Council – March 13, 2023

How many ways can I start a new blog post saying “we had a New West Council meeting this week”? I think I have run out of new ways. But here is what we got done, and as always, you can check the agenda here and follow along!

We started with a Development Variance Permit for approval:

DVP00708 for 231 Lawrence Street
Some lots in Queensborough are deeper than typical, which means a 30’ or 33’ lot width that might be normal in other parts of the City result in lot where less than 10% of its perimeter as frontage – one of those slightly arbitrary rules that manages lot shapes in a bigger planning context. So if they want to subdivide this property to be like the properties adjacent, they need to ask for this development variance to exempt them from the 10% rule. We received no correspondence on this, and Council moved to approve.

We then had a Special Presentation:

Year of Truth, 2023
The City is carefully walking the reconciliation path, but we are also arguably, the most Colonial city west of the Great Lakes, with a long history of displacement and marginalization of indigenous people, from our founding to the Indian Act to the Residential School System to continued injustice today. So we are embarking on an introspective journey, digging into the City’s past and present to expose more of the Truth, recognizing that it must come before Reconciliation.

Staff presented a work plan last meeting around the year ahead on Truth and Reconciliation, this week we are reading a Proclamation to officially mark this as A Year of Truth. This will, no doubt, lead to some uncomfortable discussions in our community, but the importance of us sharing the truth cannot be understated. As we are going to be sharing a path, and a common understanding will make that journey more meaningful for everyone.

We then had a few Reports for Discussion:

Extending School Zone Speed Limit Hours
Last meeting we received this report for information based on a letter sent to Council form the District Parent Advisory Council asking for extended speed limit hours around schools. A councilor asked that it be pulled forward for discussion this week, though we already moved a resolution last meeting that asked staff to do some work in this area, and report back with a plan forward, including costs.
This is part of a bigger piece of work around Road Safety we need to do in the community, and it is something the community is asking of us. Cllr Henderson’s previous motion will lead to a report that guides us to the best way to implement this change, and I am looking forward to seeing that work.

Outdoor Pool Extended Season Aquatics Plan
Last meeting we received this report for information, and this week a councilor asked that it be pulled forward for discussion. Like last year, we are extending the outdoor pool season; a move that was well received last year both in participation numbers and in the public feedback we go through our Be Heard New West on-line engagement. A more detailed survey was done to determine how people wanted to see the outdoor pool program changed or kept the same, so some adjustments will be made. Moody Park will be open from April 22 to October 1, while Hume will be open from May 20 to October 1.

Also, if you know someone interested in becoming a lifeguard, we have a cool new program to help them pay for the training! Check it out!

Transition to Provision of Recycling Services by Recycle BC
Last meeting we received this report for information, and this week a councilor asked that it be pulled forward for discussion. The City collects recycling at the curbside, and delivers it to Recycle BC. We get paid by Recycle BC to do this, to the order of $900,000 per year. But this does not cover the entire cost of recycling services, and as we had long discussions about last year, we are dealing with our contamination rate, which results in penalties, and costs us in operating the system.

This information report is clear in that it will be followed up with a more detailed report addressing these issues. As our recycling collection practice is mingled with our other solid waste collection (garbage and organics), it is not easy to parse out costs related to one specific stream, but we do need to have a deeper conversation about the role of recycling as the region is also updating its solid waste management system and the Recycle BC program is being modified in ways we aren’t quite certain about yet.

Of course, recycling isn’t climate action, as much as Reduce and Reuse are, and it is important that we recognize that distinction. I look forward to that, and to a deeper discussion in the community in how we address Recycling as one part of a larger environmental policy.

We then moved the following items On Consent:

Extending Committee Appointments
We are still working on some re-organization of our committees, so we are going to extend the current structure for another couple of months.

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Air Quality Permit Application from Cedar Island Forest Products Ltd (CIFP) – Update
The small sawmill/wood manufacturer in Queensborough has been operating for more than 30 years, and more than 20 years ago residential lots were approved adjacent to it, and there have been interface issues since. Recently, they applied for an Air Quality Permit from Metro Vancouver and residents raised concerns to Council. Note that the City has no authority here, air quality in the region is regulated by Metro Vancouver under a special agreement with the Ministry of Environment. Last this came to Council, I asked that we get more information and the permitting process be extended, as I did not feel the company or Metro Vancouver did enough to make the permit conditions transparent to stakeholders, especially the neighbours.

They have now provided us the Permit application. There are existing cyclone air filters to collect sawdust at the mill that have never been subject to a Metro Vancouver Air Permit, and now will be. This gives Metro the ability to regulate these emissions for the first time, and to take action on complaints.

Notwithstanding the regulation, in my mind the offence here to the residents isn’t the dust at the exhaust of the cyclone, so that is not the measure we need. If that dust falls to the ground in the mill, that’s not our problem. My concern is the impact on neighbours, and the offence happens at the fence-line of the property. We are adding in our comments a request for them to measure and manage dust at the fence-line, and are making a recommendation (as forwarded by Cllr Henderson) to add increased filtration, ion recognition that this permit is allowing the “status quo” to continue, which does not address the original concerns of the neighbours.

Amendment to Extend License to Occupy BC Hydro Lands for Pollinator Meadow
There is some green space in Connaught Heights that is under BC Hydro power lines, and the land belongs to them. Over the last couple of years the City has been working with the community to develop more of a pollinator meadow on land that we previously intermittently-maintained mowed grass. This is good for the birds and the bees and the neighbourhood. It does require us to have an agreement with the land owner, and this is that agreement.

Notice of Motion Process
We are making a few changes to our Procedure Bylaw to make things work more efficiently in our evening Council meetings. These changes were all agreed to by all of Council through a workshop we had back on February 27th. I am glad to see that we were able to come to a common understanding that some limits may be appropriate in setting up the Agenda so we can more efficiently use our Council and staff time, and that this does not represent an existential threat to democracy.

Site-Wide Liquor Licensing Program for Special Events
Many outdoor events have beer gardens, but increasingly events (like Fridays on Front) are having more of an “open license” style, where alcohol purchased on site can be consumed anywhere in the event footprint, not just in limited places. Event organizer are asking the City to allow more of this, and they are not a problem where they have been tried, so why not?

This report outlines the procedures the City will follow, based on the experience in Vancouver and other communities in BC where this has been tried. It is a bit onerous, but most of the onerous parts of the process are based on assuring the guidelines developed under the applicable BC Liquor Licensing regulations are met.

Urban Reforestation and Biodiversity Enhancement Initiative Update and Proposed Tree Planting at City Hall
We are planting trees. Lots of them. 800 new trees in New West Parks were planted in 2022, and 1,400 more will be planted in 2023. I’m not going to go through the long list of benefits of urban trees (I’ve done it before), but finding locations were we can have large stands of trees is getting harder in the City – even as we roll out more street trees. Tree canopy is better than monoculture grass fields, and staff have proposed adding about 60 trees to one of the least utilized green fields in the city: City Hall’s front lawn.

The lawn is used for Remembrance Day every year, and the plan will still accommodate that event, and the community garden will also remain. This will look a little different for the first few years, but providing access to another forest stand near Downtown and the Brow of the Hill will be transformational. This project is already budgeted (along with the rest of the aggressive tree-planting schedule above), and will draw its funds from the $1.7 Million grant we got from the federal government for specifically this purpose.

We then read some Bylaws, including adopting this one:

Housing Agreement (612 Seventh Avenue) Bylaw No. 8376 2023
This Bylaw that secures 327 market rental units and 10 below-market rental units in under-construction building project at 612 Seventh Ave was adopted by Council.

And we wrapped with two items of New Business:

East Columbia at Brunette Intersection and Roadway Improvement Plans and Implications
This report outlines the steps ahead to investigate interim and long-term changes measures to increase the safety and comfort of the stretch of East Columbia where there was a pedestrian fatality last month. As I previously mentioned, the City’s Engineering folks are already in the process of having a detailed survey of the location done, recognizing that even the installation of an interim barrier will have implications on lane geometry that will probably need approval from MOTI or TransLink, as would closing lanes or reducing speed limits. The reality is that without detailed engineering analysis, no-one is going to sign off on any changes, so we need to get this work done as quickly as possible. We will also be doing some more detailed work on long-tern solutions, but with those likely more than a year away, we would like to see interim measures in place.

The message from Council to staff is clear: don’t rush and do the wrong thing (which may make the situation less safe for all users), but be deliberate and as quick as possible in doing the right thing. That is our path.

Request to modify of the Call to Action on Creating more Equitable Municipalities motion forwarded to LMLGA and UBCM
A Resolution approved by Council to go to the Lower Mainland LGA was also approved by a few other Municipalities with slightly different language. To make this work better procedurally, the LGA is asking us all to edit our resolutions to common language so they can do it as one group resolution. That works!

With that, we wrapped another exciting evening of Council work. Back to your Spring Break!

Council – Feb 27, 2023

February has flown by, and as the snow was flying on February 27th, we got through a day of budget workshops and an evening of exciting Council Meeting action. As always you can enjoy the entire agenda here, or you can read my biased summary below, which I need to once again emphasize does not constitute official City communications:

We started the meeting with a Development Variance Permit:

DVP00701 for 311 Ash Street
As discussed last meeting, the owner of this building wants to add 5 new rental suites to the existing rental building by building them into the existing semi-sunk parking area. This requires a Development Variance Permit to allow for the reduction in parking. (it also requires building permits and such, but those are not purview of Council). As I live very close to this property, I have recused myself from the discussion to avoid perception of conflict of interest, so to find out what happened you will have to watch the video.

We then moved the following items On Consent:

Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption Request: 2126 Seventh Avenue (22nd Street SkyTrain Station)
TransLink is going to be doing some work at the 22nd Street Skytrain station to improve emergency access related to the increased number of people using the station. Some of this work has to happen at night, because it cannot happen when people are using the station. They are asking for a construction noise variance to permit this work, and we are giving them one.

Development Variance Permit: 231 Lawrence Street – Permit to Vary Lot Frontage
Some lots in Queensborough are deeper than typical, which means a 30’ lot width that might be typical in other parts of the city result in lot that has less than 10% of its perimeter as frontage – one of those rules that manages lot shapes in a bigger planning context. So if they want to subdivide this property to be like the properties adjacent, they need to ask for this development variance to exempt them from the 10% rule. This will come to our next council meeting, if you have opinions, let us know before then!

Heritage Revitalization Agreement and Heritage Designation: 802 & 806 Eighth Street and 809 Eighth Avenue – Bylaws for First and Second Readings
The owners of these properties in Uptown want to build more missing middle – 18 stacked townhouse units, and will preserve a historic single family home as well. This project will go to a Public Hearing, so I will hold my comments until then. If you have opinions, let us know!

Housing Agreement Bylaw No. 8376, 2023 for 612 Seventh Avenue – Bylaw for Three Readings
The first new major development in Uptown in some time is getting ready to break ground. We have already gone through the approval process, we need now to come to terms on the Housing Agreement that guarantees the building will remain rental for 60 years or the life of the building – whichever is longer. This requires a Bylaw, and we agreed to read it.

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Considerations Related to a Review of the Existing Council Code of Conduct
We introduced a Code of Conduct in New West Council at the beginning of last term, and revised it a bit last year. There is a new statutory requirement by the province to introduce one if you don’t have one, or review it if we do have one. The request here is for staff to start that work. Council made a few suggested additions, including clearer guidance on Conflict of Interest and the introduction of an external Integrity Commissioner to provide independent oversight of the process. Staff will work on this and report back.

Exception to the CDSA exemption to address illicit drug use in spaces for children and youth
The Federal Government decriminalized possession of small amounts of some drugs, They made some exceptions: You can’t carry those drugs into a school, a childcare centre, into an airplane, etc. They did not include municipal parks or playgrounds in that exception, though local government staff asked for it. On the advice of staff, we are going to submit a resolution to the UBCM asking the members to make the political ask to fix this oversight.

Project Update – təməsew̓txʷ Aquatic and Community Centre (TACC)
The update on təməsew̓txʷ is that we hope to have a soft launch around Family Day 2024. This is a month or two after best laid plans, but considering the massive construction industry churn, the supply chain chaos of the last two years, and the concrete strike, this is a remarkable achievement. There are still critical path activities going on, so we are not home and dry yet, but we are home and vigorously toweling ourselves off, and all indications are that we are ready to plan the next big step – hiring and training staff for a brand new and staff-intensive operation. On that topic – we are looking for Aquatics Staff for both this summer outdoor pool season, and for the new complex – if you want to come work in the biggest & bestest new pool in the region go here and apply now!

Request for Support for Family Place Relocation in Downtown New Westminster
Family Place is an important service in our community that supports vulnerable families in many ways, and creates a welcoming and supportive space for kids and parents. Their need to move locations has put them in a bit of a bind, and the City has been partnering with other organizations ot help find them an appropriate space. The uncertainty has also resulted in a short term need for some grant support to get them over the hump. I am reluctant to do this outside of our regular grant process, but there is money in the grant budget to support them here, and these are truly exceptional circumstances.

We had many Bylaws to read, including the following for Adoption:

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (228 seventh Street) No. 8373, 2023
This Bylaw that changes the property’s zoning to make it consistent with the current use, and enable construction of a detached accessory support building where there is currently a converted garage was Adopted by Council (I was not present for the vote because of conflict – this is right by my home)

We then had some Motions from Council, more than usual because it is the deadline for getting resolutions to the Lower Mainland LGA for further advance to UBCM, and New West always has a few ideas for those larger forums:

Improving Our Economy by Better Connecting Douglas College Students, Faculty and Staff with our Business Districts
BE IT RESOLVED that Council refer to the Economic Development Advisory Committee for discussion and action as appropriate, a collaborative “Study and Stay” campaign aimed at encouraging students, faculty and staff at Douglas College to more regularly frequent our city’s various business districts

In light of conversations we are having about the volume of notices of motion, this is an example of one that is, in my opinion, completely unnecessary to get to the goal stated. One member putting this motion forward is a member of the Economic Development Advisory Committee, and did not raise this topic during the most recent meeting of the committee. The third party being discussed – Douglas College – also has a representative on that same committee. This could have been a question across a table, and if the EcDev committee thought it was an area they wanted to prioritize, they could do that Advisory Committees do – advise council. I won’t even debate whether this is a good or bad idea, that is perhaps a great conversation for the EcDev committee, but democracy is not in any way harmed if every random thought a councilor might have is tested by advisory committee or discussion with staff before it ends up on our evening agenda, where it does not have the benefit of subject matter exercise that staff and advisory committees provide. Council moved to approve this, and EcDev can look at it.

Extension of Speed Zone Enforcement Hours
BE IT RESOLVED THAT Council direct that speed zone enforcement hours be extended and direct staff to bring a report back to Council for approval on how to implement this change including a discussion on: The length of the extension i.e. 24 hours, or 7am –10pm; Potential impacts to Neighbourhoods, Transit, and Traffic Management; Any budget Implications; and • Other concerns arising.

There was an information report provided by Council on this issue, talking about some of the potential issues and suggesting coordination with surrounding communities to achieve as much consistency as possible. With Burnaby already extending their hours, this point is well taken.

Overall, I think this is a good idea, and I hear the community asking us for this. I have always been a supporter of 30km/h on residential and pedestrian-oriented streets, and as the City continues to make the case to Province that the MVA should be changed to reflect this, we have already made this change on Greenways and a few other appropriate locations. I would support 24 hours around schools (to be consistent with the changes we have already made), but we will see what Staff recommends.

Call to Action on Creating more Equitable Municipalities
BE IT RESOLVED THAT The City of New Westminster submit the following motion to the Lower Mainland Local Government Association for consideration for submission to UBCM:

Whereas systemic inequities are present in all municipalities and prevent all citizens from fully participating in civic life;
Whereas numerous municipalities across British Columbia and Canada have made progress towards becoming more equitable by committing to embed equity in all government action through the use of analytical processes for the assessment of systemic inequities (e.g., Gender-Based Analysis Plus);

Therefore be it resolved that the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) calls upon the Province of British Columbia and the Government of Canada to provide resources and policy direction to enable municipalities to implement said processes across municipal capital investments, operations and strategic initiatives and once created urge municipalities to use the resources to make measurable progress towards dismantling systemic inequality in our communities.

This resolution was being championed by the YWCA, and is completely consistent with the work the City is trying to do in many different ways, though there are limited tools (regulatory or elsewise) to help local governments do this work. The Province of BC has Parliamentary Secretary for Anti-Racism Initiatives, and a mandate to improve equity outcomes in the province, this would help them in that work. Council supported the motion. On the Lower Mainland LGA!

Providing openness and transparency regarding the personal carbon footprint of elected officials
BE IT RESOLVED that Council request our Environment and Climate Advisory Committee (ECAC) be tasked with developing a new Carbon Emission Declaration and Pledge Form for consideration; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that once it is finalized, the Carbon Emission Declaration and Pledge Form be considered as a voluntary public annual disclosure for all members of Council and that it be completed at the same time as the financial disclosure; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Carbon Emission Declaration and Pledge Form capture the estimated carbon emissions pertaining a number of key items such as:
Personal trips (planes, trains, automobiles, motorcycles); Business/Work trips (where no other low-carbon alternative option existed i.e. attendance via Zoom); Personal vehicle ownership and usage (electric, hybrid, fossil-fuel based); Home ownership types (single family home, townhome, condominium)
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Carbon Emission Declaration and Pledge Form allow for members of Council to make a pledge for the coming year to personally undertake up to three new environmental activities that will help to lower their own carbon emissions; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the declaration portion of the Carbon Emission Declaration and Pledge Form be retroactive to the November 7, 2022 swearing-in of this current Council; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that Council forward a copy of this motion to the leaders of the recognized political parties in the BC Legislature and our Federal Parliament asking they immediately undertake the development of a similar declaration form to capture the personal carbon footprints of our Members of the Legislative Assembly and Member of Parliament

We had a couple of delegates come and speak to this motion – prominent climate activists in the community – and watching their presentation more succinctly and elegantly outlines the fundamental flaw in this motion than anything I say, but I’ll put my two cents in anyway.

This stunt does nothing to move the needle on emission in the city, so I am not interested in city staff working on this when we have more important climate action work to do. This also sends the dangerous message that climate action is about personal sacrifice and individual actions. That was a compelling idea a decade or two ago, but in 2023 we know that avoiding the worst impacts of climate disruption will require societal change, and as elected officials, our job is to facilitate that change. Counting the plastic drinking straws one uses is a waste of time when we have a federal government is spending $20 Billion on a bitumen pipeline that will move the equivalent of 120 Billion plastic straws of fossil hydrocarbons a day.

The time of counting straws of over. The time for bold action that shifts out reliance on hydrocarbons is here.

This also bears a striking similarity to (and ultimately facilitates) the common climate denialism tactic of dismissing anyone interested in talking about climate action through a special case ad hominem. Instead of listening to their ideas when they talk about the need for massive economic shifts, these disingenuous critics hone in on the personal lifestyle of the advocate. If they are vegans living in a cave, then they are characterized as freaks out of touch with the real needs of real people living in modern society. If they are NOT vegans living in cave, they are called hypocrites. Whether it is Bob Mackin lurking in David Suzuki’s bushes during earth hour or Keenan Bexte digging through Greta Thornberg’s garbage, it’s a tired meme, meant to distract people from doing real work. And as the WOPR taught us, in a silly game like this, the only winning move is not to play.

Improving and strengthening open communication between all elected officials in New Westminster
BE IT RESOLVED that Council send an invitation to our local Member of Parliament, Members of the Legislative Assembly and the School Board to participate in a New West Caucus to take place in 2023; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that our staff work in partnership with the staff representing our MP, MLAs and School Board Trustees to develop a draft terms of reference for the New West Caucus; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that a joint secretariat be established through the Office of the Mayor to assist with the coordination of establishing agendas and selecting dates for the New West Caucus

I’m not opposed to the idea, though I do question the characterization of Vancouver’s experience as a “great success”, as I can find no evidence that Sam Sullivan’s experiment at this resulted in anything more than one meeting in 2006, never to be repeated. That said, I have a great working relationship with all three senior government representatives in New West and the School Board chair. Our communications channels are always open, and I do work with them on matters of common interest. That said, managing all three schedules along with those of the 14 members of Council and School Board might be a challenge to make work. But if some sub-group of us can sit down as a larger group and share our goals of the months and years ahead, I’m happy to be the host.

Temporarily eliminating block party street occupancy permit fees to encourage increased neighbourhood connectivity
BE IT RESOLVED that to encourage more community engagement as we emerge from out of the COVID pandemic, Council amend the Engineering Fees and Rates Bylaw, 7553, 2013 to provide to eligible residents a no-charge street occupancy permit to host a ‘block party’ in their neighbourhood; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that applicants are able to host up to one no-fee block party per calendar year in 2023 and 2024 and that standard fees will apply for any additional permits; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that staff provide an update to Council regarding how the no-fee permits have impacted the number of community and street events after the first 12 months of implementation

This follows a motion from January, where Staff reported back to us that they did not see a great benefit here, as they don’t think the $39 permit fee was a deterrent to street festival organization, considering the other costs and organizational challenges. Note, we are not removing the requirement for a Permit (there are good legal liability reasons for this) only the nominal cost, which does not cover the full cost of the City supporting these events (about 30 in an average year). Council voted to support this, though I did vote in opposition, as I was compelled by the staff feedback.

Bringing Equity to Traffic Enforcement
Be it resolved that The City of New Westminster submit the following resolution to the Lower Mainland Local Government Association for consideration for submission to UBCM:

Whereas the primary deterrent from exceeding speed limits or violating other road safety regulations on municipal roads in British Columbia are fines administered under the Violation Ticket Administration and Fines Regulation; and
Whereas fixed rate fines are inequitable, disproportionately impacting people with lower incomes while applying lower deterrent value to people with higher incomes, creating a structural inequity in the application of justice;

Therefore be it resolved that the Union of British Columbia Municipalities calls upon the Provincial Government to implement a means-tested traffic fine system, similar to
Finland, Switzerland, Sweden or the UK, where fines may be calculated on the basis of the offender’s income.

This was an idea I shamelessly cribbed from Saanich Councillor Teale Phelps Bondaroff. After he failed to get support from his Council for this resolution, I asked him if I could modify it a bit and run it past my Council, as I think it is an idea we should test with the UBCM membership. And it appeals me because it speaks to several issues I care about, and issues that are addressed in our City’s policies.

Enforcement of dangerous behaviors on the road, be that running red lights, speeding, failing to yield to pedestrians, is important to our broader goals of road safety. Bringing equity to our legal system so the fine not only fits the crime, but provides a more equal incentive to safe driving practices for all members of the community, regardless of their socio-economic status. Having flat rate fines is inequitable, and the approach of indexing fines is very popular in several jurisdictions where it has been applied. Council voted to support this.

Vacant Property Tax on Commercial Properties
Be it resolved that Council support the following resolution go to the Lower Mainland LGA conference for consideration at the UBCM meeting:

Whereas the Province has adopted vacancy taxes on vacant residential properties as one tool to assure land speculation does not result in property standing fallow to the detriment of community livability and other goals; and
Whereas commercial property values are inflating province-wide, and increasingly face investment speculation resulting in similar underutilization of commercial property in many municipalities across British Columbia;

Therefore be it resolved that the Province of BC provide local governments with an option to introduce a vacant property tax applicable to commercial properties

This idea has been discussed in relation to some of the underutilized and vacant commercial properties in the City, and a recognition of their impact on the Downtown especially. Local governments in BC do not have the legal authority to charge a vacant property tax on empty lots or on commercial properties, we would need a change in provincial legislation to permit this. It would be good to have that in our toolbox, so we can discuss the best way to make it work.

It is worth noting that reps from the New West Chamber of Commerce delegated to Council and expressed support for this motion, and I have heard positive support for this from many business owners, especially in the downtown. It will be interesting to see how this discussion evolves through the Lower Mainland LGA and UBCM, now that Council unanimously supported this going forward to them.

Council – Feb 13, 2023

We had yet another marathon Council meeting this week. I wish the work we were getting done was proportional to the amount of time spent in rhetorical argument that changes no-ones mind, but that is not the path we are on. Regardless, we did get some work done, and for technical reasons started the Agenda with the adoption of a Bylaw:

Adoption of Heritage Designation (109 Third Avenue) Bylaw No. 8381, 2023
As discussed at the January Public Hearing, this Bylaw that designates a home in Queens Park was adopted by Council. Following this, we handed out the plaques for homes in the City that are designated as Heritage Assets, including this one and a large rental building downtown. We haven’t done this is a few years in part because of the weirdness of hybrid council meetings, so we had some catching up to do.

We than had two Presentations:

Proposed Airspace Modernization Changes at Vancouver International Airport (YVR)
The Federal Agency that oversees aircraft navigation in Canada wants to change the system that manages planes coming into YVR, which means changing some of the routes. This involves some public consultation (over the last three months, with on-line and open house formats across the lower mainland), and they came to present to Council. Though some other communities are unhappy because they foresee more overhead flights (Especially North Burnaby and Port Moody, where the tracks have shifted), it does not look to me like there will be increased flights over New West, or that the planes will be lower. There were quite a few questions asked by Council, and staff will follow up with an information report.

Air Quality Permit Application from Cedar Island Forest Products Ltd
There is a small wood products manufacturer operating on industrial land in Queensborough, operating for 30 years. They create sawdust as part of their operations, and have systems they call “cyclones” to trap this sawdust so it can be recycled. These cyclones do have some “emissions”, in that some dust gets through, and that means an air quality permit is required, and Metro Vancouver is the government that issues that permit by Provincial Law.

There are two issues here. The one up for discussion is the regulation of these dust emissions. Unfortunately, the notice provided by Metro Vancouver did not include many details about the actual application, only a link to the company website that has no details. It is even unclear if this application represents an increase in emissions, a reduction, or no change, or even if there will be any monitoring requirements, or evaluation of the impact of the emissions on adjacent properties. As such, I requested that Staff ask Metro Vancouver to delay issuing the permit until these details (the complete application) is made available for the City and public review.

The second issue is proximity issues between this long-established industrial use and the adjacent residential properties – a proximity apparently approved in the 1995 Queensborough Plan with development permits issued in 2011. I do not think we would permit this proximity if this application came before us today, but that is cold comfort to the folks living there today and feeling those proximity impacts.

We then moved the following item on On Consent:

Request for Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption: 660 Quayside Drive (Bosa Development)
The Bosa site on the waterfront needs to move crane sections in, which has to happen outside of traffic hours because of the disruption caused. This means they need a Construction Noise Bylaw Variance.

We then had these items Removed from Consent for discussion:

A Year of Truth
The City is advancing along its reconciliation journey thoughtfully. This report outlines the actions the City and its various departments are planning to undertake in the year ahead, under the banner of “a Year of Truth”, in recognition that truth comes before reconciliation. There is a lot of education happening in house, and opportunities for the public to engage in learning, listening, and better understanding of our history, and why reconciliation is needed. This is hard and often uncomfortable work, but it is good work and will make us a stronger community for doing it.

Building Safer Communities Program from Public Safety Canada
The City received a $1.7M grant from Public Safety Canada under the Building Safer Communities program to deliver services to at-risk youth in the community. This report outlines how the City plans to deliver those programs. The Government of Canada approved this plan (it is their money, after all), and we have identified the many partners in the community who we will be bringing in to help support the programming, including local social service NFPs, the Canadian Mental Health Association, and the School District. This is real, proactive crime prevention that centers vulnerable people before they get into trouble, and a great example of partnership in the community.

Council also moved to strike a Working Group to guide this work, in a format similar to what worked well to bring PACT to the City.

Housing Agreement Bylaw and Development Variance Permit to Vary Residential and Visitor Parking Requirements: 311 Ash Street – Bylaw for Three Readings
This older rental apartment building in the Brow of the Hill Neighbourhood wants to convert some unused parking space into rental homes, going from 29 units to 34, and reducing their parking from 35 to 21 spots. This requires a Development Variance Permit. In exchange, they will enter into a Housing Agreement guaranteeing that the building will remain Purpose Built Rental for 60 years or the life of the building, whichever is longer. This property is across the street from my home, so I am recusing myself to avoid conflict of interest.

Notice of Motion Process
There was a request in a previous meeting (ironically, by “Notice of Motion”) that we clarify the Procedure Bylaw on Notices of Motion. This is the report back from staff on the process as it was, as it is currently, and as they suggest it should be moving forward.

Every city does this a bit different, and staff reviewed some other cities to see what worked and what didn’t. Any of our cohort communities simply don’t do Notices of Motion except in exceptional circumstances, others require Councilors who want to bring a Motion must work with staff to write a report supporting the motion. There is no “common practice”, but in New West, we have a history of being a little loose in this area. This worked when we had the average of 5 or 6 NoMs per year (as we did consistently from 2010-2021), where we now have that many per meeting. This creates a legislative logjam that threatens to prevent us from getting any priority work done, and also prevents us from giving all Motions their due consideration.

Some changes are proposed. Part 1 codifies the structure of a NoM so they are easier to manage and review, and to protect us from liability resulting from poorly worded or inaccurate recitals. Part 2 clarifies the submittal process and limits the number of NoMs per meeting, Part 3 the staff review practices. Part 4 reinforces the purpose of NoMs. After a long discussion, Council decided to workshop an approach here instead of making changes now. and I’ll hold my longer form response to this until after that workshop.

Temporary Working Space Agreement (GVSD590) for 590 Blackberry Drive
There is a big sewer pipe under Glenbrook Ravine, within which resides a big valve. That valve is old and needs to be replaced. This is a big job, being done by Metro Vancouver this summer. This means they need to close the north access to Glenbrook Ravine to pedestrians during these works, potentially for 6 months. I’m not happy about this. Glenbrook Ravine is one of the most important green spaces in our community, there are many people in the community for whom the Ravine Trail is part of their daily life, a respite of cool space and nature that is fundamental to their wellbeing, especially in the heat of summer. However, I am satisfied that all due diligence was done and there was no alternative found that could reasonably allow the important sewer work to be done while maintaining access via Glenbrook Drive.

We then read some Bylaws including these for adoption:

Community Heritage Commission Amendment Bylaw No. 8384, 2023
This Bylaw that increased the number of members on the Community Heritage Commission from nine to ten was adopted by Council.

Development Cost Charge Reserve Funds Expenditure Bylaw No. 8371 2022
This Bylaw to allow us to spend DCC money on upcoming Queensborough drainage, sewer, and parkland improvements was Adopted by Council.

We then had some Motions From Council:

Gurdwara Sahib Sukh Sagar Emergency Management Partnership Opportunities
BE IT RESOLVED that the City of New Westminster Fire Department explore Emergency Management partnership opportunities with The Gurdwara Sahib Sukh Sagar to support the emergent needs in Queensborough

This is a good idea. The Gurdwara in Queensborough has been a great informal partner with the City when emergencies happen in Queensborough, and also show up across the region when people need support. Coming out of a couple of recent events, there were some conversations with our emergency services about how we could both support this work, and assure that we are not working at cross purposes with their massive volunteer force. A more formal relationship would open up some funding opportunities for supplies, training or other supports to help the Gurdwara help the community.

Increasing safe access to the Fraser River for residents and tourists
BE IT RESOLVED that staff report back to Council regarding opportunities to provide increased direct access and connectivity to the Fraser River for our citizens and tourists;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we identify opportunities and possible funding sources to plan and develop additional userpay pleasure craft moorage on our City’s waterfront; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that staff be asked to identify possible new access points for a user-pay pleasure craft launch facility; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that staff identify the costs, challenges and opportunities of establishing a walkable link along the waterfront between Sapperton and Pier Park; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that staff prepare a key stakeholder consultation strategy to be presented to Council as part of this review; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that staff report to Council regarding the necessary budget, possible sources of funding and resources required to undertake the work as noted above.

The City developed a Riverfront Vision strategy, adopted in 2016. There were some positive moves on aspects of the vision, including the QtoQ, Front Street Mews, and the development of the public space plans for the Bosa development on the Riverfront. There are other aspects of it that are works in progress, including the connection of Pier Park to Sapperton Landing (set back seriously by COVID and the Pier Park Fire), and finding opportunities to better connect people to the River.

There was a tonne of work done a decade ago regarding private moorage along the Quay, it was one of the visions related to the original development of Pier Park under Mayor Wright. The Port made clear (and continues to assert) that the riverfront along the Quay is a working riverfront, and not a place where they would support pleasurecraft moorage, for a raft of safety and practical reasons. There *is* public moorage in New West in Queensborough where the Port supports it, and there is some potential for “touching” the river in the North Arm as we develop Poplar Landing, but that is a few years off. In the end, Council did not think this was a motion that merited support, as work under the Riverfront Vision has already been appropriately prioritized.

We also had an afternoon workshop where we worked through aspects of the City’s Capital Plan, in preparation for further budget development. That will be the focus of the next meeting, though no doubt there will be lots of opportunities for us to drift away from that focus.

Council – Jan 30, 2023

Before our regular evening meeting on January 30th, we had a lengthy daytime workshop on the budget, which will be a topic of ongoing discussion and future blogs. In the evening meeting, we had the first Public Hearing of the new Council Term, and despite a pretty full Council chambers, it was a gentle introduction to Public Hearings for the folks new to the Council.

Heritage Designation Bylaw No. 8381, 2023 for 109 Third Avenue
The owner of this home on Queens Park volunteered to “designate” it, meaning it will have permanent protection as a heritage asset in the community beyond the protection provided by the Heritage Conservation Area. By Provincial Law, this designation requires a Bylaw change that actually requires a Public Hearing. We received no correspondence on this application, and we had one delegate come to express support.

In the subsequent Regular Meeting, Council approved giving this Bylaw third reading.

We then moved the following items On Consent:

Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption Request: 330 East Columbia Street (Royal Columbian Hospital Redevelopment Project)
If you have noticed the new RCH Acute Care Tower going up in Sapperton, you might have noted that the floor plate size is really big. For structural reasons, these big floor slabs need to be poured all at once, which means pouring and finishing the floors before they set is technically very difficult within a 12-hour window allowed by our Construction Noise Bylaw. They are asking to exceed allowable construction hours three days a month to allow the floor finishing to be completed before the big pour sets. They will send notice to the neighborhood on timing, and do their best to limit noise leaving the site.

DCC Expenditure Bylaw No. 8371, 2023
The City collects Development Cost Charges from developments to pay for infrastructure to support that development and the growth that comes with it (water, sewer, drainage, parks, and transportation). This is a strictly managed process by Provincial law, as the DCCs must go into a specified Reserve, and must only be spent on a specified infrastructure project. One of the controls on that is that money can only be moved from these reserves to actually pay for the project by Bylaw approved by Council. This Bylaw approves the spending a little more than $1Million from those reserves for the projects they were designated.

Recruitment 2023: Appointments to Advisory Committees, Commissions, Boards, and Panels
We have appointed members of the community to various commissions and committees. We do this in Closed Meeting first as these appointments are recommended to Council by staff after extensive review of their applications, which includes personal information of volunteers and unsuccessful applicants, but the final appointments are brought to open meeting in this information report.

Rozzini’s Restaurant, 211 Ewen Avenue – Application for Patron Participation Endorsement
This popular family restaurant in Queensborough wants to have live music. Our Byzantine provincial liquor license laws require that they get a formal endorsement from City Council to allow this, and that they do a public consultation. A public consultation to decide whether a restaurant that has been operating for decades can have live music, eating up their time, City time, costing thousands of dollars. Anyway, that’s the law and here we are passing that resolution.

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Changes to the Terms of Reference of the Accessibility Advisory Committee and the Community Heritage Commission Bylaw No. 6423
The City is striking a new Accessibility Advisory Committee, and we are adding representatives from the NW Police Department and the NW Library. At the same time, we are adding another seat on the Community Heritage Commission. Both of these are committees with Provincial Regulatory structures, with Bylaws behind them, so these changes need bylaw amendments.

Renewed Child Care Protocol between the City of New Westminster and New Westminster School District No.40
The issue of Childcare has been front of mind for Council and the community. Recent changes in school space needs along with the Provincial integration of Childcare into the Ministry of Education have made it clear that there is an advantage to both parties if Council and SD40 more closely coordinate their child care initiatives. Some austerity hawks will argue this is not a “core service” of the City, but we have an active role to play in finding and supporting the full spectrum of childcare needs in the community.

The City and the School District had a 2009 Childcare Protocol, but the massive changes in this landscape warrant an update to that protocol; indeed this is a task identified in our updated Child Care Strategy. Informally discussed with School Board members, we need a more formal correspondence, including endorsement for some terms of the Protocol and timing of the completion. This report is asking Council to endorse those.

Rezoning Application for Detached Accessory Building: 228 Seventh Street – Comprehensive Report
This supportive housing operator in the Brow of the Hill neighborhood wants to expand their existing garage into an accessory building that will house some administrative uses. This needs a rezoning. I am not going to say any more about it, or take part in the decision here because I am a direct neighbor and this arguably results in a pecuniary interest, so I am recusing myself to avoid perception of conflict.

We then spent some time going through another raft of Motions from Members of Council

Mitigating traffic and transportation issues and improving pedestrian safety on Ewen Avenue in Queensborough
BE IT RESOLVED that staff provide a memo to Council regarding the opportunity to modify the current “no right turn on red” policy at Ewen Avenue and Howes Street so it only applies during peak rush hour traffic; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that as part of the Queensborough Transportation Plan, staff seek feedback from local residents and business regarding their interest in the installation of a new pedestrian-activated crossing at the corner of Wood Street and Ewen Avenue

The First Phase of Consultation on the Queensborough Transportation Plan update was completed recently, and have are available on the City’s Be Heard New West website. There is a comprehensive survey in there, and some results from the stakeholder meetings, the Q’Boro Residents Association, and some pop up events in the community.

To be honest, this resolution could have been an email. I am not prepared to say whether these are good or bad ideas, though they are certainly more granular than we usually get here in Council when talking Transportation Plans. Looking at the relatively-recently completed Sapperton Transportation Plan, you can see these types of intersection improvements are evaluated and prioritized, but need to be done so in the context of their neighbourhood-wide effects, not as one-offs.

My reflex here is to support the Council proposal to refer these local ideas the Q’Boro Transportation Plan process that is ongoing, but as the second half refers already to the Plan, and the first half is a simple request Staff are willing to respond to without work plan changes, I was able to support the motion as it stands. Council moved to support this motion.

Increasing year-round usage of city park spaces through the installation of additional all-weather tracks as part of the capital plan
BE IT RESOLVED that staff prioritize the sourcing of funds required to install an increased number of all-weather fields in New Westminster over the next five years; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that as part of the 2023 Budget process staff identify the funds necessary to undertake a planning and community consultation process to determine the feasibility of prioritizing an all-weather field at Ryall Park in Queensborough.

A quick look at the City’s 5-year capital plan show there is $2 Million set aside in 2024 for another all-weather field, and during our tours of Queensborough, staff talked about the work they have done to evaluate potential options for Ryall Park. Notably, a full-sized 400-m track like at Mercer Stadium will not fit at that site, but there is potential for a smaller track, with consideration that building anything at Ryall is technically challenging (read: more expensive) for the very same soils conditions that make the current field wetter than some others.

Council is very aware of the calls for more sport and recreation facilities in Q’boro, though a lacrosse box / multi-use court was generally higher priority to folks I spoke with. That said, this all speaks to the need for a Comprehensive Parks Plan informed by full public consultation, which is in this year’s work plan. Council moved to refer these specific requests to that planning process so that conversation can take place before we commit those millions of dollars.

Requesting an update from local MLAs regarding a 2020 election commitment to provide a free bus service to Queensborough students
BE IT RESOLVED that Mayor Patrick Johnstone write to MLAs Aman Singh and Jennifer Whiteside to request a meeting be established with Councillors Tasha Henderson, Nadine
Nakagawa and Daniel Fontaine (School Board Liaisons) regarding the status of the provincial government’s 2020 campaign commitment to the parents and students of Queensborough for a free bus service to New West Secondary School.

There is some work going on in this space, though I have not heard of any public announcements yet. I’ve had a chance to have some informal meetings with MLA Singh at community events and check-in phone calls, and this is actually a topic he brought up in a recent chat. I have also been talking with TransLink colleagues about the Queensborough transportation plans, and they are evaluating the results of the recent additions to bus service levels related to schooltime queuing at 22nd Street station.

I am happy to write a note to MLA Singh, though Council also thought it appropriate to invite the School Board representatives to the Council/School Board joint working group to this meeting, as this seems like a conversation we should include them in.

Halting the City’s rebranding exercise as previously approved by Council in July 2022
BE IT RESOLVED that staff reduce the potential burden to residential and commercial taxpayers by ceasing work on any corporate-wide rebranding projects through to December 31st, 2024.

To be clear, and made clear numerous times by City staff, there is no burden to taxpayers related to the current work plan on rebranding, it is currently operating within the normal operational budget. There will not be any burden to taxpayers until a plan is returned to Council to seek guidance on next steps here whether this work occurs now or in 2025 (as the motion suggests) has no material effect to the budget. Putting aside the political hyperbole about the eventual cost of rebranding, Council will be able to opine on actual numbers once there are actual numbers. Council moved to defeat this motion.

Clarifying Matters Related to Notice of Motion in the Council Procedure Bylaw
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT Council direct staff to report back on the apparent discrepancy between how the Council Procedure Bylaw No. 6910, 2004 was and is being interpreted and applied in the present, notably at the November 28, 2022 Council meeting with respect to Notice of Motion, and how the Bylaw was interpreted and applied by previous Councils in order to clarify the situation and determine what the correct procedure is, and
FURTHER THAT staff report back at the February 13th Council meeting with recommendations to improve Section 21 of the Council Procedures Bylaw 6910 to ensure it no longer lacks clarity and is less subject to interpretation.

This is both meta and Inside Baseball. The current practice at Council, as codified in the Procedures Bylaw, is for Notices of Motion from members to appear on an agenda then be debated and voted upon in the subsequent meeting. This was not the regular practice last term. Though this has been discussed in several meetings, there is a request here for clarity. The Procedures Bylaw can, of course, be amended by Council as suits their need, and staff have some ideas about how to improve the current Procedures Bylaw to make Council work better, and were planning to report back on this, so the request here is work already in progress. Council moved to approve this motion.

Investments in new pedestrian infrastructure to support the City’s active transportation network in Queensborough and reduce our carbon footprint
BE IT RESOLVED that staff incorporate into the 2023 Operating Budget a new two-year 50/50 matching grant Pedestrian Improvement Pilot Program that will support Queensborough residents who wish to accelerate the covering up of unsafe ditches with paved sidewalks that support non-fossil fuel based active transportation; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that $300,000 from the Climate Action Reserve Fund be used to fund this pilot project over two years; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that staff seek out funds from the senior orders of government to offset or match the City’s contribution to the pilot program

This Motion is unfortunately timed, as it arrived for debate right after our lengthy daytime Operating Budget workshop where the mover of this motion suggested slashing millions of dollars from that budget (with no clarity to where those millions will come from) just before this request to commit to an unfunded and unaccounted program that could add millions to the operating budget. That said, it looks like a capital program, so the effect on the operational budget is unclear, especially as vague and unrealistic funding models are being proposed. I could add the concern that a partnership funding model similar to the one proposed already exists for the ditch infill program (though it cannot be applied property-by-property, because you can’t just do storm sewer upgrades property-by-property, they need to be performed on a block-by block basis for a variety of engineering and cost reasons); that the Federal Active Transportation Fund money cannot be applied to a resident opt-in program because there is no way for us to predict the amount of funds we would need in any single grant year; and that there has been no costing or impact modelling to justify pulling the seemingly random number of $300,000 out of the Climate Reserve Fund.

So, I may sound a little frustrated, but this proposal demonstrates a deep misunderstanding of how the city works, of how governance works. Not just in the little details I point out above, but in the bigger picture. It seems to be built on the assumption that long-standing concerns of the community (in this case, open ditches and associated pedestrian issues) have been completely ignored by the City, and all we need is one boutique program sketched on the back of a napkin to solve the problem. The reality is that these problems are long-standing because there are no simple solutions. We have applied decades of professional planning and engineering staff to find solutions (including the existing Local Area Service Plan program), and are making slow progress, but also need to apply them judiciously to manage costs, and to manage knock-off effects (e.g.: what happens during intense storms to the older homes in a neighbourhood if the road is raised to a flood level that is higher than the first floor of the homes?). As in most things in politics, if it was easy, it would already be done.

In light of this, Council decided that this proposal should be taken to a workshop with Council to go through those complications, the challenges, opportunities, and the practical costs, so Council has the information it needs to make a decision like this before we commit what would likely be millions of dollars.

Finally, we wrapped with one piece of New Business:

Nomination of Councillor Ruby Campbell to the Election to FCM Board of Directors
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities put out a call for nominees for Board Positions, as they had a couple of vacancies. Councillor Campbell expressed an interest and prepared and application, but needed our endorsement. This does not mean she will be appointed (that is up to the FCM Board), but Council unanimously supported her nomination.

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.

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.