Behind the scenes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 (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.


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.

Ask Pat: Now What?

SMac asked—

Congratulations! Will you still write a regular blog with your new duties?

Following up on the Election, this has been a common question. I talked a bit about this last post, and mentioned some of the considerations. Maybe I can expand a bit on that here.

As much as I’d like to say nothing has changed, the reality is that the Mayor is a de facto spokesperson for Council, for the City, and for the Police Board. This means that people will often conflate any statement made by the Mayor with the official position of those entities. As a Councillor, I am free to say “Council voted for X, and I was a dissenting vote because of these reasons”. As Mayor, one of my duties is to carry out and support the decisions of the Council (or the Police Board), so it is much more difficult for me to talk about how and why I disagree with them.

The City has communications staff, and as a Corporation it is challenging to have parallel communications streams. Messages get muddled, and confidence is eroded, both of the public and the staff. I have always tried to make clear I am writing this blog from my personal point of view without an editor (hence, the sometimes-questionable grammar), so running it through City Comms staff before I publish would be a major shift. First off, like all staff in the City they don’t work for the Mayor, they work for the CAO. Secondly, they already have enough work to do without having to worry about managing the Mayor’s Sunday morning blog ramblings.

I have been running this blog on the cheap, with some support from friends for hosting and technical services. The design is now 8 years old, and though it still functions great from my end, 8 years is forever in the Internets. Indeed, blogging itself as a medium has gone a bit by the wayside, as have 1,000+ word essays, so I have to question whether this is even an effective way to communicate in 2022 and beyond.

That said, the process of sitting down to write these blogs has been a major part of how I do the work. When reading Council Reports, I do so with the intent of understanding them enough to relate them here. And though I am slow at it, I like the accessibility of eventually answering Ask Pats. When other local issues like New West’s relative taxation level or police service levels are raised, this blog drives me to dig for data so I can better understand and better communicate. At the highest level, if I cannot explain a decision I made at Council through this medium, then maybe I don’t understand the decision enough to be confident about it. To get really meta about this: my writing this very blog post is itself part of my process for deciding whether and how I will continue to write this blog.

So, yes. I hope to keep writing here, and am setting a goal of putting up a post a week as a minimum. But it will be a bit different, and the scale of that difference is something that I will have to iterate as we go along. So stay tuned, we’ll see where it goes. Meanwhile, I’m looking into this TikTok thing…

I have also been asked about what I have planned for the next few weeks. I hasten to note we still have a Mayor, and he serves until November 7th. But there is some work going on to prepare for the months ahead. Here is a bit of a summary of the last week of my life and two weeks ahead.

I have met with Jonathan and with the CAO of the City, and more meetings are planned. I have sat down with the Police Chief to get updated on Police Board matters and with the Acting Fire Chief. I have also been connecting with Mayors from around the region, and am setting up meetings to discuss regional issues we will need to collaborate on both at Metro Vancouver and TransLink.

One immediate task is to get organized around inauguration and get Council ready for it. That means some on-boarding for the four new candidates, and getting them up to speed on the various files in the city. They also need to learn about the legal obligations of the job, our Code of Conduct, about Section 90 of the Community Charter and FOIPPA.

Though that is the work of our Clerk and CAO, I have also reached out to all of the new Council to start talking about strategic planning and larger goals each of them have for the term, about committee appointments, and those kinds of details. As I have repeated ad nauseam for the last 6 months, a Mayor can’t do any of this alone.

We are fortunate in New Westminster, because we are building on a legacy of strong leadership on the previous Council and School Board. We have led the region in protecting our most affordable housing, and in getting new affordable and rental housing built. We weathered the challenges of the Pandemic and were named among the most economically resilient communities in BC, and we are taking strong action on the climate. But we have lots of work to do. We are still a region facing a housing crisis, we are still losing people to a poisoned drug supply, and we are still facing climate disruption. We are part way through an aggressive capital plan to build new recreation facilities, new schools, new mobility routes. I ran a campaign talking about being proactive, not shrinking away from innovative approaches to these challenges, and I’m looking forward to sitting down with the new Council and getting to work.

I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but I also took a mini-vacation this weekend. 3 days on a Gulf Island where I effectively slept 12 hours a day. My batteries needed a serious recharge, from the business of the campaign and the emotional stress of the campaign. Each day I woke up amazed at my ability to sleep, and each day a little more energized for the work ahead.

Council, October 21, 2022.

Believe it or not, we had a Council Meeting on Friday. The shortest council meeting ever, with only one item on the Agenda. But  I’ve reported here on every other council meeting over 8 years, so it would be a shame to miss this one and break the streak.

Permissive Property Tax Exemption Bylaw No. 8366, 2022
The City provides permissive property tax exemptions to some properties that are used for community service of charitable purposes. Every year we need to update the Bylaw that empowers this. Our council schedule got messed up by the stat holiday to mark the death of the Queen, and this one outstanding piece of business needed to be addressed on a legislated timeline. So we met to Adopt this Bylaw. And voted unanimously to adopt it.

The new Council is sworn in on November 7th. See you there!

The Campaign

What a wild ride that was.

In early January, I started to ask people if they thought I should run for Mayor, and started noodling about what a run would look like. It took a few months for me to convince myself that there was a viable path, that it would take a strong team, I would need a lot of help putting that team together, but the team was there to be brought together. That work took another 3 months, with conversations and facilitated sessions and the help of many people with experience in organizational development and politics. Bylaws, an AGM, candidate search and nomination process, it was a whirlwind. Then we started knocking on doors and connecting with the broader community, developing platforms, and setting ourselves up for Labour Day, when the real rush begins…

All though the campaign, I found I kept saying the same thing to the candidates: Keep it positive, and do your work. In the good times and the bad times, when we were excited and when we were lagging, when facing conflict or negativity, we just told each other to stay on the positive, and then found some work to do.

There are so many people to thank, and those will be more personal notes than this. I thought for my first post-election blog, I wanted to write a bit about the experience. I’ll follow up with more of a “what’s next” post later. For now, here are my 8 things I learned this campaign:

People are good: I admit to being a bit nervous about door knocking back in June. For a lot of people the last two years have been shitty: locked down and stuck at homes for long periods, shifts in their work and social lives, a lot of anxiety driven by economic uncertainty, concerns about health and family, loss of loved ones, doom scrolling bad news locally and around the world, and clear signs of climate disruption warning us things are not going to get better. I was afraid people were not in a mental space to talk to a hopeful election candidate who shows up at their house.

For the most part, I was wrong. Door knocking was an encouraging experience. People were happy to talk, were looking for reasons to be positive and optimistic. Yes, they had concerns and gripes, but they also had ideas about what we can do better and wanted to hear from candidates that we had ideas for a brighter future. So many people in New West responded to crises and anxiety with hope and optimism about things getting better. Door knocking was uplifting, and I hope the candidates don’t lose that feeling over the next 4 years.

Algorithms are Bad: I shouldn’t have to tell anyone that Facebook is not the real world, but I have never seen a contrast as strong as this election. If the election result was determined by Facebook comments, I had no chance this election, nor did any incumbent in the election. After all, I was called everything from an idiot to a sociopath to a “vampire slug” by people I know in the community. Some of my (alas, inevitably) non-male colleagues faced much worse. And the algorithms assure any time I spend in social media world emphasize and amplified those few voices. The contrast between the vitriol on Facebook and the conversations I had every day with real people in this community was remarkable. I’ll write more about this in the “looking forward” post, but I cannot imagine what value Facebook provides to people interested in engaging with the community. It is a broken interface.

Politics are Parochial: In our doorknocking this time, it was a good reminder of how local many concerns are. Sure climate and COVID and big issues impacting the world right now are getting all the news space, and people want to see us taking serious action on Big Issues. However, when you ask folks about issues on the spot, they can usually physically point at the thing on top of their mind as they stand on their doorstep. A sidewalk in need of repair, the loss of trees, a too-stringent tree bylaw, parking (always parking), a fire hydrant in need of painting, the schedule for glass recycling. The little details of daily life are things that people think about when they think City Hall.

Housing Matters: One big difference this election over previous ones (in my imperfect memory) is that the housing crisis was top of mind for everyone this year, even those comfortably housed in single family neighbourhoods. Previously, you heard a lot about housing security and housing affordability in multi-family and rental buildings, but now the impacts of the ongoing crisis are being felt by everyone – because their kids cannot afford to live in the neighbourhood where they grew up, because rental availability is so low, because it is harder to find employees, because homelessness is more visible than ever. There were other issues this election, but the marked difference in the housing discussion really stood out to me.

Teams: I’m really proud of the team I ran with, and so grateful of the work we did. No-one has ever knocked on as many doors as Community First did during this campaign. Some members faced unique challenges and the other members stood up to support them. The incumbents pulled for the new candidates, and the volunteers and campaign staff were always there to enable the candidates to concentrate on connecting with voters. And when something went sideways – as will inevitably happen when you have 13 stressed candidates and dozens of passionate volunteers interacting with thousands of engaged residents on a tight deadline – we were able to pull together and regroup and get back to the positive, and back to doing the work.

Who knows what works? I am a physical scientist, and a member of Generation X. Both of those characteristics lend me towards wanting to understand how things work. How does [this one thing] get me closer to [the goal]. In a campaign surrounded by political activists, experienced campaigners, and enthusiastic volunteers, you hear a lot of differing opinions about what actually works in pulling the vote: the air game vs the ground game; the lawn sign war; Full Page Ads; viral TikToks (whatever the hell those are). Few people will agree on what is most important and what isn’t, and most of the traditional knowledge is wrapped in confirmation bias, survivorship bias, and anecdata. A local government election with limited media and 13 candidates on a team is also a very different animal that a traditional two- or three-party campaign we are used to with senior government.

I guess there is a thing called “Political Science”, but I have not studied it beyond reading Hunter Thompson books from the 1970s, as I tend to be reading about policy ideas and policy failures, assuming good ideas with predictable outcomes are all people want. But good policy is really hard to meme, and often the electorate is busy, otherwise engaged, or indifferent. So, to our incredible campaign staff, I apologize for every time I took part in the “Lawn signs don’t matter” vs “We are losing the Lawn Sign War!” debate in the office. Thanks for indulging us, letting us vent, then getting us back on track.

Elections are hard: Running for office is an emotional rollercoaster. If you care about the work, about the community, and about the ideals you bring into this, then there is some point in a campaign where it is going to hurt. Maybe low blood sugar and a couple of bad interactions at a door line up and your imposter syndrome hits you and you question why the hell you are doing this. Maybe you get stuck in the spiral of reading your opponent’s messaging (“did they just say that!?”) and Facebook comments (“do people actually believe that!?”) and you have to swallow the irritation because your team keeps telling you to keep it positive. Maybe you know you need to go hit doors or attend an event, when all you want to do this evening is sit down for dinner with your daughter and talk about her first day at school. Having a great team of supporters to pull you through those low points makes it easier, and sometimes we lament the burden taken on by our families and friends in supporting us as candidates. In the end, the positives of working together to build something positive wins out, even if we sometimes need to be reminded of this. A year from now we are going to remember the funny stories from doorknocking, not those low points, but at the moment, they are hard. A campaign office with sugary snacks help.

Losing sucks: I’m heartbroken that my colleagues Chinu and Bereket were not able to get over the top. Maybe I can speculate about the “why” part when I dig into the poll-by-poll results, but for now I am just disappointed and feel badly that our team didn’t do more to help them. Chinu has been an incredible source of calm wisdom and incisive fire at Council, and I have felt honoured to sit with her and learn from her. I was feeling really confident about Bereket from the day I met him about a year ago, he is smart, principled, and was so charming at the doors, while also pulling in an amazing team of volunteers. He was persistently positive, lifting the team every chance he had, and reminding us about Queensborough if we ever let it slip. I know they will both continue to be passionate advocates for their community, it is in their hearts to do this work.

The last week has been a different kind of whirlwind. I am working with my elected colleagues and City Staff to get organized around inauguration (November 7th in Council Chambers, mark your calendar), and getting all of council prepped to do the work. I have chatted with and am planning more meetings with Jonathan, and have also set up some meetings with Mayors from around the region to connect again with those I already know and introduce myself to those I have I haven’t worked with yet. And the invites for events of all types are starting to stream in.

I will hope to find time this weekend to write a bit of a “what’s next” follow up to this, but first things first, to answer the big question here:

Yes, I intend to keep blogging, but it is going to be different. I don’t even know how it will be different yet, because I need to find a new context for this writing. For good or for bad, anything written by the “person wearing the chain” becomes conflated with the “Official position of the City”, and I am aware of my need to separate those two. My council colleagues and staff of the city need to know I am not going to make their work harder through this part of my new-found bully pulpit. There is also the time commitment required to do this that I will need to understand and manage.

But writing this blog has become part of my “process” for understanding and keeping track of what is happening in council business. Somewhere in my University days I learned if I can’t write clearly about it, I clearly don’t understand it. So writing the notes that become this blog are part of how I read and absorb my council package and the reports attached. for now I suggest the presentation may change, the tone may change, but I do intend to keep connecting directly like this as long as it is viable to do so.

So thank you to my regular readers (Hi Mom!), and let’s see where this goes!

Council – Oct 3, 2022


Ok, I’m over that. Here’s the report.

We had the last Council Meeting of the Term on Monday. It was a real roller coaster, because we covered some significant topics, putting a point on the road for some large topics in the hope the next Council will carry them forward – there are lots of “passing the baton” metaphors below. It was also the final council meeting for Mayor Cote and Councillor Trentadue, and at least one other member of Council. So there were emotions in the room. But for the purposes of this report I’m going to stick to the Agenda.

We started with a couple of Temporary Use Permits :

Temporary Use Permit No. TUP00028 for 97 Braid Street
The Construction of RCH has brought a lot of workers to Sapperton, and there has been a temporary parking lot installed by the Braid SkyTrain station with shuttles that run workers back and forth to the construction site. This is not a regular use of that property, so we issued a Temporary Use Permit to allow it. They are asking for a renewal, as construction is ongoing.

There was a call for public comment, sign on the site, and received no comments from the public. The operation has been largely without trouble and does actively relieve some of the parking stress Sapperton already y feels during the construction, so Council voted to support the TUP.

Temporary Use Permit No. TUP00029 for 311 Louellen Street
The owner of a large house on the Brow of the Hill Neighbourhood wants to provide a Group Living facility for people living in recovery from addiction (including alcohol, drugs, and gambling). This land use is consistent with the Official Community Plan for the neighbourhood, but would require a rezoning or a Temporary Use Permit for up to 3 years. Here were two separate public calls for comment on this, and a public Open House (with 33 neighbours attending), and we received more than 100 pieces of correspondence, mostly in favour of providing these types services in New Westminster, with some comments concerned about the specific location, operational details and effect on adjacent property values.

New Westminster has a good history with supporting these types of transitional housing operations, and they have without fail turned out to be good neighbours that do not cause conflict issues in residential neighbourhoods. That said, the regulation and oversight of an operation like this not as consistent as some in the community may like, although this is evolving. Staff have provided a list of conditions to help address some of the community anxiety around this change.

I voted in favour of this TUP with the conditions attached. I have personal experience with being a neighbours with a similar facility by a different operator that works on a very similar model, and recognize that many of the anxieties felt about these sites are just not born out in practice. They do not constitute a threat to vulnerable people in the community, nor do they correlate with nuisance behaviours or crime. Quite the opposite, in fact.

The TUP and conditions attached should provide some incentive to the operator to assure their commitment to being a good neighbours is met, and on balance having facilities in our community that help people get past the health impacts and stigma of addiction is an important step in building a strong community for all.

We then had two Reports to Council:

Peer Assisted Care Team (PACT) Pilot Project Update
The PACT model is an exciting and innovative way to deal with mental health crises in our community, being piloted here in BC in New West, Victoria, and North Van, but based on proven models from other jurisdictions around North America. It is in partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association, and Purpose Society. This came out of our earlier submissions to the Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act, and has taken a real drive be several members of Council and partnerships with the Provincial Government and other agencies to see the light of day. We are still working on the effort to properly integrate the PACT model with 911, which will lead to more consistent dispatch and better data gathering.

This does have the potential to be transformational in people’s lives, and an example of what a community can do when all members meet together with a common understanding of a problem, apply evidence-based policy and compassion, and are willing to find flexibility and innovation in finding solutions.

Council Update on Research into Actions taken by the City of New Westminster involving Indigenous Peoples from 1860-1999
Friday was National Truth and Reconciliation Day, and it was profound to see Pier Park as full as I have ever seen it, more than a thousand people, most in orange t-shirts, to witness and learn about residential schools and reconciliation. It is timely that the City provide an update on the work we have done towards Truth and Reconciliation, so we can hand over the baton to the next Council in the hopes they will continue to carry it on this long journey.

The first part of Truth and Reconciliation is Truth. It is about exposing and talking about the record of what occurred, and when it comes to the colonization and subjugation of Indigenous Peoples, a lot happened in New Westminster. As part of our work, the City went about combing the archives and records of the city to outline exactly what happened. Recognizing our records only tell the story from the colonizers’ point of view, and therefore our written record in incomplete, it is nonetheless important that we expose this history to the light, and find a respectful way to share this learning with the people who were impacted, and their descendants, in accordance with the TRC Calls to Action and the Articles of UNDRIP.

The City has begun engagement with many nations to whom these histories are relevant, and will be working through shared learnings with those nations, now that this report is available. For now, a summary report is available for the general public to review, with the more detailed and technical report being used as the foundation for deeper consultations.

At this point, we are receiving the report, and updates on progress the City has made in our Reconciliation Strategy. Much of it (training and learnings for staff, relationship building with Nations around the region, this research work) has been “behind the scenes” for good reasons, but it is outlined on the city website now to let those interested see where we are at. We also received in update on the next steps ahead in Reconciliation for the city. May the baton be passed on to the next Council, and may they run with it.

We then moved the following items On Consent:

Formal Recognition of National Aboriginal Veterans’ Day
The RSIE Task Force is recommending Council formally recognize National Aboriginal Veterans’ Day on November 8th. And we will do so.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement: 441 Fader Street – Preliminary Report to Council
The owner of this unique 1930s house in lower Sapperton want to build an infill house on the property with a secondary suite and preserve the existing house with Heritage Protection. The zoning allows three units on the property (a house with a suite and a laneway house), but this arrangement, where the existing “main” house is smaller and the infill house has the suite, and the proposal to stratify the property so it operates more like a duplex instead of subdividing or making them all single ownership is unusual. This is a preliminary application, and will go to public consultation and Public Hearing before Council makes any decisions, so let us know if you have opinions!

Uptown Business Association and Downtown New Westminster BIA – 2023 Business Promotion Scheme Budget Approvals
The City’s two BIAs operate by the City collecting a special tax on the member businesses, then turning that money over to the BIAs to do the work their board determines best serves their members. As their budgets (~$150K/year for Uptown, ~$300K/year for Downtown) mostly go through our budget, and their work plans mesh with work the City is doing, we have an opportunity to review and comment on their budgets.

This is more of a report for information than it is a request for approval, as the BIAs operate fairly autonomously.

Vancouver Fraser Port Authority Carter Street Foreshore Lease Agreement Renewal
There is a part of the Queensborough waterfront by Carter Street where the City pays the Port about $600 a year to lease. This is to assure public access as a watery extension to the foreshore park where the City has park benches, trails, interpretive signage and such. We are renewing the lease we have carried since 1997 for another 10-year term.

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

All Ages and Abilities Active Transportation Network Plan
A year ago, I brought a motion to Council asking that we establish a core mobility lane network and that we integrate the building of that network into the City’s 5 year Capital Plan. After a year of work, engineering, design, and public consultation, this is the draft network, and the price tag.

I wrote a lot about this last year, and I don’t want to repeat it all here, but I think this work is necessary, is “core work” for a 21st century urban city, and is timely. It will represent an increase in our 5-year Capital plan, but an increase of less than 10%, and with significant senior government support available through the National Active Transportation Strategy and the CleanBC Active Transportation Fund. It is still a significant amount of money, and will also require increased staff resources to roll out on the timeline suggested, but if we want to meet the goals set out in our 7 Bold Steps, if we want to achieve the safe roads and public spaces and prepare ourselves for the transportation revolution coming with new mobility devices, if we want to be a modern forward-looking city, this is work we need to commit to now. This will be transformational.

There is a lot in here about how we got from idea to a network map, and I will maybe write more about that in a follow-up post, I but I think this plan is good. To reach AAA (“All Ages and Abilities”), staff created a CCC framework (“Comfortable, Complete and Connected”) to make sure a bike route is near every home, connects to key destinations, and is not only safe for all users, but comfortable for all users. And connected means we are finally going to invest in getting rid of the persistent gaps in our mobility lane network that created comfort and safety barriers for so many users.

Community Energy and Emissions Plan 2050 – Adoption
Another big file I am glad to see advanced before the end of the term. The City has two Plans for reducing GHG emissions- the “Corporate” plan that covers everything the City itself does from running garbage trucks to heating City Hall, and the “Community” Plan, which is all the GHG emissions residents and businesses create by driving their vehicles or heating their buildings or generating waste. Our corporate plan was reported on last meeting (we are ahead of schedule getting to 2030), and this report is asking for adoption of a new Community Plan – one to set a new target to “near zero” emissions by 2050.

This is a big strategic plan with clear actions that are already starting, and creates a strong roadmap for the next 7 years. This means faster Step Code implementation to get new buildings more efficient faster; it means retrofit assist to get older buildings off fossil fuels and adapted to our new climate; it means a faster roll out of EV-support infrastructure and transportation infrastructure that reduces the reliance on cars. And it means adopting Just Transition and Climate Equity lenses in how we prioritize and fund this work.

With adoption of the CEEP, we have clearly set out the path ahead. Again, the baton is being passed to the next Council, and I hope we have a Council ready to run with it.

Development Permit Application: Brewery District Transit Plaza – For Information
The Brewery District is looking at how it will design the last pieces of the puzzle. There is one more building (which is proposed to be mixed use with lots of commercial space) to be built, and a completion of the groundworks around the entrance to the SkyTrain station. This report outlines the preliminary designs for the latter. This is a report for information, and a development permit to approve the design will be managed through staff without further Council input.

It looks pretty good. The route from SkyTrain to RCH and Sapperton will be universally accessible, where it is now a bit challenging with existing slopes and ramp designs, and an elevator on the RCH property that has not be functional for several years. I still chagrin that the RCH design does not address the SkyTrain station better, but Wesgroup is making up for it in this plaza design. They are still taking public input, so if you have opinions, let them know here.

Lighting Up City Hall in Celebration of Diwali
The RSIE Task Force is recommending we light up and decorate City Hall to mark Diwali, so we are going to do that. This is a change from our usual practice of mostly only decorating City Hall for Christian holidays (Christmas, Easter).

And finally, we adopted the following Bylaws:

Anvil Theatre Fees and Charges Amendment Bylaw No. 8367, 2022; Climate Action Planning and Development Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 8358, 2022; Cultural Services Fees and Charges Amendment Bylaw No. 8359, 2022; Electrical Utility Charges Amendment Bylaw No. 8368, 2022; and Engineering User Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 8360, 2022
As discussed over the last two meetings, these Bylaws that set our fees, fines, and user rates for various services in the City for the year ahead were all adopted unanimously by Council.

Whew! There were a few speeches made, and you can watch the video, but I am sure I will have more to say about this term and my colleagues on Council after October 15th. For now, I gotta go GOTV. Remember to vote!

Council – Aug 29, 2022

Summer is not over. Another week until kids go back to school, and the Autumnal Equinox is still weeks away, but the summer hiatus at City Council and staff is over, and we were back in business with a full Council Agenda. This week’s Council meeting began with a special Presentation:

2022 Planning Institute of BC Excellence in Policy Planning Award: Seven Bold Steps for Climate Action
The City’s Planning department won this award last month at the annual PIBC conference. But this presentation was about thanking the people who helped make it happen. When the Council was elected, and told staff we were serious about Climate Action, that we were ready to be challenged to approve a really bold climate action plan for the City, staff responded with this really great piece of work. We knew at the time (a notion reinforced now by the award) that it was region-leading, as bold as anything happening at the Municipal level in Canada.

When I ran for Council, when the current Council ran in the election in 2018, we all talked about Climate Change, and about the need for us to take action to address our corporate and community emissions to meet the challenge of the Paris Agreement. And we got elected making that promise. But even six months after election, the mandate delivered is questioned, which is why it is important that the community continue to call on the Council to do this work. When the Bold Step plan came to Council, several groups came to support Council, imploring us to say “yes” to bold action. So we wanted to take this chance ot share the Award given to Council with a couple of those community groups who came to Council back in 2019 to push us forward –to tell us this work mattered to the community. Who made it easier for us to say “yes” to climate action.

We then moved the following item On Consent:

Amendments to the 2022 Schedule of Council Meetings
We are making some changes to the Council Schedule in light of the upcoming UBCM conference, the election, and the anticipated need for a Finance Workshop in November to get the new Council up to speed. That means this is the semi-penultimate Council meeting of the term.

Appointment of City Officers:
There is a bit of staffing change going on in the City, like every organization on earth right now. Several positions in the City have very specific legislated duties, job positions that come with specific responsibility and delegated duties under the legislation that empowers the Municipality to be a Municipality. These are two positions where Council must approve the appointments so the staff can act under those responsibilities.

Budget 2023: Fees and Rates Review:
The budget process at the City is a long one. In order for staff to project forward to next year’s budget, they need to know the fees and rates that make up about 1/3 of our revenue. So an early step in every budget year is updating the applicable Bylaw to codify and change in fees or rates for everything from swim lessons to parking passes to building inspections.

Every department reviews their rates annually, and try to balance three things: Inflationary increases so rate increases are gradual and we don’t get behind on CPI; Reviewing the cost of delivering the service so (ideally – not always) fees cover those costs; and a comparison to fees charged in adjacent communities to make sure the City is not out of touch with what is charged elsewhere. This year staff are recommending most rates and fees go up about 2.4%, to reflect CPI, though some fees are not going up (QtoQ Ferry, Inter Municipal Business Licences, EV charging costs) and some are going up more than 2.4% based on previous policy decisions (e.g. Parking fees are mostly going up to align with the 5-year plan for Parking rates approved by Council after much discussion back in October of 2018). You can read the reports for all the juicy details!

Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption Request – New Westminster Interceptor – Columbia Sewer Rehabilitation
That sewer work on Columbia Street is not over. They got out of the way to give our downtown retailers a break during the all-important summer festival season, but the tying in of the sewer lines is still a necessary project for the long-term viability of the sewer system. There will be some disruption between now and December.

Delegation Bylaw Update to facilitate Acting Director Roles
More about some of the re-organization happening with retirements and other staff changes at City Hall, This to update who is delegated to do delegated duties when the delegate is off duty. And we codify it by Bylaw, as required by Legislation. This seems kind of bureaucratic, and it is, but legislative function requires clear responsibility and chains of delegation so everyone is accountable.

Electronic Message Centre for Ryall Park / Queensborough Community Centre
The Queensborough Community Centre used to have a “static” sign on Ewen Ave, and a few members of the Q’boro community have been asking for a digital sign that can highlight events and share other City info. Staff looked into whether a partnership with a third party provider was viable, and it turns out the traffic counts there are just not enough to make this attractive to advertisers. We already have money in the Capital Budget to install a digital reader board sign, so we are moving ahead.

Official Community Plan Amendment and Rezoning Applications for Infill Townhouse: 102/104 Eighth Avenue and 728 First Street – Preliminary Report
This is a preliminary report on a townhouse development in Glenbrook North that would see 10 townhouses where there are currently two houses (one a duplex). This one needs an OCP amendment along with a rezoning, so it is going to consultation, and will end up at a Public Hearing, so I’ll hold my comments until then.

Recruitment 2022: Appointment to the Social and Cultural Vibrancy Grant Committee
We have community members serve on volunteer committees to help us evaluate applications for Grants. We put out a public call for applications due to a vacancy, and Staff have recommended a person for the SCV Grant Committee, who we now official appoint.

Temporary Use Permit: 97 Braid Street (Royal Columbian Hospital Parking) Phase 2 – Consideration of Notice of Issuance
That big parking lot for RCH construction workers by the Braid Skytrain Station operates on a Temporary Use Permit, which is expiring. They need a few more years to complete Phase 2 of the RCH Project, so we are issuing another TUP.

Temporary Use Permit for Group Living Facility: 311 Louellen Street – Consideration of Notice of Issuance
The owner of this large house in the Brow of the Hill would like to operate a residential support facility, which would require a Temporary Use Permit for three years. This is within the OCP use, but would need a TUP to address zoning issues. This report is just notice that Council will consider the TUP in a future meeting. If you have feedback, let us know!

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Fall 2022 Outdoor Pools Operating Schedule Update
With the closure of the Canada Games Pool and the Edmonds Pool in Burnaby, we are extending out Outdoor pool season well into October. This is an update on the schedule, and a reminder of a few operational constraints. Staff limitations is part of the equation, but there are also operational constraints at Hume (lack of lighting, an older boiler that probably can’t keep the pool warm as the weather changes) that may limit the usefulness of the pool. And, of course, the use will likely be impacted by weather, and we just can’t predict that.

We have also heard a few concerns about the booking system that changed during COVID, with parts of it still being used to manage capacity more fairly as we emerge out of the worst of the pandemic. To be truthful, I have heard very positive reviews and some negative reviews. Staff is going to take some time in the off-season to engage a bit with the user group and do a review of the system and report back to Council with some potential changes or improvements.

Massey Theatre Renovation Update
The City made a significant commitment to the Arts community when it committed to saving the Massey Theatre from demolition along with the old NWSS. The Land Transfer from the School District was a bit of a challenging negotiation (as it was a complex three-way conversation with us, the province, and the School Board about current and future land needs), but we now have the land secured and a long-term partnership with the Massey Theatre Society for operating the space. They have been doing incredible work already in expanding into the programmed space of the “Little Gym” and old music room spaces. This is a partnership that will serve the local arts community for decades.

But now comes the tough part. The Massey is an old building, and as it was not part of the School District’s long-term planning, it was hard for them to justify spending their limited capital finding on upgrades or updates. Now that the City has taken ownership and has been able to do some more comprehensive evaluation of the building, we need to prioritize capital costs to assure the building remains viable, safe, and functional.

The planning now is to look forward to where the building needs to be in 25 years, and what we can do to bring the building up to Building Code compliance, operational efficiency, and modern accessibility standards. The current budget (~$14 Million) is likely not enough to complete this work, and the business case and building evaluation do not support maintaining the “Big Gym” and cafeteria space on the north side of the building, so it will be demolished as was the original plan (though we took a bit of extra time to do detailed studies to assure demolition was the best option).

That said, we also need to be thoughtful in taking a phased approach to renovation and upgrades. Doing it all at once might be cheaper and quicker, but supporting the ongoing operation of the MTS means any closure of the Theatre needs to be short and predictable to allow ongoing and consistent programming. We also need to be mindful of the external presentation of the space (the accessibility, the greenspaces and parking around, etc.) as this work is ongoing. We have great partners in the MTS, and this partnership will help guide us through the next 5 (or more) years while we keep our commitment to preserving the Theatre. But ultimately, these decisions will be made by the next Council, as there are budget implications of all of these decisions. For today, we are just approving the steps to get us to a final project scope decision in January of 2023.

Master Transportation Plan Amendment and Monitoring Report
Our Master Transportation Plan is seven years old. The principles are still strong, but there are a couple of areas where it needs an update. The first part of the report is an update on the 123 policies and actions from the plan (61% ongoing actions that are the new normal, 11% completed actions, 21% underway but not yet complete, 11% either not started or abandoned) and an update on the 12 measurable “Key Performance Indicators” about how the MTP is going (6 are on track, 5 are behind pace, one is waiting for updated data).

New Mobility is a catch-all phrase for new technology like e-bikes, e-scooters, automated vehicles and electric cars. Our 2015 MTP does not speak to these, and we are adopting some updated policies to address them. Some of this is engineering changes to make micromobility safer, part is advocacy to senior governments to address the gaps in current legislation, along few other policy direction like addressing end-of-trip facilities and storage. And, yeah, we are looking for opportunities to bring an electric bike share program to New West.

Curbside Management is another area where we need an update. Changes in how retail and service industries work (exacerbated during COVID), and more demands for accessible curb space and providing space and comfort for vulnerable road users mean the priorities for the curb have changed, we need a set of priorities established to help make decisions around curbspace allocation.

Finally, we are asking staff to bring back a report on potential MTP updates to introduce Vision Zero principles. This will be a decision for the next Council, and I will be talking a lot about this in the future, as I have a lot to say about the need to take a more comprehensive approach to road safety in the City.

We than had a bunch of Bylaw Readings, with the following Bylaws for Adoption,/u>:

Zoning Amendment Bylaws Repeal Bylaw No. 8353, 2022
This Bylaw repeals the two Bylaws that received previous adoption but, due to an administrative error, were given public call for comment prior to the Third Reading instead of prior to the First Reading as is required with the recent changes to the Local Government Act, as has been discussed at some length. Once Repealed, we can adopt them again.

Zoning Amendment (1321 Cariboo Street) Bylaw No. 8345,2022
This Bylaw changes the zoning language to permit the construction of a 15 unit Purpose Built Rental building in the Brow of the Hill, as was discussed in a Public Hearing on June 30, 2002. It was adopted unanimously.

Development Cost Charges Bylaw No. 8327, 2022
This Bylaw updates our DCC rates to catch up to changes in the cost of necessary infrastructure upgrades related to growth in the City, as discussed back in May. It was adopted unanimously by Council.

Finally, we had two Motions from Council:

Advocacy for Inclusion of Sexualized Violence Prevention as part of the Serving It Right program, Councillor Trentadue
That Council request the mayor write to Minister Farnworth and Parliamentary Secretary Lore advocating for the inclusion of ‘sexualized violence prevention training’ within the Serving It Right curriculum to provide foundational education to people with the front-line opportunity to take action to prevent sexualized violence and respond appropriately and with care when incidents occur.

This is in support of good work happening in Victoria to call for more protection of service industry staff.

Low Carbon Energy Systems Councillor Nakagawa

THAT the City of New Westminster recognize both the significant difference in the lifecycle emissions associated with different gaseous fuels including RNG, blue and green hydrogen and biomass, and the limited supply of truly low-carbon RNG; and
THAT the City of New Westminster direct staff to prioritize electrification over gas when proceeding with work on acceleration of the Energy Step Code, and in particular explore ways to exclude RNG from future Low Carbon Energy Systems; and
THAT the City of New Westminster consider electric heat pumps systems the preferred option for space and water heating in buildings and intend to encourage the use of limited RNG resources for their highest and best use and not for residential or commercial heating; and
THAT the City of New Westminster include the above in our Community Energy and Emission Plan (CEEP) and our Corporate Energy and Emissions Reduction Strategy (CEERS); and
THAT the City of New Westminster write a letter to the BC Minister of Environment encouraging that this definition be adopted provincially, and encouraging the Province to evaluate the highest and best use of RNG considering its limited availability.

The City is already working to incent the move from fossil fuel to low-carbon energy systems for new buildings in the City, through leveraging the Step Code and our updated Community Energy and Emissions Plan. However, there is a “fuzzy” bit in most legislation around “Renewable Natural Gas” as a transition between fossil fuels and full electrification. This is, of course, heavily promoted by the legacy gas industry. This motion moves the city in our internal policies and in our senior government advocacy toward rapid electrification in place of this stopgap that doesn’t actually reduce emissions.

And that was a meeting! Back to the door knocking!