirement, and it is that regulatory requirement we are trying to address.

We then approved the following items On Consent:

Construction Noise Exemption: 651 Carnarvon Street – Signia Construction Ltd.
The Provincial Court House is being renovated with new cladding and roofing, increasing its energy efficiency. Because of the nature of other operations, construction work during court hours is not preferred, so they need to do some of their work outside of court hours. This means evening and weekend work that exceeds our construction noise Bylaw, which is why they are asking for an exemption.

Recruitment 2023: Appointments to the Accessibility Advisory Committee
We have an Accessibility Advisory Committee, to which we appoint people. Here is one of those appointments.

Salmonbellies Municipally Significant LCRB Resolution
There is a quirk in the LCRB rules about how you sell beer at a beer garden involving their fixed prices and sizes of containers and such where, in rare occasion, an event can get around some of the rigidity by the City deeming the event “Municipally Significant”. I’m not sure we have ever done this before, but if hosting the Most Famous Team in Lacrosse*, 24-time Mann Cup winners over a proud 130+ year history isn’t “Municipally Significant” for New Westminster, I don’t know what is. So in deeming them so, they have some new partnership opportunities that are theirs to announce not mine. Or, you know, check my Instagram.

We then had the following items Removed from Consent for discussion:

2023 Tax Rates Bylaw No 8395, 2023
With the budget Bylaw prepared last meeting, staff can now set the Tax Rates to recover the required $102 Million in property taxes from the roughly $30 Billion of assessed real estate value in the City.

There are also reminders here that homeowners need to apply to the Provincial Government for the $570 grant to help offset property taxes, $845 if you are over 65. Also, anyone over the age of 55 can defer 100% of their property taxes, which means the Province will pay them for you, and you pay them back at some point in the future (presumably when you sell the property, but that’s up to you). The current interest rate for deferral is 4.45% simple interest.

So doing the math on this, if you are a 65 year old living in a house assessed at $1 Million, your Municipal taxes will be $2,500. Less Homeowner grant, that is $1155. If you defer your taxes, it will cost you about $51 in interest per year until you (or your heirs) decide to sell the house. As this interest is applied against your house, it is important to note that the value of the typical $1 Million house in New West went up 11% last year, or about $110,000. So for less than 0.05% of the amount the typical house value goes up every year, you could never pay property taxes again. Just saying.

City Hall Community Art Exhibition Program
This is the result of a Motion from former Councillor Mary Trentadue, and some work staff have been doing with partners in the Community since. The walls in the area outside Council chambers are kind of dull, and looked pretty uninviting. The thought was, as we are trying to invite more people into City Hall, it would be an opportunity to liven the space up while providing more space for local and regional artists to display their work. Staff coordinated with the Arts Advisory Committee and Arts Council of New Westminster to use these spaces to let folks know what works are happening at the other Arts Council locations.

City Hall is old historic, so we need to do a Hazardous Building Materials survey and install some appropriate hardware, but we should see Art in City Hall soon! Arts adds to conversations, it leads to deeper thinking, it fills our souls and gives us inspiration, and all of those things should happen in the entrance to Council Chambers.

Economic Impact Model Scope of Work
The idea here is that staff want to put together a new economic analysis tool. This way existing programs (in this case, the Anvil Centre, but it could be applicable to the Library, to the Queens Park Arena or Pier Park) could be evaluated for their impact on the local economy. The idea is that it could inform future civic initiatives.

I like the idea of an economic Input-output model, but I wonder about its usefulness as a decision-making tool unless it incorporates more than economic factors. We are not a business, we are a local government, and the economic lens can act like blinders limiting our analysis of social impacts of our work, of climate and environmental impacts, of cultural and community connection impacts, of health and happiness impacts. Little of what we do in the City serves only an economic goal. We could also get into a deeper discussion about the role of a Local Government in driving Fiscal Policy in a Monetary Policy epoch, but that way leads to rabbit holes.

Anyway, it is a small relative cost, and I do generally like staff to have good data to help guide our decision-making, so I am comfortable with Economic Development staff being given time and budget to do this work. However, like any tool, it is more important that we be judicious in its application.

Queen’s Park Farm Master Plan Adoption
This has been discussed a few times now in council and workshop, and this final report and ask for endorsement of the plan comes after a year-long two-phase community engagement and iterative design process. The results of that are a model to replace the old “petting zoo” with a new set of program elements and activity spaces for all ages. The theme is “habitat + grow” – a mix of learning and experience spaces around forest habitats and around the sources of our food. This will be a new jewel in the Queens Park space, and I am really proud of the work staff and the design team did in bringing a diverse set of elements together.

Rezoning and Special Development Permit (810 Agnes Street and 815 821 Victoria Street) – Application Consideration
This project downtown has been in the planning process for a couple of years. It includes a space that was an informal community centre for the Chinese community in New West more than 100 years ago, which was gifted to the City about 50 years ago by the Chinese Benevolent Society. The plan is to develop part of the site (that currently has older warehouse type buildings on it) for a residential tower, and create an outdoor public park that honours the history of the site and its importance to the history of Chinese people in early New Westminster. This has been on the books for some time, so much of the public consultation and design of the park amenity space has already occurred.

The development itself has been shifted from what was originally going to be market condos to 350 Purpose Built Rental suites in a 33 story building. This project saw the Land Use and Planning Committee and a Preliminary Report to Council in early 2018, has been through public open houses and consultation before the pandemic and again in 2022. As the results of that consultation were positive, it is consistent with the OCP, provides a much needed form of housing (market rental adjacent to a SkyTrain Station) and a well understood public amenity package, is consistent with City’s stated policy direction for housing development, Council agreed to waive the Public Hearing and will consider giving the Rezoning three readings in an upcoming council meeting following circulation of notice in accordance with the Local Government Act..

We then adopted the following Bylaws:

Building Amendment Bylaw No. 8388, 2023
This Bylaw that amends our Building Bylaw to align with changes to the BC Building Code was adopted unanimously by council, because we all love alignment.

Five Year Financial Plan 2023 – 2027 Bylaw No 8392, 2023
This Bylaw that formalizes our Consolidated Financial Plan for 2023 through 2027 was adopted by Council. The Budget is in the books. Bring on 2024.

Then we had one final piece of New Business

2023 Summer Heat Response Update
This report set out the various initiatives that staff in the Emergency Management Office and other departments in the City (working with partners at Fraser Health and in the community) have put together to prepare for heat related events. It includes expanded accessible public spaces to cool off, outreach to building managers, seniors, people with disabilities through a new communications strategy, a program to rent air conditioners out on a means-tested basis, and outdoor misting stations, and more.

This is good, but I have asked for us to look at going a step further. I have discussed with several people from being on a panel at UBCM with Dr. Bonnie Henry to recent meetings with Fraser Health, and organizations in town that support vulnerable people and seniors the idea of us applying regulatory tools not dissimilar to our fire preparedness legislation to address heat emergency preparedness. As such, I asked that staff explore our ability to regulate a heat response plan requirement for all Multi-unit residential building in the City.

I don’t know if we have the tools we need, or if we need to advocate for them from the province, but with the scale of the deaths New West faced in the 2021 Heat Dome, I don’t want our connect and prepare response to be one driven by and relying on volunteers. We don’t let building operators volunteer to have sprinklers or fire alarms, nor do we rely on volunteers to assure these systems are operational. They are fundamental life safety measures, and we have learned now that a heat emergency plan is also a fundamental life saving measure.

This first request is just to help us understand what tools we may have, there will no doubt be deeper discussions after to determine the viability of applying those tools, this is just information gathering at this time.

And that was the week that was, I can’t believe it’s almost May. Go outside, enjoy some spring sun. Or go see a lavish musical. I’m going to do both!

Council – April 17, 2023

We had a special Council meeting on Monday, where the only item on the agenda was giving three readings to the Budget Bylaw – approval of the 5-year financial plan. We had an Opportunity to be Heard before the Bylaw was read.

This type of Opportunity to be Heard is just that, and opportunity for members of the public to tell us what they think. It’s not really a time for debate with the public, so two-way dialogue is not encouraged. Council has a pile of data in front of it, people are able to provide their ideas on that pile of data, Council makes a decision based on those inputs.

It is important to note this is not the only input the public provide to the budget. We have had on-line engagement for a while, and we have received emails and delegations in previous meetings regarding different aspects of the budget. We have had a fulsome discussion in workshops and in Council, and I appreciate the many voices I have heard in delegations, in emails, and in the many community events over the last few months. Even on my Mayor’s walk last week, residents were telling me what they see as priorities for the community.

I also appreciate the work Council have done to get themselves up to speed on the state of the City’s finances, and their active participation in the workshops we have done coinciding with budget preparation and development of a new strategic plan. Having 4 new Council Members and a new Mayor put an extra burden on staff to assure we had the information we needed to make these decisions, and impacted our timelines. It is great we can sum this work up and start working on the plan ahead.

Following my comments on the evening, there are three big parts of the budget I spoke to, and maybe I’ll follow up with a blog post with more numbers and graphs and such (when I find time), but for now I want to hit on these three points at a high level.

The first is the unprecedented Capital budget we are looking at. This means investing in a spectacular new aquatic and recreation centre, replacing 50 year old facilities with the most modern aquatic facility in the Lower Mainland, and the most efficient one ever built in Canada. We are doubling our recreation capacity, our fitness areas, and much more flexible aquatic space to support everything from Aquafit to competitive swimming to finally having the kind of fun all-ages pool young parents in our community have been longing for, all with Carbon-free energy systems and a building accessible to all. We are also investing in the Arts by making a generational commitment to save and restore the Massey Theatre not just for big shows, but a place where people can learn new skills, can rehearse, and can perform. At the same time, we are leveraging senior government supports to undertake a massive revamping of the critical infrastructure that makes our City resilient – electrical substations and modern metering technology, $11Million in water system upgrades, more than $20 Million in sewer separation program. Even the $1.5 Million we are spending on tree planting and maintenance – we are making the generational investments that our growing city needs. They are not inexpensive projects, or easy projects, but they are building a stronger city. This is what people have asked us for.

The second is how this budget addresses our real operational needs. We heard people worried about livability downtown, and are investing in the Livability Strategy that will address the most pressing concerns for residents and businesses, while we partner with the province and outside agencies to reduce the suffering resulting from overlapping housing, addiction, and mental health crises. Our community partners (the Downtown BIA, the non-profit support providers, the residents downtown) deserve to be supported by the City, and our front line staff need the resources to provide this support. This budget provides it. We are also investing in staff positions to accelerate permitting process, to help with our long-term HR needs and employee resiliency, and to support our emergency response capabilities at a time when the climate emergency is knocking on our door. These investments will let new homes get built faster, will mean more resilient emergency response, will improve the customer service experience at City Hall.

The third part is the aspect of sound fiscal management. We are making these important investments at a time of economic uncertainty. With less stable interest rates and inflation, we, as managers of the public purse, need to not think only about the needs of the day, but about the long-term needs of the community. Balancing the need to invest with debt tolerance and the need to maintain healthy reserves has never been as important as now. We cannot burden the next generation – the young families moving to New West in record numbers and the kids they are raising here – with bad fiscal decisions now, nor can we burden them by not investing in Climate resiliency.

One motion brought to the table proposed cutting $1 Million from our projected surplus to reduce the tax increase by 1%. Problem is, there is no projected surplus due to our major capital investment, so this $1 Million would be added to our debt (something one of the delegates who came to speak to council specifically warned us against) or erode our capital reserves (something our CFO has been warning us about for four months of council discussions). That is exactly the kind of kicking-the-can-down-the-road thinking that created the infrastructure deficit we are currently trying to address. Fortunately, Council did not support this change.

We have new revenue sources like the Low Carbon Fuel Credits, and have further revenue opportunities though District Energy and the trend towards increased electrification, but at the same time are not immune to the same inflationary pressures businesses and residents in our community are feeling. On the optimistic side, we have Provincial and Federal governments ready to invest in the kinds of things that we are trying to build here: Climate resiliency, livability and affordability, housing and childcare, active transportation, and urban forest. We need to be ready with the shovel-ready projects to get access to those senior government funds, and the 5-year capital plan gets us there.

So I supported the budget as proposed, as did the majority of council, and look forward to getting to work building the community New Westminster elected us to build.

Council – April 3, 2023

I am so late putting this report out. The week was a short one, but very long, with a UBCM Housing Summit and Metro Vancouver meetings, but I finally have a chance to sit down and write this us up while watching Edin vs. Gushue 2. We had a relatively short agenda, starting with a Presentation:

Pattullo Bridge Replacement Project – Project Update
The Pattullo project team presented to Council for this first time in a year, with an update on their progress, and some news about upcoming road closures related to the construction. No surprise that there will be some road closures as they re-align the on- and off-ramps and put overpass spans over Front Street and Columbia. The closures of Columbia will only be at the Elliot end, but that impacts traffic patterns on the rest of the road, and temporary closures of parts of Royal and Front at different stages will mean lots of change coming over the next year. This diagram is a good indication of the timelines envisioned:

Council and the Pattullo team are aware of the construction weariness being felt be Downtown businesses and residents, and we are asking the Ministry of Transportation and the Pattullo Team to be very conscious of their outreach and transparency with the Downtown community. The re-alignment of truck routes during some of these closures is something the City is going to work with the Ministry to determine the path that best protects the livability of our community.

The following items were then removed from consent for discussion:

Building Amendment Bylaw No. 8388, 2023: BC Energy Step Code Alignment – Bylaw for Three Readings
The Province has changed the “Step Code”, which is the part of the provincial building code that regulates building efficiency and emissions. We are updating our Building Bylaw to align with this change.

New Westminster Secondary School (NWSS) Cycling Connector – Mitigation of Business Concerns
The Bike Lanes connecting the Crosstown Greenway to the new high school are not yet complete. Weather will determine when the final lane markings and signage work can be completed. There were some concerns raised by a few Uptown businesses when the lanes were being installed. Recognizing the impacts they were feeling were more likely related to construction than a completed street improvement, Council asked staff to report back on mitigation measures, in part to help with this project, and in part to inform the next time this type of change is implements, as forecast by Council’s adoption of the Active Transportation Network plan.

The resultant report is a good one, worth a read. In reaching out to other municipalities that have historically managed this type of change (Edmonton, Calgary, Portland, Burnaby, the City of North Vancouver, and others) the clear message was that the engagement process we undertook before the work began was “comprehensive… relative to what other municipalities have done in similar situations”, though there was some good advice on specific engagement approaches. This extra step of direct outreach during the construction phase is another example of this commitment.

We then read some Bylaws, including the following Bylaw for Adoption:

Engineering User Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 8386, 2023
This Bylaw that amends the Bylaw to temporarily suspend Street Occupancy Permit fees for block parties was adopted by Council. Party on, Blocks.

We then had a few Motions from Council

Parks and Recreation registration process
Submitted by Councillor Henderson
BE IT RESOLVED that Council direct staff to explore opportunities to improve the equity and accessibility of the Parks and Recreation registration process and report back to Council with options to address the current challenges./i>
This issue arose from some concerns from parents around the challenge of getting registered for kids programs in the City. It has been likened to trying to get Taylor Swift concert tickets. And of course it is related to a very similar phenomenon: demand for great programs that far exceeds availability. The changes wrought by COVID are part of this, but there is also challenges with shifting to on-line registration. Not a couple of days after this motion was passed, there was a story on CBC radio about Surrey having very similar issues with the aquatics programs, so we aren’t alone here. Part of a region growing faster than services can keep pace.

The availability of programs (and cost related to expansion, including as təməsew̓txʷ comes on line next year) is another conversation we need to have in context of a budget discussion, but this motion is looking towards our equity programs to determine if there are structural inequities in how we do registration, and ways to address that, which is an important first step in alignment with our equity goals as a City.

Preserving, protecting and enhancing the Samson V museum for future generations
Submitted by Councillor Fontaine
BE IT RESOLVED THAT staff report back on the costs, potential sources of funding and operational impacts associated with temporarily placing the Samson V in dry dock to repair and restore the vessel for public viewing; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that staff report back on options to find a permanent indoor home for the Samson V adjacent to or on our waterfront as part of a possible pier expansion and/or long-term tourism strategy; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that staff consult with the Fraser River Discovery Center and other key stakeholders and report back regarding the opportunity and costs associated with undertaking a pilot program that would permit short-term pleasure craft usage at the moorage vacated by the Samson V

The Samson V is under repair. It is 90 years old, and is (notably) “the only completely intact and floating wooden sternwheeler in North America.” As discussed several times during Council onboarding, there is a maintenance plan to keep it so, fully costed in our Capital budget ($60K for maintenance and repair this year, $38K for dredging this year to keep it floating, $72 total over the following 4 years for maintenance and repair). The current roof repairs need to be performed in good weather, so boat wrap is being used to keep the rain and pigeons out until that is done. That said, there is nothing dire about it that regular maintenance can’t address. There is no pressing need to dry dock it, to buy or build a 6,500 square foot 5 story building in which to house it. Indeed, doing these things would take away one of the key heritage aspects of the museum, would cost millions of dollars, and likely add to the maintenance costs of the boat, as we would now need to maintain and operate a building. This is not a priority for me right now with so many things pressing for staff time and limited resources in the City right now. Council seems to agree with me, and did not support this motion.

Hearing from the communities regarding their priorities for the new Growing Communities Fund
Submitted by Councillor Minhas
BE IT RESOLVED that Council hold a special open meeting at City Hall at the earliest opportunity to obtain feedback from the public regarding what the priorities should be for the Growing Communities Funding; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that staff develop an online survey opportunity for the public to provide their feedback regarding what priority areas Council should consider as part of the Growing Communities Funding

Through discussion with Council, this motion was amended to the point of replacement with another motion that is further-reaching:

BE IT RESOLVED: that early in the 2024 budget process, Community Engagement staff lead a structured consultation including an online survey component with the goal to involve a representative sample of the community in determining priority areas for future Capital budget spending.
BE IT FUTRTHER REOLVED no decision will be made regarding the Growing Communities Fund until Council has received the report back on the engagement consultation process, per the motion above.

The mindset of the original motion is one I felt the need to challenge, and that is of the Growing Communities Fund being money we need to spend like a lottery win, in that it represents a large amount of money in the scope of our Capital budget. $15.85 Million seems like a lot of money for capital investment, except that it is only 9% of the $173.2 Million 2023 Capital Budget coming forward for approval next week, and only 4% of our $410 Million 5-year capital plan.

Of course $16 Million is still a lot of money that must be spent wisely, and we need to be transparent about how it is spent. The point is we need to be transparent about how we spend all of our Capital Budget, not just this part. This is why Council expanded the discussion to expand public consultation for the next budget cycle to help us set priorities for our capital budget. In the broad scope of things, does the public want us to use this $16 Million to reduce the debt related to our current Capital Program? To bolster our reserves, recognizing the infrastructure deficit we are facing? Or do they want us to spend it on new capital items? If we want to spend it on new items, how do we prioritize what to add to the already extensive capital program?

The language of the motion introduced by Councilor Nakagawa was intentional – “Involve” is the level of consultation we are aiming towards on the IAP2 Spectrum, which is important as staff need to understand what type of consultation we are looking for. It is also important that the consultation be structured to consult a representative group of New Westminster, as we know many forms of consultation result in a skewed and often privileged view of public opinion. Questions around this were asked of the original mover, but I did not hear the member offer any answer.

I was not happy with the second clause of this motion, as it again reinforced the false perception that this was a “lottery win” and not a part of a more important broader discussion of the capital budget. Indeed, a Councilor clearly tried to reinforce this perception while arguing for the original motion with some incorrect ideas about how the capital budget is structured (which were corrected on the record by the Director of Finance). This is especially important as I have seen some members of council putting out videos and encouraging people to delegate to council with ideas that have already spent this money three times over (that is not a joke), but overall I am satisfied that we will have an opportunity for deeper public consultation leading to the next Capital budget.

This Happened (23.4)

It’s been a busy week, a busy month. Lots going on. I hope I don’t sound to frantic!. I do occasionally like to write these blog posts to give brief summary of some of the things I have been up to, but have some catching up to do, so this goes all the way back to March 8th when there was…

The Downtown BIA AGM and Social! I wasn’t able to stick around for the entire AGM, but it was a well attended event at the Terminal, and fun and smiles were all around.

I left early as that night I took part in the annual Metro Vancouver Homeless Count. Over the two days of March 7 and 8, teams across the Lower Mainland attempt to estimate the number of people without secure housing, and do a bit of a survey to help determining the factors and causes that led to them not having secure housing. The stories you are told, the diverse histories of people living rough in our community, and the systemic failures that often lead to a form of societal abandonment are both shocking, and banal.

Along with MLA Jennifer Whiteside, I was able to provide some welcome remarks and attend some of the Bottom Line Conference at the Anvil Centre. This conference was organized by the Canadian Mental Health association and was a gathering to talk about workplace mental health.

I also had a chance to have a pretty informal meeting with Mayor Lahti of Port Moody to talk about some regional issues, dog sports, and the nexus of conditions that led to Brewery Row.

Bosley’s Pet Store held a Bollywood Fundraiser to celebrate their 12th anniversary, and to raise money for the New Westminster Animal Shelter, where elected officials were offered the chance to embarrass themselves in a Bollywood Dance off. And we did so.

New West Pride also held a Pride Pub Night that raised some money for their organization, brought folks together and allowed us to celebrate Don’s 60th Birthday!

I was asked to drop the Puck for the final game of the Al Hughes Tournament for U-13 teams hosted by the New West Minor Hockey Association. The Royals fought a valiant battle for silver in the tournament, matching the silver medal won by the U-11 team in the same event.

When a group of Reporters-in-Training from BCIT’s journalism program shows up at a Council meeting, they were hoping to interview me after the Meeting. As the meeting went pretty late (alas) I agree to meet them later in the week at City Hall, and they had a chance to do an old-fashioned scrum, peppering me with questions about the Council Meeting. And mug for a few photos.

The Royal Westminster Regiment held their first Annual Dinner since the COVID thing shut this type of event down. I had some great conversations with the CO and the Chief Warrant Officer about the impacts of COVID, changes in the forces related to NATO support for Ukraine, and some potential increased collaboration between the Regiment and City.

Speaking of doing your duty as a Canadian, I was one of a small elite team of volunteers who took the CAO of TransLink (who was born and raised south of the Curling-NASCAR line) to the Royal City Curling Club and taught him the basics of the Roaring Game. Have to say, dude got the knack of it fast!

Yes the meeting with Anita Huberman happened. And… I think I’ll have to write a blog post about that.

I was able to have sit-downs with the two newest members of the New Westminster Police Board, and you will be hearing more about their contributions in the years ahead.

Finally, I was able to sit down at City Hall with the new Minister of Municipal Affairs. We were able to talk about some of the City’s ongoing initiatives around housing and livability, discuss our support for regional calls for better accountability of local government elected officials, and thank her for championing the Growing Communities Fund through cabinet.