|Sketch drawing, click to make bigger, or go the City site to look at the entire report.|
The Old Port area of Montreal:
Or even dusty ol’ Peoria, Illinois:
|Sketch drawing, click to make bigger, or go the City site to look at the entire report.|
The Old Port area of Montreal:
Or even dusty ol’ Peoria, Illinois:
Short note, as I am getting really busy planning my December off (more on that later) and working on stuff that will fill our Januaries (yikes!), but I there is something important enough going on THIS WEEK that I wanted to add my voice to those getting the word out
It is a sad sign of our priorities as a society that the Ministry of Education will not pay for playground equipment at an elementary school. I like to think it is more reflection of the kind of Government that raises rates for the electricity needed to run schools, refuses to give the schools extra money to pay those rates, then tells the School Boards to just close some schools if they can’t afford to keep the lights on, as opposed to being the sign that our community doesn’t value our kids or recognize how important exercise and unstructured play is to learning outcomes… /end rant.
Clearly our community cares, as there is a group of aroused rabble who have been moving on a campaign to get funding from an Insurance Company to buy the playground equipment that an Elementary School should have at the new Elementary School called Qayqayt Community School which is being built currently on the old St. Mary’s Hospital site.
As the Aviva Community Fund is a national program, there are several programs competing for a few funds, but the good news is that this project has already jumped several steps in voting and promotion, and is a semi-finalist. They have 8 Days to get as many votes as they can. So go there and vote. Right now. You can even vote multiple times (once a day) and every person with a different e-mail address in your house, at your work, or in your universe can vote. Every day. So you, (yes you) can probably get 100 votes here.
The local group organizing this campaign has even made it easier for you by creating a webpage link to get you straight to where you can vote:
Here are the instructions sent to me by Tim Mercier from the École John Robson Community, and it was easier than the 7 steps below make it look, especially if you already have a Facebook account:
1- Go to www.vote4robson.com
2- In the top right corner of the site (inside the yellow and above the search box) find “Sign in – Register – Francais” and click on “register” to get to the registration page;
3- Connect using your Facebook account or enter your email address and create a simple password for your account. Then scroll down the page to find the yellow “Register” button and press it;
4- Aviva will send you an email (to the address you used to register) and you will then need to open the email and click on the link;
5- This will bring you back to the Aviva page. The Sign in tab is located on the top right of the page in the yellow, click on it to go to the sign in page where you will need to enter your email address and password.
6- This will take you to your account page and Dashboard, if you want to find our entry either search for ACF17525 or just go back to www.vote4robson without logging off the Aviva site and it should get you there.
7- Once you have voted once, we will be in your supported idea tab and you can find us there.
Here you go, New Westminster – time for us to do what a great community like ours does best when a few people start a good idea – support them by showing up and give a few clicks to give the kids of the Downtown neighbourhood and all of the Qayqayt catchment a place to blow off steam so they can get some fresh air, learn better, and be healthier and happier #NewNewWest Citizens.
For those not paying attention (and really, why would you?)…
…the proposal to convert part of Fraser Surrey Docks to a coal terminal (the one where they plan to export of low-quality US-sourced thermal coal after employing US-based BNSF Railway to ship it here through the back yards of a bunch of our South-of-the-Fraser neighbours) has entered into the Environmental Impact Assessment phase.
Some have found this assessment to be lacking.
You don’t have to take a medical health officer’s word for it, you can read the entirety of the assessment here, although you better put on some coffee, because the report is technical and I count 900+ pages with appendices.
|Yes, that’s it. No, I have not read it. At least not all of it. Yet.|
While you are reading it, you might also want to take notes, as the public comment period is now open, so you, as a member of the public, are free to opine to the Port about the assessment and the project in general. You can send in comments by mail, e-mail, or FAX until 4:00pm on December 17, 2013, to the addresses available here.
Another way you can make your voice heard is to post your comments to a website a group called Voters Taking Action on Climate Change have set up. They call it “Real Port Hearings”, and they will use that site to collect feedback that the Port should be hearing. They plan to forward your feedback to the Port, however, since the Port is not compelled to make any of the feedback they receive public, VTACC will make the feedback public for them; doing the public engagement that the Port should be doing.
Also, if you want to learn more first, you could show up at Green Drinks on Thursday and hear what a couple of well-informed people have to say on the topic of Coal Exports. One of the hosts of the evening is the New Westminster Environmental Partners’ Coal Spokesperson Andrew Murray, and, well, you know who he is! Andrew will be introducing two (2!) special guests who also have a lot to say on the topic of coal and how the Port engages the community:
Laura Benson is Coal Campaigner for the Dogwood Initiative, which has been one of the leading organizations in BC fighting to protect our coasts and our atmosphere from bad decisions and short-term thinking. They are collecting petitions at their Beyond Coal site, trying to get your voice to the elected officials who have the decision making powers on this issue, but are strangely silent on exporting such a dangerous product.
Peter Hall is a Prof at SFU’s famed Urban Studies Program. He is studying the connections between shipping and logistics networks, and how they impact employment and development patterns in port cities. He is also interested in Ports as institutions, and the differing governance models that regulate them. As I’ve said before, so much of the issues that New Westminster cares about (bridges and truck traffic, railways, development of the waterfront, etc.) are Port-related issues, and the research Dr. Hall does is directly applicable to the decisions being made here today, on Coal and on these other topics.
This Thursday, in the “Back Room” of the Heritage Grill, on Columbia Street in Downtown New Westminster. The Heritage is a food-primary establishment, meaning that you do not have to be 19 to enter, and we make it as inclusive as possible. The goal of Green Drinks is to have a comfortable, informal setting where people can mix and mingle, and talk about sustainability and environment. Everyone is welcome, entry is free, and opinions are encouraged! Our speakers might give short talks, but the emphasis is always on two-way and multi-way discussions about topics of common interest – a cocktail party of green ideas, if you will.
See you there!
I guess it would be inappropriate for me to not blog about this…
As the story says, I was honoured to be nominated, but seriously did not think I would win. I was actually offering 10:1 odds against me winning before the event, and no-one took me up on it. I did not go with a speech in hand, so I am happy that speeches were not expected. Although I am always running off at the mouth, I am not always very good at thanking people, so let’s call this the “acceptance speech” I would have delivered, getting progressively more frantic and louder as the band tries to play me off the stage so everyone can get home to their loved ones…
I have a lot of people to thank for empowering (enabling?) me to rouse so much rabble.
I need to thank the person who nominated me, both for thinking of me and for saying such kind things about me on the nomination. I don’t want to call them out personally here, as that is their thing, and they may be regretting it all now (!) but I have thanked them personally and will for some time to come. I’ll just say, they are serious community builders, and every bit as deserving of this type of honour as I am.
I also would like to thank the Chamber and the nominating/selection committee(s). I actually don’t know how the process works past the “nomination” phase, how short lists or rankings are done. I chatted with a couple of Chamber folks after the event yesterday, and they clearly wanted to preserve the anonymity of the people who make the final choice. So whomever you are, I thank you.
Of course, Ms.NWimby is always shockingly supportive (if you think reading my frequent Tweets gets annoying, imagine living in a house with them!). She is the inspiration for many of my ideas, a sounding board for my constant jabbering, and constitutes the majority of my better judgement. She also keeps the rest of my life in order so I can spend an unhealthy amount of time at meetings, researching, writing, and dreaming. All this while she maintains her own kick-ass career, volunteers for several groups, athletes the socks of people half her age, and bakes the best muffins in the world. She’s damn charming too, if you get the chance to meet her! Thanks Tig, I never forget how lucky I am.
I joked to Grant from the Newsleader that I might be the first “Digital Citizen of the Year”, because so much of my connection in the community comes from the social media and on-line world. Much of the thanks for that go to Brianna Tomkinson and Jen Arbo at Hyack Interactive. When I first started reading Tenth to the Fraser, it broadened my horizons in my adopted town, and inspired me to start doing my own blog – even if it took a couple of years to actually start blogging. Then one day Jen asked me why I wasn’t’t on Twitter, and I said – yeah! Why aren’t I on Twitter? The rest (much to James Crosty’s lament) is history.
But it’s not just about the blog and Twitter chatter, I have made numerous connections and friends through these connections. Networks were created, ideas shared, and community built. People who think that relationships built through the social media are less genuine, or do not result in a strong community, are doing it wrong. I find it amazing that I can have a backyard barbeque and new friends from up the street can come over and meet my Mom, yet feel they already know her because she comments on my blog from 600 km away. Facebook still hasn’t replaced standing in the NWEP booth at River Fest or Sapperton Day when it comes to generating interest in sustainability issues in the City, but the web presence is now as important as the interpersonal face-to-face team building. So… uh, thanks Al Gore? He invented it, right?
My first reaction on Twitter last night was to thank #NewWest, and this meant two things.
First, this City is a great place to be a rabble-rouser, because people in New West are genuinely engaged and interested, and it doesn’t take much to get them a small crowd off the couch around an issue. When TransLink holds an open house in Surrey and 10 people show up, then they get hit by 150 people in New Westminster, you know there is something special about this town. People love to talk issues and love to seek solutions. We also love to disagree, but that is all part of the conversations. I have been to more open houses and consultations in the last few years than anyone (with the likely exception of Bill Zander) and am constantly encouraged to see that the citizens of this City care about their community, and are willing to burn so much of their “spare time” helping to build it. I looked around that room last night, and there were so many people who have been putting in decades of great selfless service to the community (Bill and Lynn Radbourne, Rick Carswell, so many others!), it feels strange to get singled out…but that is the fate of the squeaky wheel. So for everyone who came to a Coal Rally or a Master Transportation Plan open house or Community Plan consultation (even those who wrote down opinions opposite of mine), thank you for being involved.
Second, this City is a great place to be a rabble-rouser because people in decision-making roles are equally willing to engage. For the most part, elected types and staff are willing to listen to new ideas, and are not afraid to take risks. Unlike some senior governments these days, it is not a struggle to get sustainability on the agenda locally. I don’t always agree with the decisions they make, but even in those times they are willing to hear an opposing viewpoint that is offered respectfully. The positive change we have seen over the last decade in this City is not an accident, it is a legacy of good decisions and good leadership. Thanks New West.
Finally, the long list of my enablers in this City include many of the NWEP folks from the early days (Andrew x 2, Matt x 2, Reena, Luc, Peter, etc.) and newer members (Karla, Ginny, Jaycee), my teammates and friends at the Royal City Curling Club, people I have served on boards with and learned so much from (Bruce, Mary, Marion, etc.), constant community organizers like Kendra, James, and (of course) Tej, and so many people that have gone from neighbour to friend to co-conspirator, I know I’m forgetting some of you, but I will thank you next time I see you!
Finally, thanks Dad for making me so opinionated, and thanks Mom for making me so loud about it.
Now, everyone get back to work.
So much complaining and winging on this blog recently, I’m glad to talk about a good news story for a change!
I’m bully about the future of District Energy Utilities, and so it is good to hear New Westminster is starting to explore the prospect more seriously. The location in lower Sapperton provides an interesting collection of geographic opportunities that might make for a very successful system. But before the details, let’s do a quick primer on District Energy Utilities.
Like any other utility, a DEU is one where a single entity supplies the source and distribution system of a vital commodity, usually as a monopoly, and therefore covered by the BC Utilities Act. That Act assures the public can benefit from the inherent efficiency of a single supplier and integrated supply network, but that the consumer does not get gouged by the lack of competition. When you think of our drinking water supply or electricity grid, it is hard to imagine how else it could be managed. When it comes to “energy”, the concept is a little less clear.
An energy utility produces heat energy (usually through a boiler or heat exchanger), and distributes it (usually in the form of hot water or steam) to a selection of customers. For a variety of reasons, efficiencies can be found in producing the energy in a central site and distributing it widely, instead of having a small boiler in every building. This efficiency can be enhanced by building a larger-scale high efficiency system, and the sustainability of the entire utility improved by choosing a sustainable energy source.
Think about your typical apartment building. New ones generally have electric baseboard heaters around the periphery of glass-walled suites. This relies on the inherent efficiency of the province-wide BC Hydro electrical grid to be affordable, but at the local level, it is not in the least bit efficient. Older buildings are more likely to have boilers in the basement that burn natural gas and heat water which in turn circulates through the building to warm the rooms. The efficiency of this type of system relies on the efficiency of the boiler and the engineering of the distribution network in the building.
A DEU is like the second example. A single water-heating facility, and a system of pipes that moves hot water to the customer buildings. In each of those buildings, a high-efficiency heat pump turns the DEU-heated water into intra-building heated water, and distributes the warmth through the building. In theory, this entire system can also be designed to take heat out of the building in the summer, like any other heat pump.
There are several examples of DEUs operating in the lower mainland, and I have toured two of them. The first, and most famous, is the Southeast False Creek DEU. This is fast becoming the model of a “medium temperature” district energy system whose main energy source is the heat of sewage water.
|Diagram from City of Vancouver website.|
There happens to be a big sanitary sewer line than runs by the site, and due to the fact we heat much of the water we use before we dispose of it, and there is so much …uh…organic activity in our sewage, it tends to be warm. There is so much warm sewage in this line that stripping off a few degrees of heat (the temperature exchanger reduces the sewage temperature by less than 5 degrees centigrade) results in a huge amount of energy to run the heat pump. There is enough energy that the system provides the vast majority of the heating and hot water for the buildings being built around the utility. The utility also has an efficient gas-fired boiler to “boost” the energy demand for those few days a year when Vancouver gets really cold and an exceptional amount of energy is needed. At full build-out, the sewage heat will supply about 70% of the total energy needs of the community.
The second example I have toured recently is in the Alexandria neighbourhood of Richmond. This is a very different system, although the fundamental idea is the same. The difference is that this is a “low temperature” system that relies on geothermal energy source. This energy source is a field of 250-foot deep metal loops with a coolant running through them.
|Image from City of Richmond website.|
As groundwater a couple of hundred feet down is always around 12 degrees centigrade, the temperature between this temperature and heating season ambient temperatures is small (hence “low temperature”) but it still produces a surprising amount of energy. The system is also scaleable, and as the surrounding neighbourhood is built up and more energy is required, the system can be easily scaled up, using pretty much any energy source, from more geothermal to solar water heating to sewer heat (as the local waste water volume ramps up with development).
|When I toured the Alexandra energy centre, it still had that New Utility Smell.|
These systems provide significant benefits for users (as energy prices become more stable – not linked to volatile gas or electricity markets), for the environment (replacing fossil fuels and inefficient baseboards with a highly efficient heating system), and for the City that builds them (once the capital costs are paid off- about 10-20 years depending on the system, these utility systems should be a revenue source for the operator).
Back here in New Westminster, it appears from the report to Council, the proposed DEU will be a “medium temperature” variety, not unlike the Southeast False Creek system. This makes sense with the intensity of energy use from a relatively compact footprint. There is also the proposal to use waste heat from a major trunk sanitary sewer that happens to run right by the spot. Clearly, there are details to work out, but we are not inventing a wheel here, we are potentially benefiting from a system that is already successfully operating in hundreds of places, and has already proven itself to be financially sound and energy efficient.
The other option floated is to use a gasification plant to burn waste wood, which is the system that powers Victoria’s groundbreaking Dockside Green development, and also happens to be the system that the Kruger paper plant in New Westminster uses to produce power and steam, significantly reducing their greenhouse gas production by reducing the need to burn gas. I cannot emphasise enough this system is very different that a trash incinerator like the one in Burnaby. First off, the emissions from a gasification plant are remarkably low (and easily cleaned), and secondly, the waste wood represents biospheric carbon, not fossil carbon, so it does not increase the net greenhouse gas budget of the planet.
Actually, since both of these heat sources can be used on the same system, as they both represent “medium temperature” energy sources, and there is not reason (except maybe the economics of scale efficiencies) that the City cannot build both systems, in a staged approach as the Hospital expansion, the final pieces in the Brewery District, and other developments in the area take place.
So this is first steps, but it is good to hear the City is taking this idea seriously.
Responsibility is a big word. It is something that some of us take on gladly, something others avoid like a plague. At the worst, it is often given to people who choose to wield it like a hammer until the time when they start pretending they don’t have it. Once the journey down that path begins, the results can be akin to a train wreck. This has been a week of responsibility-shirking train wrecks.
At the federal level, we were treated to a spectacular display at the Harper Party of Canada convention. After a few weeks of spiraling controversy that seems to be closing in on the big desk in the Prime Minister’s Office and in which Harper has taken repeated body blows from Mulcair in the House, he stood in front of the Party Faithful to give a much-anticipated speech. Instead of addressing the issue, he avoided it completely, and only talked about how everything in Ottawa is tickety-boo except for a few trouble-making Senators whose name he hardly remembered. A review (in the very Conservative National Post) of the speech from (the very Conservative) Andrew Coyne is one of the most spot-on analyses of Stephen Harper ever written.
The entire point is that Stephen Harper, who has so single-handedly ruled for the last few years that his name has replaced Canada’s in official Government media and has honed to a sharp point the PMO-centric governance model already polished by Jean Chrétien, is now claiming he knew nothing of several secret deals to compensate a Senator for paying back illegally-claimed entitlements, although the plan was cooked up in his office by his closest advisers. It doesn’t matter that he was, ultimately responsible, he is claiming no responsibility. Someone else is to blame.
Then we have the situation in Toronto. As Rob Ford’s constantly-shifting defenses (there is no video, It’s not me in the video, I’ve never seen the video, no-one knows what that is I’m smoking in the video, I might have made a mistake being filmed in that video) do little to build his credibility. However, despite the various strange stories around the phantom video – arrested drug dealers, dead informants, police investigations – the Mayor seems to think this is all a vendetta against him by a newspaper, or the Left Wingers, or his Police Chief, or his driver/dealer, or someone. Deep in denial, he rails against those who might suggest that maybe some part of the current situation might be a result of his actions. Someone else is to blame.
At a different scale, and very locally, the presumed-still-official President of Hyack wrote a letter to the local papers last week that that offers a different view on the Hyack fiasco, a view that differs from that previously offered to the public, or even to members of Hyack.
Unfortunately, many of these points only serve to make the situation more muddy. For example:
“Most directors of the Hyack board were aware of the numerous points the executive committee were working with when preparing an ‘employee review’ for Douglas Smith, the former executive director, prior to his departure. The immediate past president was the board member who did not allow the committee to present their findings to the board on July 30, after he raised an ‘incorrect’ point of order, which abruptly ended the meeting and prevented the board from considering all of the evidence available to it.”
First off, this is a perfectly reasonable explanation of why the Board did not approve the removal of the ED, but it does not explain why the ED was removed without the approval of the Board. That the Board was “aware” that the Executive wanted him removed is not in dispute, what is in dispute is whether the Board was required to approve of it, and if there was just cause for dismissal. Even if just cause was presented, was there a plan to deal with potential legal or financial issues that would arise from terminating the contract? If just cause was not present, what would be the result of the ensuing legal action? In my (usually) humble opinion, the job of the Board would be to provide this type of due diligence before decisions are made. If the decision was made without this due diligence, who made it?
Secondly, who chaired this meeting that was caused to abruptly end due to an incorrect Point of Order? The job of chair is to manage the meeting and avoid this type of issue. One Point of Order should not a meeting destroy, or you need a new Chair.
“With respect to the Oct. 22 ‘gathering’ that 25 individuals had at the Columbia Theatre, it was not a sanctioned meeting of Hyack.”
This unsanctioned gathering was just a collection of paid Hyack Members who gathered at the time and place designated by the President in his announcement to the Members of a Special General Meeting. The majority of those members never received notice from the President that the meeting had been cancelled.
”The comments that have been made by persons at that meeting were only the opinions of those individuals and did not reflect the views or opinions of the Hyack board and the association itself.”
Every comment made at that meeting was made by a paid Member of Hyack, and a General Meeting is usually a meeting of Members, not one where comments are limited to those offered by the Board or Executive.
“A number of them were ‘brand new members’ who had been recently signed on only to further the ends of the dissident directors. These people had little independent information or knowledge or information about our association.”
As a relatively new member of Hyack, this strikes close to me. I joined a couple of months ago, in the middle of the “troubles” and at the request of a couple of Board Members. My membership fee was accepted by the Board, and it has never been suggested to me that I am second class member. I got involved in this process, and spent my own $55, because as I said at the very beginning, I really hoped that Hyack could move past this situation and continue to serve the City. I happen to agree with much of what I read in the newspaper written by Douglas Smith after his departure – Hyack had huge potential to move forward and become more relevant through strategic changes. I actually got excited about the possibilities, and thought I could contribute. My interest was only to make this organization stronger and more effective. Being a member of several not-for-profits that do good volunteer work, I have no interest in damaging one.
During my membership, I have worked with the best information I could get. I have received almost no correspondence from the President that would provide me this so-called “independent information or knowledge or information about [the] association”. If the Membership had not received this important information, isn’t it the duty of the President (who has taken pains to point out all of the people who don’t speak for the Association) to transmit that information to the members?
I have received a couple of reports from the President, mostly on the topic of recent parade-related successes in Washington State. The only official reference to the current “troubles” from the President prior to the SGM was the announcement of and rationale for the SGM, excepting these two sentences from the Presidents Report delivered October 13th:
”By now, you know we are having a Special General Meeting on October 22nd where you will be asked to make some tough decisions. The future of New Westminster’s Hyack Festival Association rests on the outcome of this very important meeting and with you, the members. I know you will make the right decisions.”
That’s it. In a 1,000-word report with photos that talked about the activities of Honourary Colonels and First Ladies in Tacoma, Leavenworth, and Issaquah, there were two sentences that obliquely referred to any “independent information” that would have allowed us Members to make the “right decisions”.
I don’t want to attack the current President personally, I honestly believe he is doing what he thinks is best, with the best intentions. However, I think this Letter to the Editor, better than anything I have seen up to this point on the entire Hyack annus horribilis, demonstrates that he cannot see the situation for what it is. Someone else is to blame.
“Rogue” Board members, Douglas Smith, city council, former sponsors, the local newspapers, 25 Hyack members who attended the SGM, the media, the immediate past president, letter writers, etc.; a myriad of dark forces are out to destroy Hyack. Now that I have written this, you can probably add me to the pile. But not once has the President ever suggested that he may have ever done anything that might require some reflection. Through all of this, no mistakes, no bad choices made in the best intentions, not a step wrong. No apologies offered for not managing this situation better.
Instead of deflecting, it is time for someone to act Presidential and take ownership of the situation. If mistakes were made or decisions look worse with the benefit of hindsight, he will be judged less by admitting to it, and apologizing. A mistake is an opportunity to learn, but first there has to be an acknowledgement. Part of Leadership is the accepting of responsibility. That may be the only path forward right now. The solution will not be found in continuing to look for someone to blame.
PS: there were a couple of other moments in the letter that I simply have to address, because they did not reflect my personal experience during the October 22nd event. I stand to be corrected, but it is my opinion that the President got some facts wrong:
“At an official special general meeting, only fully paid members are allowed to vote and only the items on the agenda can be discussed.”
That is the experience I had at the Special General Meeting. There was business to appoint a chair (as the President failed to show up), business to appoint a Secretary, and 4 resolutions, all passed. That is all that took place at the meeting, and all discussion was around that agenda, as sent out by the President prior to the meeting.
“As well, one long-time Hyack member was turned away at the door by one of the dissident directors when he attempted to enter. This was obviously not an open gathering but rather a partisan group of people with a closed agenda.”
That is NOT the experience I had at the Special General Meeting. There were many people turned away before registration for the meeting began, but they were sent home by a representative of the President who, when I arrived, was telling people to go away as the meeting had been cancelled (then he did not stick around to sign in for the meeting). When two dozen people decided not to go away, but to await the arrival of the President to ask him questions, it became apparent the President was not going to arrive. At that time, the doors were opened, and registration was taken, to assure names of each participant was recorded (in case there was a challenge about membership status). I witnessed one person being turned away, because they arrived long after the doors were sealed at 6:45 (as indicated in the agenda supplied by the President) and after voting on several resolutions had already proceeded. Turns out that person was not even a member, but hoped to sign in at the meeting.
The agenda was the one provided by the President prior to the meeting.Nothing more, nothing less.
Despite some hysterics on Twitter and other media, I cannot think of another, better result for Hyack than the careful approach New Westminster City Council took this week. Although, it will probably not make some people happy.
Some entrenched long-time supporters of the Hyack Festival Association would like the whole thing to go away and for everyone to pretend that nothing happened over the last 6 months, except the perfectly normal and legitimate firing of a staff member for (too secretive to discuss) just cause, and the cleansing the organization of a few rogue members bent on its destruction and (by association) the destruction of the City. They want to go back to business as usual.
There is a second group who want Hyack to change into a more modern community festival society. They want to see the valuable assets and volunteer base of Hyack directed towards local events with less emphasis on the pomp and ceremony of hosting and being guests of the self-appointed “Royalty” of various Pacific Northwest cities and town. They have concerns about the taxpayers’ money being spent on what they see as junkets with no benefit to the taxpayers of New Westminster, and have a more aggressive attitude towards changing the organization.
It is pretty clear these two sides are not going to agree. The firing of Douglas Smith was a symptom of this problem, its questionable handling a result of this problem. However, it is not the only reason that the Hyack Festival Association is in the current quagmire. Just for the record, I want to put a few points out on the table to correct a bit of the misinformation that has grown in the community.
The Hyack Board never voted to remove Douglas Smith. Four members of the Executive (a sub-set of the board) did vote to remove him. Some argue that the Board (who, according to the Hyack Constitution, have the right to hire and set the terms of employment for the Executive Director) is the only body with the right to remove the ED, some argue the Executive was acting within its rights. I’ll leave that one up to the lawyers, but the Board did vote – in the majority – to reinstate Mr. Smith, and voted – in the majority – to censure the Executive members that acted without Board authorization and created a legal problem for the Association.
There were many bad decisions made from this point forward, on both sides of the issue. There were many ways out of the situation that would have allowed Hyack to protect its reputation and carry on doing the good work that it does. At one point the two sides agreed to hire an external Parliamentarian to interpret the Societies Act and the Association’s Constitution and Bylaws and, then provide mediation and administration of the Special General Meeting scheduled for October 22. However, when that Parliamentarian decided he could not help these people, perhaps the best opportunity was lost. The story of why the Parliamentarian left only exists in rumour, but is a story yet to be told. Another one for the Lawyers.
The loss of the Parliamentarian caused several members of the Board to decide they would not receive a fair hearing, and instead of risking their reputations in front of a kangaroo court, they resigned their Board positions, and half the resolutions for the SGM went away. They did, however, show up to attend the SGM and address the remaining resolutions, only to find it had been cancelled at the last minute by the very Executive members who were to face possible expulsion at that meeting. When the assembled members determined they represented a quorum for a duly constituted SGM, the votes to remove three Executive Members were near unanimous. Whether that SGM was “legal” under the Society Act and the Constitution, or whether the “emergency meeting” of the Board that cancelled it and appointed four new Board members was “legal” under the Society Act and the Constitution, I leave for the lawyers. Apparently Legal opinions have been sought and received for both sides of the argument.
So for those having a hard time keeping count: here is the list of Hyack board members for 2013 from the Hyack website, updated to show the events of October 22nd, when both the (questioned) SGM and the (questioned) emergency Board Meeting were held:
…in RED are the three Executive Members removed at the October 22 SGM;
…in BLUE are the 5 Board Members who resigned going into the October 22 SGM;
…in GREEN are two members who are no longer on the board, for reasons ostensibly unrelated to the current troubles, The President Elect moved out of town for work, and the Council Representative was replaced part way through the year;
…at the bottom are the 4 Board Members named by the Executive before the October 22 SGM;
…in ORANGE is one of those newly-named members who resigned on October 28 to avoid the perception of conflict of interest with City Council.
What a mess.
After spending months standing back and watching, City Council was finally pushed to the point where they had to react. The City provides money and in-kind support to Hyack for events held on City streets. To do this, the City must enter into legal agreements with the organization. Contracts are signed (or handshake agreements are made that constitute binding contracts under the law). Things like liability and indemnity come into play. The City needs to know, when these agreements are made, that the representative signing the papers and shaking the hand is the legal representative of the operation, authorized by law to make financial commitments on behalf of the organization, backed by the assets and insurance of that organization.
Even if we put aside for a bit the issue of financial accountability for taxpayer’s dollars, there is a gigantic liability issue here, for which the City needs to have some certainty. The questions Council is asking Hyack in this week’s resolutions will provide that certainty, and are the path back to a functioning, accountable, and functional Festival Association.
For the first time in 6 months, there is light at the end of the Hyack tunnel. I look at that list of Board Members above, and I see 5 original Board Members who have been publicly silent through this entire escapade. It is those 5 that need to step up now, and begin to bring the Public’s confidence back in Hyack.
Long time readers (Hi Mom!) know I have been occasionally critical of Port Metro Vancouver. It is funny, because I work with people from the Port on occasion, and have healthy, respectful relationship with many Port staff. The first property upon which I ever led an environmental investigation during my consulting days was a Port property. They were great to work for because of their professionalism, straight-forward communications, and high competence of their technical staff.
So why the current hate on? Why am I taking part in, and encouraging you to participate in, a Rally on Sunday in New Westminster, with the Theme “Take Back Our Port”?
You can read about it in the Newspaper, or show up to get details, but this is about accountability.
Port Metro Vancouver is, to quote their website,
“a non-shareholder, financially self-sufficient corporation, established by the Government of Canada in January 2008, pursuant to the Canada Marine Act, and accountable to the federal Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities”.
They are crown corporation who answer only to Lisa Raitt (who, like any other Conservative MP, answers only to the Prime Minister’s Office). There is no local representation of the Port, except a Board of Important Business People. They do a significant amount of public outreach, but there is no accountability to local residents in how they fulfill their mission, which is, again to quote the Website:
To lead the growth of Canada’s Pacific Gateway in a manner that enhances the well-being of Canadians
What is “Canada’s Pacific Gateway” exactly? Something to do with the Province, apparently, if you follow that link. But make no mistake, the Port doesn’t answer to the Premier, even if she leases her office space from them.
Regardless of catch phrases, the depth of the influence this unaccountable organization has on your community should concern you. A few of the hot-button issues that we talk a lot about in New Westminster point right back at the port: :
Coal: People in New West are very aware of the current proposal to introduce bulk coal exports to Surrey Fraser Docks, right across the Fraser from the Quayside. Most of you probably don’t know about the other two coal terminals in Vancouver are seeing expansion (Westshore Terminals expanded by 40% in 2012, Neptune Terminals in 2015 by 50%). With each expansion increases the number of open coal-carrying rail cars running through our neighbourhoods, increased air pollution, and increased climate impacts as we move the dirtiest fuel ever known to man. Although this expansion improves the financial bottom line of the Port, they are the agency charged with providing an “Independent” Environmental Assessment for the projects. They also make it clear that greenhouse gas impacts of their operations are not part of the assessment. GHGs are not their problem. That is the problem of the Federal Government, they say.
Trains: Train operations are dictated by Port needs. Trains are good, they are the most efficient way to move goods across land by far. If we are going to migrate our economy to a more sustainable path, trains will be a fundamental part of that economy. However, inflexibility in their operations, often dictated by Port needs, means that mitigating community impacts is difficult, and will always come in second place to logistical needs to keep things moving, as quickly as possible.
Further, impacts on the community are exacerbated by a failure to invest on rail infrastructure. The New Westminster Rail Bridge is more than 100 years old, and represents the largest goods-movement bottleneck in the region. This bridge, much like the Port, belongs to the Federal government, but there is simply no interest in replacing it. Therefore, more goods have to be moved by truck to bypass this bottleneck. Until this bottleneck is addressed, the re-alignment of the rails that run through New West cannot take place, and so we are all in a waiting pattern, hoping the rail/road conflicts will get better. Old rail infrastructure is also, like anything else, less safe infrastructure.
Trucks: Everyone in New Westminster knows we are being buried in truck traffic. The Port knows, but it frankly does not care. With the rail bottleneck, and complete disinterest from the Port in investing in short-sea shipping, containers are coming off ships at Burrard Inlet or Delta, then going on trucks, through our neighbourhoods and past our schools, to get to places like Port Kells or Port Coquitlam, to be put on trains, it’s clear moving stuff by truck is not an unfortunate consequence in our communities, it is the business plan.
This is further evidence when one looks at more recently-developed port lands, like Port-owned lands lining the north side of Queensborough and currently being filled with truck-only warehouses. Or look at the south side of Richmond, where the Port owns more than 750 Acres of waterfront land full of truck-only warehouses? These properties have something in common: no goods move on or off ships at these prime waterfront locations. Which brings us to:
Land Use: There has been an ongoing issue about the port encroaching on agricultural land, the threatening the ALR. We don’t have farmland in New Westminster, but regional food security should still concern everyone who hopes to eat for the next few decades. However, the Port is in a unique situation, where they can buy up large pieces of ALR land, which is relatively inexpensive at between $50,000 and $200,000 per acre (See Pages 28 and 29 of this report, I don’t make numbers up ) because of ALC restrictions on its use. Then, as a Federal Agency, they can, with a wave of the hand, remove the land from the ALR, and develop it for Industrial purposes. With undeveloped industrial land in the lower mainland selling for between $1,000,000 and $2,000,000 per acre, this seems like a pretty good business plan. Port puts up truck warehouses, asks the City to provide roads to service the trucks, and their financial self-sufficiency is all but assured. Good work if you can get it.
There is a strange meme being created by the current Port CEO– that an “Industrial Land Reserve” is needed to protect Port-related development. This is idiotic when viewed in the light of the equation above. Any land can be made industrial- you just need to pay the rates for that land that the market for industrial land requires. Further, once land become industrial, it can be re-purposed for other uses (see False Creek). The ALR land exists, because that is the one use that cannot be compatible with other uses- once a farm is lost to industrial development ,that land will never again be productive for traditional farming.
The current Port activity in Queensborough is a perfect model of this. High-value industrial lands were bought by the Port on the north side of Queensborough, east of the QB Bridge. Warehouses are being built to move things on and off of trucks. There is no plan whatsoever to use the waterfront location to move things on and off of boats; pier infrastructure is not even being built. The Port now owns the waterfront, and have paved it for the storage of trucks and trailers (with complete disregard to Riparian Areas protection standards or laws, which do not apply to them, because they are a Federal Agency, and with the closure of FREMP, the protection of the Fraser River riparian areas and waterfront habitat is now overseen by – you guessed it – the Port). The City’s and neighbourhood’s dreams of waterfront trails on Queensborough cannot be fulfilled because the Port will not allow a right-of-way through this same waterfront. Meanwhile, the trucks servicing these warehouses are backing up on Duncan Street and Derwent Way, creating havoc at the Howes Street intersection, and the Port is not responsible for any of the cost of improving this infrastructure. Meanwhile, the City has no say in any of this. Which brings us to…
Transportation. “Canada’s Pacific Gateway”, as mentioned above, is code for building roads and bridges. Under the guise of “goods movement”, the Port has been the main champion for spending taxpayer’s money on freeways and bridges that are out of scale for the region’s declining car use, unsustainable in their financing, and in complete contradiction to every regional transportation and land use plan created in Metro Vancouver over the last two decades. While everyone sat around for 20 years wondering where the money for Evergreen was going to come from, and while the Province floats a referendum to avoid having to make a decision about supplying enough funding the TransLink to keep the buses running, the Province has rushed ahead with $5 Billion on road expansion – from the Golden Ears Bridge (which is further crippling TransLink with debt) with the Pitt River Bridge (which is accelerating the removal of land from the ALR because of the traffic problems it has created), with the SFPR (which is a Port subsidy that destroys farm land and neighbourhoods), with the Widest Bridge in the World(tm) (which is also failing to meet its traffic targets and is looking like a long-term taxpayer pain), and now with the Tunnel Replacement to Nowhere. The Port has its fingers in every one of these decisions. They switch from consulting with the community to lobbying the Province in a flash, and then they are the agency that helps provide the Environmental Assessments for the projects. And greenhouse gasses? Someone else’s problem.
All of these issues are central to the livability of our City – of New Westminster, yet at every point, the Port’s only responsibility is to keep the money moving.
So come out to the family-friendly rally Sunday, and see how numerous people and groups feel about being kept out of the decision on how our community will develop, and how the livability of our region will be protected.
Update to the Update – I’m not sure what happened last night. Approximately 25 members showed up for the Hyack Festival Association Special General Meeting, and resolutions regarding society finances passed with simple majority (the Treasurer was not present) and the three resolutions to remove the President, Treasurer and Vice President passed with a greater than 75% majority (none of the three Executive members were present). I don’t know where the society goes from here, but things may hinge on the question of whether the Society Act permits the cancelling of a properly announced and convened Special General Meeting of the members a half-hour before it begins on the whim of the Board.This is especially relevant when removal of Board members is on the agenda of the meeting. As an SGM is the only process available for Board Member removal, is it proper for the Board Members facing removal to cancel said SGM at the last minute? The Hyack drama keeps on giving.
I would love to write more about this, but this is a busy week full of good news. For the next few nights, I will be volunteering at the NewWestDocFest. Then there will be a Rally on the topic of Ports and Coal at the Quay on Sunday. Have a good week New West!
The battle for the future of Hyack took another turn today, just before the Special General Meeting that was meant to address the internal conflict. Today 5 Board members, who represent a plurality of the Board, but claim to be unable to exercise that due to interference from three members of the Executive, resigned from the Board.
I have attached a transcript of their resignation letter here, without comment:
October 22, 2013
New Westminster Hyack Festival Association
Mayor & Council, City of New Westminster
With this letter, we the undersigned, resign as Board Members of the New Westminster Hyack Festival Association, effective immediately. Although we believe we have all worked to the best of our abilities as Directors toward maintaining a solid organization and building a promising future, we feel that this now has become an impossible task. The reasons for this include a failed governance model combined with the ineptitude and incompetence of the current President, Treasurer, and Vice President who this summer set the organization on a destructive path with the unjustified dismissal of Hyack’s Executive Director.
This past July, the ED’s employment was terminated for claimed cause by the President, Gavin Palmer, and the Vice President, Alan Wardle with the support of the Treasurer, Gloria Munro, and the former President Elect, Nadine Proulx (since resigned). This action was conducted against the advice of other Board members, without the full Board’s knowledge and without the required Board authority. When this action was finally brought to the Board table for discussion, we as part of a majority of the Board did not support these Directors and censured each of them for the unauthorized dismissal. We then supported a Board decision to engage a preeminent Vancouver law firm to review all facts related to the termination and advise the Board on a way forward. The result of that review was a written determination that Hyack did not have sufficient grounds to dismiss Mr. Smith from his employment for just cause, but instead, ongoing correspondence highlighted the many mistakes in law and action taken by the President, the Vice President and the Treasurer.
While the improper personal actions by these executive Board Members might have been remedied through their resignations, and which was suggested as being the appropriate course of action by our legal counsel and called for by other Directors at the lime, the group refused and instead persisted in pursuit of their self-interest at Hyack’s expense. Although a lawsuit has since been averted, with a legal settlement finalized last week with the ED, very substantial legal and settlement costs were incurred. These three Directors have refused to acknowledge any personal liability for these costs which directly arose out of their personal actions and therefore Hyack is facing a significant non-operating deficit that is now being put forward to the membership for financing through debt.
During this time, Gloria Munro completely failed to fulfill her responsibilities as Treasurer. The financial ineptitude that she tolerated and facilitated resulted in the Board not once in the past three months receiving a report on the financial position of the organization. This included a complete failure to provide an accounting to the Board of the financial impact resulting from the unjustified ED dismissal, the losses in sponsorship revenues and the extra costs from legal fees.
There have been many additional and ongoing examples of executive incompetence, failure to seek or follow Board direction, and projecting false or misleading information to the media and the public. Sadly, the Board meetings degraded to becoming a battleground rather than a time and place to conduct meaningful planning and to direct successful operations. The President,
Vice President, and Treasurer continued to refuse any responsibility for their mistakes and did not once) offer an apology to the Board for their actions.
While Hyack may in the past have been a vibrant, valuable service organization that benefited and contributed to the community spirit of New Westminster, we feel it is no longer that today. We believe that the organization has lost its way, focusing excessive money and energy on exclusive activities outside the City, rather than creating an organization that reflects, includes and celebrates the many ethnic, community and business organizations that make up our City.
We had intended to stay on the Board until at least the Special Meeting of the Membership scheduled for this evening. However this past Friday, the Registered Parliamentarian that the Board engaged to chair the meeting resigned due to the repeated interference and unilateral and illegitimate actions by the President, Gavin Palmer. Since most of the issues at the Special Meeting will be Special Resolutions requiring a 75% majority vote, it is very unlikely that any of these Motions will pass and the status quo will be maintained. We have therefore concluded that there is no benefit to remaining as Directors with the organization.
Our resignations are delivered after much deliberation and with great concern. We fervently fear that if the current President, Vice President, Treasurer, along with a small group of Past Presidents continue to control the present and future direction of the organization, it will be to the detriment of Hyack, the City, and, most importantly, the citizens of New Westminster. We believe that Hyack should be a festivals organisation that celebrates our heritage, our present and our future – IN the City and FOR the City. This is why we originally volunteered our time to serve as Board members.
(signed by Patti Goss, Mariane Kazemir, Stephen Lloyd, Bill Radbourne, and Ron Unger)
As far as I know, the meeting tonight is still a “go”, and the above-signed members, according to the Record report, still intend to be there. One hopes that their new status as Members (as opposed to Board members) will free them to ask the questions to which many of us in the City have wanted answers since the is mess began.
I have to admit, though, my attempts to remain positive and hopeful for a resolution that keeps Hyack as the City’s preeminent festival organization are beginning to wear. We’ll know more tomorrow
So you all know there is DocFest happening this week, right?
This is the 3rd Annual New West Doc Fest, and the big news is a move to the Landmark Cinemas at New Westminster Station. This was a fun event the last two years at Douglas College, but the move to a new, sleek, comfy, modern theatre will definitely raise the game a bit for the Fest.
There is a great variety of films this year – some probably not what you expect from a DocFest that is organized by the Green Ideas Network and the New Westminster Environmental Partners. Yeah, there are a couple that hit the topic of “sustainability” pretty hard, but there is also a 3D animated movie re-telling an Inuit legend, and a movie about what its like to stare at the back of famous people for a living!
However, what makes this event different from a night (or three) at the movies is the rest of the schedule. There will be live music and other performances each night. Most films will be preceded by a short film – like they used to do for every movie when we were kinds. And each night will have special hosts who can talk about the films that you are seeing, or the topics that were discussed in the film.
And unlike in previous years at the Doc Fest, this year there will be popcorn.
Films are $5 – $7 each, but the best deal is to buy a $20 Full Festival pass – you can see all 5 features, 4 shorts, live music, talks, and you can hang out at the Friday Night Post-Fest social at Spud Shack next door. Three nights entertainment and education for $20 is cheaper than sitting at home!
I haven’t seen any of the movies showing this year, and I ain’t much of a Movie Critic, but I want to mention three of the Docs I am most looking forward to:
The first is Blackfish. This is a film about a captured orca that lived/worked at SeaWorld, and was involved in the death of a trainer. However, that incident just sets the backdrop for a deeper analysis of the entertainment-aquarium industry, and the ethics of keeping large cetaceans in captivity strictly for entertainment purposes. This film opened at Sundance, and has been winning awards at festivals across Europe and North America (there is even some Oscar hype building), but perhaps the real impact is the media exposure that this film has generated, forcing Sea World to fight back and attempt to re-claim the message.
The second is 20 Feet from Stardom. This movie looks at the lives of singers whose work you have all heard, thought you didn’t know it. The film profiles several “back up singers” who worked with everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Stevie Wonder to the Rolling Stones, but were always 20 feet behind them. Clearly massive talents, these singers spent their careers under the lights, but in the “shadow of superstardom”. With remarkably good reviews from critics and fans (the words “universal acclaim” appear commonly in discussions of the film), this is a movie you want to see on the big screen with modern theatre sound.
Third is Bidder 70, a film about an American who went to extraordinary lengths to protect 22,000 acres of pristine wilderness in Utah. When oil and gas development rights were put up to auction on the lands adjacent to Canyonlands National Park, Tim DeChristopher first sought to prevent the auction from happening, then when the controversial auction began, he bid more than $1.8Million for the rights and won them. Not having $1.8 Million, the Federal Government had him charged with fraud and thrown in jail. The movie is about this action, but it is also about what persons in a free society do when the laws are wrong, when an accountable government threatens its own land and citizens, or when an injustice is being done by those sworn to preserve justice. It is also a personal tale about what makes a single person decide to risk their personal freedom for an idea. As we in Canada see hydrocarbon development rushing ahead at a pace that makes so many people uncomfortable, this might be the most important film of the fest to see.
Like I said, there is a great variety of films being shown, and the conversations before and after should make for a great event. The tickets are cheap because the event is run on shoestring – this is not a fundraiser for the NWEP or anyone else – but the movies are the best on the documentary circuit right now, and we are lucky to have them here in New West! It’s a great opportunity to see some interesting films with a distinct paucity explosions, Michael Bay edits, or comic book characters. Each will make you laugh and think. And besides, it starts the day after the Hyack meeting, so we will all be tired of fireworks by then…
See you there!