Mayor’s Council, Jan 2023

Another busy week, this one featured a TransLink Mayor’s Council meeting, our third meeting of the term, but the first in-person meeting since inauguration. There was some good discussion, I thought I would share a bit. The first part of the meeting was a discussion of ridership returns, and how TransLink has adjusted the system through the slow recovery from COVID. There is good and news just OK news, but lots of reasons to be optimistic.

The just OK news is the headline that ridership is back up to 194 Million Annual journeys, which is about 82% of the pre-COVID peak, with bus journeys leading the comeback and West Coast Express lagging behind.

Source of all of these graphs is the Translink Mayor’s Council report here.

The good news is buried in the details. This recovery rate is by far the leader in North America, though we lag a bit behind most European systems. TransLink ridership in raw numbers is 5th highest of any metro region in North America, though we are the 24th largest service area by population. We have 60% more ridings than Seattle and Portland (our nearest cohorts in weather, demography, and size) combined. Metro Vancouver has more daily transit riders than the City of Chicago, which has three times our population.

Here in new west, our ridership recovery lags a bit behind the average at 77%, but we are still, at 28,000 journeys a day, one of the most transit-oriented neighbourhoods in the region.

A more interesting way to look at ridership is to put it in the context of the rapid ridership growth of the last decade. We are, essentially, back at 2014 ridership levels. In a sense, the current ridership levels harken back to the brief period post-olympics before we entered into that period of unsustainable crowding in the system. We are just starting to get to the point where crowding is starting to appear on some routes, tempered a bit by the noticeable change in travel patterns. Though we still have morning and afternoon “rush”, there is a lot more travel on weekends and offpeak times – reflecting reduced return-to-office ridership, and more service and recreational ridership.

One interesting aspect of this is the impact on monthly passes. Totally anecdotally (and indulging in my own bit of elite projection here) I hung up my compass wristband (which I used as a monthly pass) when COVID happened, and shifted to loading my compass card up and paying per ride. Clearly I was not alone here. This feeds into the discussion of revenue drivers for Translink, as farebox recovery has not been as fast as ridership recovery.

Which brings us to the financial situation. But I digress.

We then talked about the Ten Year Priorities for regional transportation. There has been much written about it, but this meeting Staff are seeking the Council’s endorsement of the plan which leans heavily on Rapid Bus (think 99 B-Lines in more locations) and BRT (which is something else entirely – but we will get deeper into that). They received it and endorsed it, unanimously, which is no mean feat around the Mayor’s Council table. We call come from different political backgrounds, 21 communities with different needs and priorities, but on this we speak as a united voice.

Two points of discussion raised in this plan, first related to the funding, second to the very idea of BRT.

This plan is not funded. It is natural that we need a unified and clear plan before we can seek the funding to achieve it, but endorsing the plan is not the end of the journey, only a rest point. We have work at the Federal and Provincial level, and in our own backyards, to secure a clear and predictable funding model to make this plan come to life. I am confident we will do it, as this plan is fundamental not just to the transportation plans of the region, but to the transportation, livability, affordability, and climate plans of the Province and the Country. As PoCo Mayor and Mayors Council Chair Brad West put forward at the meeting, this plan is not a “nice to have”, it is as necessary to the functioning of our region as our water, sewer, and electrical utilities. And we need to remember that as we work through the details of a funding plan.

The other conversation we need to have is about Bus Rapid Transit (“BRT”). This is a form of rapid and reliable transit that is common in many jurisdictions, but pretty new in North America. It offers a functionality somewhere above a streetcar or B-line, not quite to the level of full grade-separated light rail, but in a sweet spot that fits our region very well, provides a lot of flexibility, and saves us a tonne of money over elevated rail.

The trade-off is that BRT can take space away from other traffic. Though way less intrusive than an elevated rail line, it still means either re-allocation of existing road space, or creation of new dedicated road space. It has the potential to be one of those new infrastructure directions that everyone wants near them, but not too near. It will be more apparent to drivers than a tunnel or overhead light rail line. There also needs to be careful interface planning between BRT routes and other road users, such as pedestrian crossings, bike lanes, and even areas where we want to see traffic calmed, like pedestrian-oriented commercial areas.

So we have some work to do, to educate the public about BRT, and to educate senior government about our need for consistent and reliable funding. The good news is that the plan is solid, and solidly supported by the leadership of the region.

Behind the scenes

Trying hard to get back to my post-election semi-promise to try to post here once a week; Alas it was an aspirational goal I will strive towards, but not there yet. Though it is a good time for a bit of an update not just on what I’ve been up to, but what New West Council has been up to. You may have noticed our meeting agendas have been a little light (excepting random Motions from Council, which are another issue altogether), and there is a good reason for this.

We have 4 new City Councillors, and I am new in my role. There has also been a lot of change in the City over the last couple of years as we pivoted quickly to a COVID response, and more recently and slowly pivoting away from that initial response – recognizing that everything has changed due to COVID while there are still community expectations that the work that was delayed by COVID must go on. Into this, we had seven people elected with wish lists of things they want to do, even with promises of what they were going to do. We are going to need to figure out what to prioritize, or nothing will get done. That prioritization and strategic planning can only occur (in my mind), if all 7 members have a clear, and as equal as possible, understanding of the landscape between where we are and where we want to go. So all that so say: we have been doing a *lot* of  Onboard Training. This emphasis is meant to assure the new Council members are up to speed enough to make informed decisions before we make any major changes.

We have had a number of Onboarding Meetings, basically every Monday and Wednesday since early November, a few hours at a time. Different departments present to Council on what they do – their current work plans, the things they are looking at for longer-term planning, their pressures and challenges and the opportunities they see in the short term and in the years ahead. Council was able to have some frank discussions with them about our ideas and concerns. If you want to watch one of these meetings, they are streamed live, and you can watch them here. For example, click on January 23rd on the calendar, and you can watch our discussion of the Anvil Centre, Building and Planning Permits and Fees, and Pay Parking policies. Yep, there is minutiae.

We have also had a few tours of City facilities and sites of interest in the City. Talking about whistle cessation or works yard space issues or the new təməsew̓txʷ Aquatic and Community Centre in the abstract is not as useful as going to the sites to look over the site so Council and Staff can actually point at the things we are discussing. Down at the bottom, Ill add some photos from our tours, and note these are going to continue for another couple of weeks as we build towards Strategic Planning in early February.

I have also been taking the opportunity as Mayor to meet with Staff where they work. Not the senior staff we see often in City Hall so much as the 1,000-odd folks who keep the City running day to day. It has been great to chat with them about what they do every day, and what their pressures and concerns are, in an informal way. These meetings are ongoing as well, as I have a few more sites to get to.

I’ve really appreciated the time regional leaders (new and experienced) have taken to meet and talk about our shared challenges and opportunities.

Meanwhile, I have had a chance to meet with many of my regional colleagues, some in person, some through phone calls or zoom. And I’ve had meetings with our local MLAs, and phone meetings with the new Premier, and several members of his new Caucus.

Then there is the onboarding I have been doing at Metro Vancouver and TransLink. The Chair of Metro Vancouver appoints regional leaders to various Committees, and I am on several, including Parks (we had our Inaugural meeting January 11), Climate Action (I chaired our inaugural meeting on January 13th), Liquid Waste (Inaugural meeting January 18th), and the Board (next Meeting January 27th), along with the Indigenous Relations Committee (Which doesn’t meet until February). The TransLink Mayor’s Council has had several onboarding meetings, and has another meeting January 26th, and I have been named to the Finance Committee, so that will be another monthly meeting. It’s a lot of meetings, and a *lot* of onboarding. So as I empathize with my new Council colleagues drinking from the firehose of info, I am feeling it myself at the regional level.

Metro Vancouver Board meetings are a bit complex, with 40 Board Members, a challenging meeting space, and a plethora of screens. Here was a part of my view during the Inaugural meeting.

The good news is that staff in both organizations have been great in getting us elected types the material we need so we can read ahead and be prepared for training, and Council has been working hard and asking lots of questions. This is time and energy well spent, as it will make us a stronger group of leaders for the community.

Now for the photo tour of some of our tour stops (so far):

We toured the Anvil Centre to see the behind the scenes parts of the Archives and museum collection, the performance and conference space.
The topic of train whistle cessation is one where the new Councillors especially benefitted from seeing the on-site challenges and the work staff has done to make it work downtown…
…while also recognizing the special challenges at Sapperton that mean it is still a work in progress.
We’ve now visited all three Firehalls – the good, the almost-as-good, and the ugly. Each has its own character and use, but one really needs to be replaced.
The new substation in Queensborough represents the single biggest investment we have ever made in the sustainability of our electrical grid. It is almost ready to get turned on, and is looking to come in a little under budget – no mean feat in this time of inflation and supply chain disruption.
Visiting the Queensborough Community Centre was highlighted by seeing how the satellite library branch meets the needs of that community through careful collection management and programs.
We had a long discussion with engineering staff about Queensborough drainage infrastructure, the importance of the pump system and open watercourses, how the system is maintained, and some of the engineering challenges that come with ongoing upgrades to the system.
We toured the refreshed and renewing Massey Theatre to see how the MTS is making this into a new hub for teaching, experiencing, and engaging in the Arts.
And finally, today we got to tour the təməsew̓txʷ Aquatic and Community Centre, and I think most of Council was left agape at the scale of the project, as most of the framing is complete (except over the 50m lap pool). This is going to be a real game-changer for community space in New West come 2024.

This Happened (23.1)

Regular readers (Hi Mom!) might remember some of my earlier practice of talking up community events I go to and cool things happening in the City. I am going to try to get back into this practice, because there is a lot going on, and because I don’t have time to celebrate it all at the great length it probably deserves. I’m so grateful for all the people doing good things to bring the community together and celebrate New West. Here’s some good moments that happened so far in 2023:

Had a meeting with the one and only Cassius Khan to talk about his experiences as an artist and an arts supporter in New West. He also signed CDs (you can’t really sign a digital file!) for me and Councillor Campbell. As always, he was generous with his thoughts and ideas, and the most gracious person you could ever meet.
New West Firefighters had their annual Tree Chipping, event at City Hall to give folks an chance to recycle their dried out tree, and raise money (More than $5,000 this year!) for their Charitable Society. Every day, NWFF deliver heavy lifting with a smile!
I was able to do a tour of Douglas College, see some of the exciting changes at the New West campus, and talk about their proposed new academic and residence building. I also learned about their “Coat of Arms”, that was recently designed by Carrielynn Victor, an artist from S’olh Temexw who was able to blend traditional knowledge and language from this region into what is typically a very Colonial media.
I was at the Royal City Curling Club to give greetings from New Westminster to the Scottish contingent visiting Canada as part of the century-old tradition of the Strathcona Cup series of  friendlies between Scottish and Canadian club teams.
There is a new photography exhibit at the Anvil Centre Community Art Space on the third floor. These are photos and short essays on “What Housing Means to Me”, prepared by residents of the supportive housing lodge in Queensborough. This is a simple, but really thoughtful, exhibition you should check out!
There was also a near full house for the first evening of the Outside/In program at Anvil Centre, as the BC World Music Collective brought a diverse program of music from around the Americas (with a bit of Africa thrown in) that left everyone thinking on the way home: Who knew you could do that with a tambourine?
And of course, January 22nd was Lunar New Year, and there were a few events around the region, including a traditional big event at the Nikkei Centre featuring the Whos Who of Burnaby and New West, where I was honoured to be invited to Dot the Dragon’s Eye and enjoy the loud and boisterous dance. I also go to hang with these cool kids…
…and we were also invited to take part in a perhaps louder and more boisterous Dragon parade at the Starlight Casino, which really pulled out all of the stops to ring in the Year of the Rabbit. gōng xi fā cái!

Council – Jan 9, 2023

Happy New Year! We were back at Council on January 9th, with a fairly light agenda. We did however continue to have lengthy discussions at Council, this time peppered with selected quotes from this very blog. It is great to see that folks (even my new Council colleagues!) are still leaning into the legacy of my 10+ years of writing about local government and New Westminster, even if quotes are being pulled more for rhetorical purposes than to improve people’s understanding of how local government works. I guess you take the bad with the good!

We first moved the following items On Consent:

Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption Request: 660 Quayside Drive (Bosa Development) – Construction Activity
The Bosa project needs to close a piece of road to deliver large crane components to the site, which they want to do when it will cause the least traffic disruption, but it will mean trucks operating outside or regulated construction hours, so they need this exemption. Council said OK.

Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption Request: New Westminster Interceptor – Columbia Sewer Rehabilitation
The never ending sewer rehab work downtown needs to do a bit of night work to meet their timelines, and to allow then to do a bit of work that has to happen when sewer flows are low (at night). Council agreed to give then this exemption.

Funding Submission to the Provincial Community Emergency Preparedness Fund for Emergency Support Services
The City wants to upgrade some computer equipment related to tracking people who are displaced or evacuated as a result of an emergency, and to allow us to better coordinate with Emergency Management BC. Good news is there is a Provincial funding through the CEPF to pay for this, so we are asking for the $20k.

Heritage Designation (109 Third Avenue) Bylaw No. 8381, 2023 for First and Second Readings
The owner of this Queens Park home is requesting Heritage Designations to protect the home in perpetuity. That requires a Bylaw be approved and (by Provincial regulation) a Public Hearing. Council agreed to give the designation bylaw two readings to allow the scheduling of a Public Hearing.

The following item was Removed from Consent for discussion.

Council Appointments to Residents Associations
A few years ago, we decided to “Appoint” City Councillors to be designated contacts for Residents Associations so they have a single point of contact. Lucky we have 12 RAs and 6 Councillors, so two each. We don’t pick them, but staff make a recommendation based on Councillors not being the rep in the Neighbourhood where they live and that no Councillor be appointed to the same RA for more than one term. Read the list in the report, if you want to know your key contact.

Our Bylaw Readings included no Bylaws for Adoption this time around, so nothing to report there.

We then moved on to the Motions from Council:

Reducing the cost and time related to the development of new housing in New Westminster
BE IT RESOLVED that staff report back to Council by April 30, 2023 with a plan for the City of New Westminster to develop up to 15 standardized and pre-approved housing designs for implementation by December 31, 2023

This was, in my opinion, a populist idea that doesn’t solve an actual problem. That opinion was reinforced when I talked to people more knowledgeable than I am about building approval and design. This is not something builders, architects or developers are asking from us, as they recognize that every lot is unique – even in places like the West End where lots sizes are almost standard, the changes in grades, utility connection sites, grade and spoil conditions would mean a “universal” design simply would not remain universal. The building code would require a comprehensive review of any universal design the minute it was fit into a non-standard location, so there is no indication this would speed up processes.

We also just went through Council onboarding discussions where Policy Planning staff made it clear what their Council-directed priorities are in the upcoming year, and the number of thing they already don’t have capacity to move at the speed Council would like. Developing this plan on the timeline suggested would take a lot of policy planning work, which would mean taking staff away from those already-strained work plans to achieve higher-priority work (like our current infill density review, review of our inclusionary zoning policy, the Downtown Livability Strategy). We have a *lot* of ongoing housing policy based on our priorities set out in our Housing Needs Report, to divert resources to this without knowing if it even aligns with our priorities for housing is a bad idea.

That said, we have an Affordable Housing Task Force that can evaluate those priorities and work with staff to do some preliminary work to determine if this approach will even achieve any of the City’s expressed goals, so Council decided to refer this idea to that Task Force for further evaluation before we commit limited staff resources to developing it.

Supporting the need for a ‘Snow Summit’ in Metro Vancouver to review the impacts of recent climatic event
BE IT RESOLVED that Council request Mayor Johnstone, as our representative on Metro Vancouver, introduce a motion requesting a ‘Snow Summit’ be held as soon as possible to review and analyze the circumstances which led to a record level of traffic gridlock in our region on Tuesday, November 29th; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that Anvil Center be offered as a possible venue for this summit which should include, at a minimum, representatives from the Ministry of Transportation, Metro Vancouver, BC Ambulance, TransLink, ICBC, Mainland
Contracting and senior officials from the various municipalities in our region that can speak on behalf of our first responders including fire and police.

The Snow Event of November was clearly unique, one not repeated with the major snow and ice event in December. I suspect the extra communication work we saw leading up to the December event by both the Minister of Transportation and the new Minister for Emergency Preparedness and learnings from the November event were part of why we did not have a similar event. As I mentioned in Council, Snow and Ice plans are constantly adapting here in the City and regionally. I don’t think we need an expensive get-together of politicians to make that process work better. Maybe a session at UBCM would help elected folks understand the processes and ask questions

However, it is important to note that Metro Vancouver’s mandate does not include transportation or snow removal. It would be weird to ask Metro to wade into an area so far out of their mandate when they have their own priorities. Metro is also not a body that typically advocates for transportation policy changes for local government, it is a Regional District, not and advocacy organization. That is the role of UBCM and its area associations. I also note that all of the agencies listed in this motion were well made aware of the call for a Snow Summit, and none seem to have expressed interest, and the Chair of Metro Vancouver (in his role as Mayor of Delta) has already opined extensively on the topic, so I see little value in raising his attention to the matter. Council voted to oppose it.

Delaying the demolition of the Centennial Community Center and beginning to address our city-wide infrastructure deficit
BE IT RESOLVED that the demolition of the Centennial Community Center be temporarily delayed and the building continue to operate in its current form until an equivalent capacity for new recreational facilities and meeting space can be identified and/or constructed in our city; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that staff report back to Council on the financial implications on the city’s operating budget related to delaying the Centennial Community Center demolition

During Council on-boarding, we took a tour around the Centennial Community Centre. It was clear from that tour that the building is at end of life. If it was to continue to operate, it would require significant structural and operational upgrades to address hazardous building material and seismic code. It is a very inefficient building that challenges our Energy and Emissions plan, it is nowhere near meeting modern accessibility standards, and even its layout and function no longer suits what is needed in New Westminster for recreation programming.

This is why the decision was made to remove the building and not just replace its capacity – but provide double its capacity for recreation programming and community meeting space in the new təməsew̓txʷ Aquatic and Community Centre, which will be universally accessible and the first Zero-Carbon Aquatic and Recreation center of its kind in Canada – allowing the City to meet its corporate climate goals for 2030. It also meant we needed to fit the new TACC on a very constrained site, which requires the removal of the CCC for road access, for mechanical back-end service access to TACC, and to expand open and green space on around the building.

The idea of keeping this building meets none of the City’s goals, and again solves no actual problem, while generating unknown costs. To suggest keeping a building that is past its useful life, will need significant upgrades and repairs to keep functional, and does not fill a required need will somehow reduce our infrastructure deficit is to fundamentally not understand what the term “Infrastructure Deficit” means in the Asset Management and Municipal Finance dictionary of terms. Council did not support this motion.

Quantifying the downloading of costs from senior orders of government as it pertains to the City of New Westminster 2023 operating budget
BE IT RESOLVED that staff report back to Council, as part of the 2023 Budget development process, with an itemized list of expenditures [and Senior Government revenues] the City of New Westminster has incorporated into the draft operating and capital budgets which are typically considered outside of municipal jurisdiction and are not part of our ‘core services’

The key term here is in ‘scare quotes’. That’s not a good idea when writing a resolution you want Council to endorse; hanging direction on unclear definitions will bring unexpected results. This was also a motion that brought a Delegate with an advanced degree in Philosophy to discuss the ethics of even asking this question, which was one of the most intriguing public delegations I have heard in my 8 years on Council. But all that aside…

This motion hopes to duplicate work done in Vancouver a few years ago that was celebrated by austerity hawks in local media and largely ignored by everyone else. The problem is that no-one can agree on what is “typical”, what is considered “core service”, or even who gets to make that determination. The Constitution is silent on the role of Municipalities, and our empowering legislation (the Local Government Act and the Community Charter) really avoid the topic. Nowhere is it written that operating a skating rink (for example) is a “core local government service”, but many do it. So if we are going to undergo this type of exercise, it is going to involve first a conversation (which will no doubt have a political aspect) on what *we* deem ‘core service’. Or more pointedly, what we don’t. Notably, the mover was asked a few times to provide an example of a non-core service the City provides, and chose not to do so.

Anyhow, the motion was amended to remove the 2023 budget timeline (as this conversation about what constitutes core service will take some time, and the 2023 budget timeline and work plan is already established by staff), and to add an evaluation about what senior government funding we receive to support our programs (as the numerator here needs a denominator). I’m not convinced the end result number will be a useful as the mover hopes, but am interested in Council having this conversation. Council approved the amended motion.

And that was an evening’s work at Council. We have another two weeks of Council Onboarding, then a Strategic Planning session, then deep into 2023 Budget work. The next couple of months are going to be busy for our new Councillors. Try not to spook them.

2022 in review

Having a bit of time over the Christmas break to think back about the year that was 2022, I am mostly thinking about a year of strategizing, planning, and bringing teams together like I have never experienced before. It is perhaps ironic then (though being the Alanis generation, I may not really understand irony) that my life path in 2022 was nothing I would have predicted one year ago today. This was not the path I expected, but it was a path I navigated as events occurred. So excuse me if my “Year in Review” post is maybe more self-reflective than community-reflective than is my usual.

December last year was the tail end of a challenging time. The City had weathered the worst of the Pandemic admirably, but was still seeing significant challenges around overlapping regional crises related to homelessness, spiraling housing costs and inflationary pressures, the poisoned drug supply and a regional emergency response system that was just not delivering for those suffering from health crises. There was a lot of bad news locally and planet-wide. People could not be blamed for being in a bit of a funk.

At the same time, there was a lot of talk among folks around the New West council table about who would run again. This became pressing in December, as the new campaign finance rules limit the amount of money candidates can contribute per year for their own campaigns. If you were going to run in 2022, it was a good idea to do a little fundraising in 2021, or at least put your personal maximum donation in the bank before the year end. I was very uncertain about running again for Council, and as I was leaning against it I did zero fundraising in 2021. But I hedged my bets by at least opening the bank account and putting in my personal donation.

It may seem strange for the current Mayor to suggest I was uncertain if I would run for Council again just 12 months ago, but Mayor and Council are two very different jobs and we had a solid Mayor. Council would mean another 4 years of continuing to hold my professional life slightly on the side burner: I was working half time, but my heart was not in it to build my geoscience career like it had been in the past, and the half-time work meant I wasn’t really doing the professional development that my work required if I really wanted to excel. I really enjoyed the work of City Council and the team I was working with, but I had two half time jobs, both needing fuller commitment. Something had to give.

There were also some great candidates who reached out about their interest in running for Council (some who are now elected, some who are not) and when I got into the Councillor job I made a personal commitment to not stay around too long, especially not so long that I block the path for great new candidates who can bring the kind of energy and ideas that motivated me 8 years ago. So, December 2022, I was considering not just whether I wanted another 4 years of Council, but whether I was needed.

Then on the first day of 2022, Mayor Cote surprised me (and many others, I suspect) by announcing he would not be running for re-election. That put the scramble to everything, and resulted in my 2022 being divided into four not perfectly equal quarters. All with the common theme of teambuilding.

The first was mostly discussions with friends, supporters, and political allies to determine if I was the right candidate for Mayor. If I was electable, and if there was a broad enough support base out there to get elected. This also included talking to some other potential Mayoral candidates to determine if I should throw support behind them, if they even wanted the job. There were SWOT analyses, hard personal questions asked, and even values challenged. There was also some soul-seeking and conversations about the type of campaign and vision I wanted to present – positive, optimistic and pragmatic. Is that what people would vote for in 2022?

The second quarter began when I was convinced there was a viable path, but I needed a team and a broader support group to run a winning campaign. Running as an independent (as some friends recommended) was an idea I dismissed through these early stages. I think a Mayor needs a team, a supportive Council who can help get things done. With the wide variety of topics we address on Council, a leader needs a strong team of people with diverse experiences to guide them and support them. I already mentioned there were several great new candidates interested in running for Council; I wanted to work with this team. The work of putting a party together was bigger than me, there were many hands that did much more work than I, but helping in that process informed me further on whether I was ready to do the Mayor job.

It was also about putting together and gaining the support of the volunteer team for the project that is a “campaign”. Many community leaders don’t want to run for election themselves, but want to help like-minded folks get elected. Some provide financial support, some volunteer support, some real party structure organizational support, and many a combination of all three. Just as a Council is a team, a campaign is a team. With a good team, you can worry about being a candidate, and know the logistics are taken care of. Without knowing I had this team behind me, I would not have run, because I would not have been successful.

The third quarter was the campaign itself. Parts of it began as far back as January with that self-reflection, but the really intense campaign period began in the last half of the summer. Doorknocking every night, working with the team to develop platform and communications, fundraising and events. It is non-stop, and it never feels like you are doing enough. And though I had been involved in many campaigns before, supporting others and in running for Council two times: the Mayor campaign was something different.

There were ups and downs during the campaign, a few all-candidate events went great, some not so great. Sometimes I read the media and felt good, sometimes I was frustrated by it (Facebook was a complete shit-show, but that’s another blog altogether). In contrast, the doorknocking and the booth-style direct engagement were almost universally a positive. We had a great team of candidates it was a pleasure to share doorknocking time with, and people of New Westminster were their usual: engaged, interested, friendly, thoughtful, and inspiring. As the campaign went on, it was the doors and the booth (or more, the talking to people at both) that gave me energy every day to do the work, because the campaign overall was exhausting. We also had phenomenal doorknocking weather, and an incredible group of volunteers that brought a little joy every day to what is often an arduous journey. And that attack ad – that is some great scrapbook material!

This makes the fourth quarter the post-election period and the new job. The rest of 2022 was mostly filled with various ways of integrating into the job. This means lots of meetings with senior staff and stakeholders in the community, getting the new Council up to speed on the “State of the City” and some deeper thinking about what the “want-to-do”s and the “need-to-do”s are for the next year, and the next four years. And ow there are evets again, where I am now expected to have a few inspirational (!) words.

The good news is that the State of the City is good. We are in a decent (but not decadent) financial situation considering the chaos of COVID and our very aggressive capital plan, but costs are going up everywhere, and the City is no exception. Thanks to Mayor Cote’s leadership, we are in a good shape on a lot of policy fronts – in recent conversations with regional leaders and new Ministers in the Provincial Government, our leadership in housing policy across the spectrum has been noted repeatedly. Our role in getting PACT rolled out not just here but in other communities is also seen as demonstration of leadership, ad the multi-jurisdictional approach to addressing Downtown challenges is a great work in progress, with more to come. At the same time, the conversations we are having here on active transportation infrastructure sounds like debates from 15 years go in Vancouver, and 5 years ago in Victoria. A medium-sized City can’t be a leader on everything.

2022 also saw a return to one of the things that makes New West such a great place to live: we were back to events. Pride and Car Free Day both rocked Columbia, Fridays on Front were appreciated by significant crowds, Uptown Live and Recovery Day brought thousands to Uptown, and all kinds of different events like PechaKucha and the S&O Anniversary Party and the Mushtari Begum Festival the On Your Block Festival and the Hyack Parade and Play the Parks, etc. etc. There were so many ways for folks to connect again, to build that community spirit that was challenged for two years. It was a fun year.

And this winter, we had a few reminders that the day-to-day work of the city never stops. It has already been a challenging snow removal season, we have had crews working long hours and burning through a lot of salt and diesel to keep up with the changing conditions. The social media feedback has been demonstrative of something…

…admittedly, a bit of a mixed message.

I’m also spending some time this break thinking about how to engage differently in Social Media. Partly because the new job changes how my engagement is read, partly because I simply do not have time to track and respond to social media the way it sometimes desires, and partly because during the election I found judicious use of the “mute” button improved my outlook on the community, what with the anonymous trolls and racists filtered out. But this will be the topic of future posts and further reflection as the social media landscape is rapidly changing. Apparently Mastodon is a thing now?

So, to sum up, thank you to everyone who took part in making New West an exciting, engaged, and proactive community in 2022. There is much good coming in 2023, though I am sure the upcoming budget discussions will be contentious here as in most communities, as cost are going up and the austerity hawks will be making their damaging claims about the need to strip back community services. One of my reads over the break has been Andy Merrifield’s “The New Urban Question”, an exciting review of the impact of neoliberalism on not just the function of “The City”, but on the very nature of citizenship in the new Urban Realm, worldwide. It is an empowering and challenging read, and a reminder that the work we are doing has a purpose, even if the battle has no end.

Happy New Year! See you in Council Chambers – and around town – in 2023!

COUNCIL – DEC 12, 2022 (PT2)

The December 12th meeting had an unprecedented 7 motions presented and motivated by a single member of Council. This was surprising not only because it is the number of motions a proactive Council Member may typically present in a typical year, but also because Council has not yet finished onboarding (indeed there were onboarding meetings and tours continuing this week), and the Council has not yet had time to do the regular Strategic Planning to set priorities for the year or the term.

But here we are.

There was a lot of politicking going on during these motions, and though I think most members of Council were genuinely trying to find consensus positions that could be supported, this was challenged by rhetorical questions and some confrontational approaches that did not make consensus easy to find. We have some work to do to determine how we will be working together in the best interest of the City. As it is hard for me to talk about this politicking without engaging in it a bit myself, I do need to emphasize that this blog, as always, is my viewpoint and opinions, and not official position of the City or Council.

1:Halting the Phase-out of the Royal City Moniker

BE IT RESOLVED THAT the City of New Westminster halt the phasing out of the ‘Royal City’ moniker in our branding; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT no future change to the branding shall be undertaken without due notice and proper consultation with our residents, businesses and Indigenous people.

This resolution asked staff to do two things. The first was asking them to “halt” something that was not an actual activity they were undertaking. The use of the moniker in any real way was effectively phased out more than a decade ago, and no-one knows when the last time it was part of the City’s official branding at all, but it was at least before 2009. The second was to ask for a public consultation before undertaking re-branding, which is exactly the instruction given to staff 6 months ago.

So the first half asks staff to stop doing something they aren’t doing, and the second half asks staff to do something they re already doing, so it passing or failing changes nothing. Since there is no functional difference between supporting and defeating the motion, it is moot. I ruled the motion out of order.

Frankly, this motion could have used a bit of conversation with staff to talk about what is actually happening, and to avoid confusion over terms like “moniker”, and what constitutes branding. It seems that creating confusion about this was a political tactic during the election, suggesting something vaguely nefarious is going on is always populist. But I think thing will become clearer when staff come back with the promised engagement strategy around branding, but I m not sure that is going to happen very soon given the number of priorities the City is dealing with right now.

2:Elimination of Train Whistle Noise and Supporting Increased Liveability

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT Council re-establish the Railway Community Advisory Panel and that staff report back to Council on the updated terms of reference by no later than
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City of New Westminster establishes a target of eliminating all unnecessary train whistles which are negatively impacting the quality of life for thousands of Sapperton and Queensborough residents by no later than 2026; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that City Council draft a letter to the Federal Minister of Transportation advising that we wish to accelerate negotiations with the Federal Government to get their support and assistance with whistle cessation in our neighbourhoods; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that staff be required to provide quarterly updates to City Council and the public regarding progress made to eliminate unnecessary train whistles; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that staff ensure the website containing critical information regarding whistle cessation is updated with the latest information; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that staff report back on the capital costs related to the infrastructure upgrade to the Sapperton and Queensborough train crossings and if we are eligible to apply for provincial or federal infrastructure funding to lower the tax burden on city ratepayers.

This is a motion that would have also benefitted from waiting until after onboarding so the member could discuss with staff the rather complex background behind train whistle cessation. This blog doesn’t have space to go down every hallway here, but suffice to say there is no such thing as an “unnecessary train whistle” – they are required by law every time they sound. The Federal Minister of Transportation has no role in “negotiating” Whistle Cessation (unless the member is hoping we will lobby to change the Rail Safety Act, which I’m not sure would be the best use of staff time), nor is there “negotiation” over the standards being applied. Half of our crossings are not even regulated by Transport Canada, but by Technical Safety BC. The application of arbitrary deadlines is also challenging as we (the City and senior governments) have no control over the timelines the four railways operate by when reviewing and approving plans. And the final question about Grants is really a simple question to staff (yes there are federal grants available for rail crossing safety, we have already received and spent many of them).

I think everyone on Council agreed train whistle cessation is a goal, not all agreed these steps were the best way to get there. Through some discussion, this motion was split up with Council ageing to postpone the striking of a committee (and determining the nature of that committee) until after Strategic Planning; approving the request for more frequent updates from staff and online of the progress of whistle cessation; and referring the other sections back to staff for a report with background.

3:Reducing Crime and Increasing Public Safety in New Westminster

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT a new Crime Reduction and Public Safety Advisory Committee be created and that staff report back to Council on the terms of reference for the Task Force by no later than January 31, 2023.

At the very beginning of the term, I made a commitment to the council that we would not significantly change the task force and committee structure until we had onboarding and Strategic Planning, so that all of council could be informed enough and given an opportunity to take part in the priority setting. So we postponed consideration of this motion until after that work is done very early in the new year.

This does not mean public safety isn’t a priority. Indeed, we spent the first hour of this meeting talking about the Downtown Livability Strategy where safety for all businesses and residents (including the most vulnerable) was a central theme, and coordination with stakeholders was key. The Motion strangely had several “whereas” clauses referencing police budgets, and there is already a City committee comprised mostly of members of the public who are empowered by the Province to address Police budget and resources – it is called the Police Board. It exists at arms-length from City Council by provincial Law, and it was never made clear in the deliberations where it is intended for this committee to overlap with the intersection between Council work and Police Board work. Council will have an opportunity to speak to police board budgeting the upcoming budget discussions, but this seems like a motion that once again could have benefitted from more background work before it got here, and the postponing it is a good idea.

4:Creation of a New Finance and City Services Standing Committee

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT Council recommend to the Mayor he establish a new Finance and City Services Standing Committee and that staff report back to Council on the terms of reference by no later than January 31, 2023.

Earlier in the meeting, we had a staff report on council efficiencies, and the idea of a finance-related Committee of the Whole was raised. A Standing Committee is strictly defined in Section 141 of the Charter, and is a sub-majority of Council given standing of majority, but on finance questions, we have had a practice of involving all of Council. Indeed, most municipalities that have “finance committees” make them Committees of the Whole. There was also discussion of where asset Management and Finance overlap right now, as recent motions to dip into our reserves (already not in the healthy place our finance staff would prefer) to give one-time fee reductions demonstrate the need to think fiscally when making those kind of commitments.

Council agreed to explore this idea more following Strategic Planning in the new year.

5:Creation of a New Amateur Sport and Recreation Advisory Committee

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT a new Amateur Sport and Recreation Advisory Committee be created and that staff report back to Council on the terms of reference by no later than January 31, 2023.

Once again, this committee idea was not opposed so much as suggested it needs to come back after Strategic Planning and priority setting – taking a collaborative approach. So like the other ones that pre-empt those discussions, we postponed consideration of this motion until after that work is done early in the new year.

6:Advocacy to the BC Government to Increase Housing and Wrap-Around Supports for People Living with Mental Illness

BE IT RESOLVED THAT Council request the Mayor write to Premier David Eby and request that funding be set aside and prioritized in the 2023 Provincial Budget to begin the planning, development and construction of large-scale, community-based, modern mental health residential care facilities in the Metro Vancouver area; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT staff create a motion with a similar intent that can be sent to the LMLGA and UBCM for consideration.

This motion was somewhat contentious and brought out some passions in Council. The idea that people suffering from mental health challenges and addiction need more support from all levels of government is not controversial. A motion that invokes Riverview and frames those supports (by poorly chosen words if not by intent) as being large-scale, residential and not connected to the community is not one I want to take to senior government or UBCM.

New Westminster has its own terrible history of institutionalization with Woodlands, one we have tried as a community to reconcile through memorialization. When talking about mental health support, it behooves us to be cognizant of this history, and to choose our advocacy path very carefully. Earlier this meeting, we talked about the various areas we can advocate to help people in our community feeling the impacts of the mental health and opioid crises. There is no lack of opportunity to advocate for community-based, compassionate, and progressive supports. This is what the peer community, the people with lived experience, are calling for, and we should amplify their voices. Council voted to not endorse this resolution.

7:Supporting Better Governance, Decision-Making and Public Engagement at City Hall

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the City Clerk make the agenda and supporting documents available to members of Council no less than five business days prior to the meeting;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT Council direct staff to bring forward changes to the Procedure Bylaw No. 6910, 2004 to reflect the new council package distribution timelines

A big part of Council work is being prepared for meetings. We get hundreds of pages of material to read before each meeting, some of it very technical, some digging deep into complex policy. The more time we have to read and absorb this info, the better prepared we will be for Monday meetings. On the counter to that, the closer to Monday the council reports are ready, the more time staff have to hone them and assure they are up to date.

Last term we got most Council Packages (in digital form) on the Thursday before the meeting, giving us 3-4 days to read them. That started to slip to Friday as COVID put pressure on staff and the decisions we made were increasingly reactive to very dynamic situation. The request in this motion is to assure packages are available 5 business days before the meeting, meaning (as I interpret it) Thursday or Friday the second week before council. So if we have a meeting on two consecutive Mondays, we will have two active packages at a time.

We have excellent staff preparing these agendas, and good processes to make sure Council has the information it needs to make informed decisions. We also need to balance the need to for lots of lead time with the desire to be nimble and proactive in addressing emergent issues, a long and rigid timeline for agenda completion works against our desire to be nimble. It adds a rigid bureaucracy where flexibility allows us to get more done, faster
Council was split on whether this provided enough flexibility for staff, but in the end voted to support this resolution.

So by my count, of the 7 motions we had 1 passed as written, 1 spilt and partially passed, 1 outright defeated, 1 that was moot, and 3 that were postponed. All were heartily debated, and you can watch the video if you want more insight into any of the discussions. Or you could spend some quality time with the ones you love doing the things you love over the holiday break.

Council – Dec 12, 2022 (pt1)

We had a bit of a marathon Council meeting on Monday. A lot of things added to the agenda, a bunch of new Council members (myself included) learning the ropes and working our way through procedures and processes. There was also a fair amount of grandstanding and political theatre, which is a new vibe, but I’ll try my best in this post to stick to the decisions made, and not the distractions.

The meeting started with Reports and Presentations from staff:

Downtown Livability
This was a comprehensive reporting out and two reports to update Council and the public on all the work going on Downtown right now. A lot of this arose from a mid-Pandemic motion asking for some more proactive approaches to downtown streetfront activation, but is also related to recent delegations to council regarding interface challenges with the emergency shelter. Staff have taken a package of short-term, medium-term and long-term tactics and strategies (those are two different things) and called it a “Downtown Livability Strategy”. These reports outline a few of the measures and plans, to get both the new Council and the public caught up.

The first report was about capital investments, and goes back to the removal of the parkade and building of the “Mews” on Front Street, which has become a great public space. There were plans to expand this activation to the east all the way to the 4th street overpass, and some preliminary work was done to test out some concepts. The more permanent work got delayed by COVID as Council and staff chose to prioritize the support of businesses and the community through the pandemic. However, there is money in the 2023 capital budget to do that work (though it may need to be updated as the current cost estimate is from 2018, and inflation is a thing).

Then there was a more operational report. Staff from Community Planning, Economic Development, Engineering, Fire Services, Integrated Services (“Bylaws”), Parks and Recreation, Finance, and Police Service have all been a part of its development and ongoing implementation.

There are five main areas of action: Improved general cleanliness and enhanced access to 24/7 public toilets; Enhanced homeless outreach and added emergency shelter capacity; Opioid epidemic and illicit drug response; Business support and engagement; and mental health response and support. Each is outlined in the report and detailed in the presentation, so I won’t belabour that here.

There is also an accounting for how much we have spent, how much we anticipate spending, how much support we have received from senior government, and how much more we are going to ask. The big cost items will be Public Bathrooms, both the capital cost of long-term solutions, and the ongoing operational cost to assure they are clean, safe, operational, and comfortable for all users.
There are costs, but this detailed report is an excellent rebuke to some who would suggest nothing is being done. Challenges are daunting, the responses are not simple but require inter-departmental and interagency coordination, and they cost money. Success looks like people being safer downtown, people having access to social services they need to get through their day, people have a dignified place to go to the bathroom and to sleep at night.

As this is ongoing work, this was in part an update report, but it was also notice there would be requests coming from staff in the new year for new monies as part of our budget deliberations to support some of the medium- and longer-term goals. There is also a commitment to seek senior government support for much of the work.

Feedback from Businesses about Sixth Street Bike Lanes
Coming from last meeting’s delegations, we asked staff to engage with the business community about the construction site Uptown (“construction site” because the bike lanes are not built yet and any impacts they are feeling now will be related to construction, not bike lanes). As staff had a very limited time to connect with businesses and prepare this report, the summary is necessarily incomplete. The bulk of the comments were about snow removal and lack of bikes using the new lanes (though, of course, the lanes are not opened yet but are a construction site), though there are concerns about parking availability and some other concerns they would like addressed.

The report also goes through the two years of multi-phase engagement with the 1,000+ residents, businesses, and stakeholders during two years of active engagement and co-design of this project. And the many years stakeholders (Including the City’s Active Transportation and Youth Advisory Committees) were asking the City to provide safe cycling infrastructure to the new High School – a conversation that started long before the new school was even built.

Staff did identify some potential mitigation strategies to address some concerns raised during the engagement, which council endorsed.

We then moved the following items Moved on Consent:

Amendments to the Community Heritage Commission Bylaw No. 6423, 1997
These are basically housekeeping updates of the Bylaw that empowers the CHC. Since we were opening it up to appoint two Council members it was timely to make these updates to align with other City policies and changed provincial regulatory language.

Staffing Challenges Update
Like many organizations, we are short staffed. About 10% down in simple vacancies, another 5% with people on leave (medical, parental, etc.). This makes it hard to operate. This report is mostly for information, to get the new council up to date on the conversation had with the last council. Staff will bring another report back in the near future with some new strategies to address workload and staff culture in a time of being under-resourced.

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

Budget 2023: Engineering and Electrical Utility Amendment Bylaw
We reviewed and debated Utility Rates last meeting, and approved the increases, asking Staff to prepare the necessary Bylaws. These are those Bylaws. There was once again a motion to divert money from reserves for a one-time rate reduction, but Council did not vote to support this. There will be much more discussion of the importance of reserves and their relationship to asset management best practices in upcoming budget discussions.

Child Care and Community Uses on School Sites
This report outlines a lot of the background behind the closing of community spaces (childcare and Family Place) in downtown schools as they struggle to meet their capacity needs for elementary students in the downtown. This has resulted in an exchange of formal letters, and several meetings at the staff and Council-to-School-Board level to talk about the current situation, but more about how we can work together to address the critical space shortage and longer term to better plan for school space needs.

Efficiencies – Processes and Council Meetings
This report has a collection of ideas from staff on how to make the Council Meeting process more efficient. This is one of those reviews that typically happens at the beginning of a new term. There are a few things here, and we voted on them separately, so I’ll try to be concise.

Committee of the Whole is a model used by many Local Governments, and was the standard way of doing business in New West when I was first elected in 2014. I didn’t like the way we did them then, because I saw it as being very duplicative: there was an afternoon meeting where decision were made, and an evening meeting where they were (sometimes performatively) made again. I envision them working differently now, by treating them as topic-specific Standing Committees, with all members of Council included. For example, I can see a place for a Finance and Asset Management Standing Committee, and another to address actions directly related to the 7 Bold Steps. I also think this model could replace the function of LUPC, bringing all of council into those earlier conversations on planning and development, so the Standing Committee on Development as proposed here can serve that function.

As I see a Standing Committee of the whole offsetting some of the existing Task Forces, I want to keep my commitment to Council that we not make significant changes to the tasks forces or committee structure until after Strategic Planning, so I suggested we postpone striking these Standing Committees until after that time.

There are suggested changes here to the Preliminary Application Review process (an early-review for some developments), and a new policy for Voluntary Amenity Contributions that council supported and staff will develop for our future approval.

We also approved the idea of moving “For Information” reports off of the regular agenda, and instead making the available on the city website and providing a link to them on the agenda. If there isn’t a decision for Council to make, we don’t’ need to spend a bunch of valuable Council time reviewing the reports. They are available for us (and the public) to read, and if a Councillor has questions or concerns rising from them, they can request that report be brought to the subsequent council meeting for discussion.

There were some proposed changes in delegation powers related to the noise Bylaw that we sent back to staff to give us a more fulsome report before we make any changes.

We then read several bylaws, including the following Bylaws for Adoption:

Revenue Anticipation Borrowing Amendment Bylaw No. 8370, 2022
This Bylaw that gives staff the authority to draw temporarily form our line of credit in case of low cash flow was adopted by Council.

After all of that, the night was only half done as we had a bunch of Motions from Council, but I think I’ll skip those for a follow-up post, and get right to the bottom of the agenda where we had two pieces of New Business:

Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption Request: Front Street from Tenth Street to McBride Boulevard – Metro Vancouver Sewer Inspection
Metro Vancouver needs to do inspection and maintenance of the major sewer line under Front Street. It has to happen at night (so the sewer flows are low enough that they can “shut down” the line for a period of time), and when it isn’t pouring rain (for the same reason – yes, a lot of rainwater gets in to the sewer. So we are granting them a Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption to do this work.

Electric Utility Billing Credit
The BC Ministry of Energy and Mines is giving BC Hydro Customers a one-time credit ($100 for most residential customers), and as New West Electrical is a BC Hydro customer, we also get a Credit. Council agreed to pass that credit on to customers the same as BC Hydro. If you had a NWE account in October, you should see the credit on your first bill in the new year.

That was the bulk of the work done in the meeting. I’ll write about the rest of the evening in a follow up. Lucky I have some vacation time coming up.

Council – Nov 28, 2022

Have I mentioned I’m busy? It’s not necessarily something to be proud of. Being busy is often the opposite of being productive, and usually can’t be sustained, but there is a lot of stuff (good and bad) going on that is taking away from my time to sit down and write these. So a little late but here is my report on what we did on Monday with a fairly light Council agenda:

We started by moving the following items On Consent:

2023 Revenue Anticipation Borrowing Amendment Bylaw
The City spends money all year round, but about half of our income comes in a very short period when people pay their property taxes. This means the “cash on hand” the City has to pay day-to-day bills is cyclical, reaching a nexus at tax time. We also want to limit the amount of “cash on hand” we have, as we would rather be providing services with that money (or earning investment income in reserves). So we have a line-of-credit with a bank just in a case we have a sudden need for cash at the time when our cash on hand is low. We don’t use it much, but it is better to have it there than to default on a bill because of a short-term crunch. This borrowing authority relies on the City passing a Bylaw every year to approve it. This is that Bylaw. We approved giving it 3 readings.

Appointment of Chair to the Accessibility Advisory Committee
In part related to changes in Provincial regulation, the City is reconstituting an Accessibility Advisory Committee. We approved the Term of Reference in the last meeting before the Election, we are now appointing Councillor McEvoy to serve as the Chair. Councillor McEvoy has been increasingly open about his mostly-hidden disabilities, and his lived experience will serve the community well here.

Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption Request: Front Street from Tenth Street to McBride Boulevard – Metro Vancouver Sewer Inspection
MetroVancouver is going to do late-night sewer inspections along Front Street. This happens at night because the traffic disruption is reduced, and because the flow in sewers is reduced late at night, allowing the temporary and necessary shutdown of the sewer pump station for the work to be done. We are granting a nighttime construction noise variance for five nights.

Proposed 2023 Schedule of Council Meetings
The proposed schedule for Council meetings in 2023 would include about two meetings a month except July August and December that each have only one meeting, totaling 21 meetings. This is consistent with the meeting schedules for the last few years, while recognizing there is an ability to add an emergency meeting if need be. Set your calendars!

The following items were then Removed from Consent for discussion:

Community Grant Program: 2022 Highlights and 2023 Program Adjustments
The City has a generous grant program for organizations providing a variety of community-building services. In 2022 about $1 Million was given out through 105 grants to 93 organizations. These are a variety of social service, childcare, sports, environmental, arts and festival organizations that make our City a richer place to live.

This report called attention to many of the successes that came from grants in the last year, and looked at some adjustments to the grant process to make it work smoother. In essence, one of the three intake periods was not working very well due to a variety of challenges, including weirdness of trying to organize grant application and approval during the summer months. Staff is recommending we reduce the intakes to two: the “regular” fall one and the in-cycle late spring one. Council approved unanimously.

Q3 2022 Capital and Operating Performance Report
This report outlines quarterly changes to our annual Capital Budget, 5-Year Capital Plan, and overall 20222 Operating Budget, based on progress on various capital projects in the City. There are a few details in the Capital part here (the pool might be delayed a bit, the Queensborough Substation may come in under budget, the AMI meter upgrade in the Electrical Utility may go over budget, etc.) but pending further reports, there is only a small adjustment ($771K, or 0.4% of the annual budget) that will be offset within the existing 5-year plan.

The operational budget update is a good-news-bad-news thing. There are reports from each department and overall we are looking at surplus numbers (revenue exceeding spending more than anticipated) but a lot of that is a result of us being short staffed and unable to deliver on a lot of programs and projects because of that shortage. Council voted unanimously to make the required adjustments.

We had a couple of pieces of New Business which were both brought forward from a previous closed meeting:

Recruitment 2023: Appointment to the New Westminster Library Board
We have a Library Board as constituted by the Provincial Library Act. As per the recommendation, we appointed the current Chair to another 2-year term.

Release of Motion regarding School Capacity and Child Care options
We received a letter from the School Board a couple of weeks ago, and also received a delegation speaking to concerns around the movement of childcare spaces from Downtown Schools where the capacity is needed for teaching spaces. We are responding to the correspondence with some shared concerns, and setting the stage for working together to address childcare capacity concerns downtown.

We had presentations, delegations, and a few readings of Bylaws, but the list above are the decisions made by Council in the meeting on Monday. We had a few referrals to staff coming out of delegations, but I will report on these when they get back to Council with staff reports.

Council – Nov 7, 2022

We had a Council meeting last week! It was the inaugural meeting, which is mostly ceremonial, but I’m going to use this as an excuse to start playing with the blogging format stuff, in light of the weird part I wrote about in an earlier post about how I am now the de facto spokesperson for the City Council and the Police Board, so my blogged writings, as often as I may say “These are not official communications from the City,” run the risk of being read as more official than they are meant to be.

I could write caveats all day, but here’s a summary of the business that got done on November 7th.

Oaths of Office:
We read oaths are required by law. Mayor, Councilors, Police Board Chair, and Parcel Tax Roll Review Panel. That makes us official.

2022 General Local Election – Report of Election Results
The Chief Election Officer reported on the official election results, and we received the report.

Acting Mayor Appointments
New Westminster doesn’t have a Deputy Mayor position, but we do appoint an Acting Mayor in the event the mayor is on vacation or otherwise not available for official duties. We have a practice in New West of rotating all 6 Councilors through for two-month stints as Acting Mayor. I suggested spots be filled based on where council finished in the polls, lacking any other way of differentiating when folks serve, and alphabetical order being so unexciting. Council voted unanimously to approve.

Council Member Appointments to Internal and External Committees, Task Forces, Boards and Councils
We have about two dozen Advisory Committees, Task Forces, and Commissions/Boards internal and external for Council to serve. It is pretty typical for a new Council (and we have a new Mayor and 4 new Councilors) to re-jig these. However, I have suggested to Council that we not make immediate changes to the committees that exist until the new members have had a chance to get caught up on what is happening in the City, and we have a chance to sit down as a Council of 7 and do some strategic planning around our priorities for the next year and four years. Every Task Force and Committee takes a lot of time on the part of staff, Council and the public (if it is a public committee). I suggest we need to be strategic about how we get the most value out of that time before we make big changes here.

So Council unanimously agreed to keep the same structure for the short term, and appoint the Mayor and Councilors to serve as either Chairs or Council Reps on the various committees until we get a chance to meet as a Council and do that longer-term planning. If you are curious, the long list of appointments is here.

Metro Vancouver Board Appointments
We also need to appoint a person and an alternate to represent this Council at the Metro Vancouver regional board. New Westminster gets one board seat, but more seats may open up on committees at Metro depending on how the Board Chair and new Board structure committees for the term. We probably won’t know more about that until early in the New Year. Council voted to appoint me as Metro Vancouver rep, and Councilor Nakagawa as alternate.

Then I read my inaugural speech, and we all smiled for photos. Now the work begins.


Yep, I’m busy. So to keep something happening on this page, and in the spirit of recycling and placemarking, Here are the notes I used for the inauguration speech I delivered on Monday. Share and Enjoy.

Thank you.

I am honoured to be here, and humbled to receive the support from the community for this role.

I want to start my remarks by expressing deep gratitude to Mayor Jonathan Cote. I am so grateful for the work he did on Council and 8 years in this chair to move New Westminster forward. His work and vision have left a strong foundation for this Council to build upon – leadership on housing, on climate, on public engagement. Even through this last term with a global pandemic and so much economic uncertainty, we weathered the storm and are a stronger City now than we were 8 years ago.

And personally, having worked with Jonathan for 8 years, I also appreciate his mentorship and his friendship. His knowledge of the job, and his keen eye of my own strengths and weaknesses made our conversations over the last few weeks invaluable. I appreciate his sage and candid advice during the transition, and appreciate the time he took with the new Council Members to inspire their confidence in the work to come.

I also want to thank Chuck Puchmayr, Mary Trentadue, and Chinu Das for your service to this community. I have watched as all three of you put your hearts and souls into this work, each leaving indelible marks on the City. Especially through the challenging last 4 years, I am proud or our reputation as one of the most functional councils in the Lower Mainland, and the work you did to make that happen. We found consensus on most issues, and were respectful in our disagreements. It wasn’t easy, but most Mondays I walked home from the council meeting feeling we did good work for the community, and I thank you for that. I thank you for the sacrifice of your time and energy, the time away from your families, your other plans put on hold, in service to the community.

To the four new members of this Council, Ruby, Tasha, Paul, and Daniel, and to our returning champions Jaimie and Nadine, congratulations on earning the support of the voters, and thank you for stepping up to do this work. I look forward to each of you bringing your unique and diverse perspectives to this Council. My commitment to you is to do my best to empower each of you to do your best work here. This is a council of seven members, and I ask you to remember the community is best served when all of council engages in robust discussion of matters on our agenda, seeks consensus where it can be found, and does not let disagreement prevent us from taking firm and decisive action on the issues important to this community.

We have all spent the last 6 months (or more) knocking on doors and speaking with the community, we have heard the issues that are top of mind: housing, climate, transportation, safety for all in the face of overlapping crises in our region. We also heard that the community wants a proactive and forward-looking Council, not one that shrinks away from these challenges.

I also want us to be mindful of the voices we didn’t hear during the campaign, to recognize that political engagement is often the privilege of the few. It is incumbent upon us to continue to reach out and engage the entire community, especially those who face structural barriers to representation.

I also ask that all of council engage meaningfully in the journey towards reconciliation that we are undertaking as a local government. Be mindful that we are only the latest representatives of a system of erasure, built on the theft of land and of history. As we do the work commanded of us by legislation, we must also do the parallel work of exposing the truth and of building meaningful relationships with the people indigenous to these lands. That work is both collective and individual, and it is at times difficult, but it is your responsibility now, and as important as anything you will do in the next four years.

I also want to make special note of the work the City is doing to address climate change. You will be in these seats at least until 2026, taking us half way to 2030, a year for which bold targets for emission reduction have been set by this City, by the Province and the Nation. Everything else we do in the City – from housing and transportation to recreation and public safety – will be impacted by climate disruption, and will need to adapt to meet these targets. This is the term of council that will decide if our City meets our legislated goals, there can be no delay.

Perhaps an unintentional symbol of this responsibility, City parks staff have planted seven new trees on the front lawn of City Hall to mark the inauguration of the new Council. Let them remind us of our responsibility and the work ahead.

In the next few months, we will engage in a strategic planning process to set out our collective goals for the term, and in this job the consultation with the community never stops. I look around the council table, and I see our community represented by the many different life paths and experiences that brought you here. I know you are ready to do this work, and will make New Westminster proud.

But we cannot do this alone. We need to work as a team, we need to support and empower our staff to find creative and innovative solutions to the unprecedented challenges facing the community and the region. And we need to empower the broader community to be partners in these solutions. New Westminster is a city of incredible teams doing great work – non-profits and social profits supporting community, neighbourhood organizations, Arts and Sports organizations, Business organizations formal and informal. As a City we can harness that energy and talent to do amazing things.

So I close with an invitation to everyone in this room and everyone watching at home, to get involved. Connect with your Residents Association or your local Business Improvement organization, volunteer with the Arts Council or New West Little League. Come to a community engagement session, and bring a friend or two. This is your City, and your community, and you can shape it, but first you have to show up. By taking active part in your community, you in turn empower this Council to achieve the community’s goals.

Working together to support the community we love is a New Westminster tradition I hope we will all embrace.