What are your mayor and councillors doing at the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) convention?

UBCM logoInspired by a post by North Van City Voices, we offer a similar one to our readers.

Do you wonder what your mayor and councillors are doing in Victoria this week at the annual convention of the Union of BC Municipalities?

Download the program here: http://www.ubcm.ca/assets/Convention/2016/2016~Documents/UBCM%20Convention%20Pocket%20Program.pdf

Read resolutions to be voted on here: http://www.ubcm.ca/assets/Resolutions~and~Policy/Resolutions/2016_UBCM_Resolutions.pdf

Follow it on Twitter at #UBCM and #UBCM2016.

More about the 2016 convention:
http://www.ubcm.ca/EN/main/convention.html

The UBCM does a lot of good, but we see it as having one big black mark from the past. The shift from three-year to a four-year cycle was facilitated by the UBCM in 2014, through very murky chain of events, and against public wishes. The UBCM was a tool that made municipal politicians, particularly the incumbents, less accountable to voters.

More about the UBCM, from website:

UBCM Overview

The UBCM was formed to provide a common voice for local government and this role is as important today as it was 100 years ago. The UBCM reflects the truth in the old adages “strength in numbers” and “united we stand – divided we fall”. Continue reading

City Hall pledges commitment to neighbourhood energy systems after utilities commission firmly rejects Creative Energy monopoly plans to heat Vancouver

creative-energy-vision-from-website

Creative Energy’s future plans, from website

Yesterday, the B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC) definitively rejected an application by Creative Energy that would have created a monopoly on heat energy in large parts of the City. This is a significant decision, for many reasons.

“It created a monopoly for Creative Energy and we don’t think that’s in the public interest,” said David Morton, the commission’s CEO. “We won’t approve an agreement that includes that obligation.”
From “B.C. rejects plan for low-carbon Vancouver power plant,” by Frances Bula, The Globe and Mail (Sep. 26, 2016)

Below is a media release from BCUC, an information bulletin issued by City Hall today in response to the rejection, plus references and media links.

Creative Energy is owned by Ian Gillespie of Westbank Projects Corp. — mega developer and major financier of Vision Vancouver, the ruling regime in the city.  City Council has already required many new buildings to have hookups to a future district heating system and eventually intends to force every building in large areas of the city to connect in the future. But monopoly control of a city’s energy supply — enabled by the very politicians who funded their elections with funds from the same privately-held company (read that “no public accountability”) that generously funded their election — could prove to be a significant risk and future burden on City finances, businesses, taxpayers, and citizens. Imagine Gotham City in the Batman series.

There are many bits and pieces to the whole story. Gillespie tried hard to get the approval, and kept the application well under the radar. The City issued a non-big contract to Creative Energy, but that received barely any media attention. CityHallWatch tried for over a year to get information from City Hall and Creative Energy about what “bio-fuels” it intended to use to convert its central steam plant on Beatty Street to low-carbon sources.  Continue reading

Letter to Premier Clark on BC provincial transit & housing policies (Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods)

CityHallWatch has obtained a copy of this letter sent to Premier Christy Clark today.

cvn-coalition-of-vancouver-neighbourhoods-logo
September 26, 2016

Premier Christy Clark
Province of British Columbia

Re: BC Provincial transit and housing policies

The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods (CVN) is a coalition of resident associations from across the City of Vancouver. We are writing to you in response to concerns about recent reports of the province’s intention to use land based taxes to fund transit and to make increased development a condition of transit funding.

Since municipalities only get 7% of the tax base, while provincial and federal governments get 93%, we are opposed to the municipal tax base being further eroded. Municipalities mainly depend on property taxes and development fees to fund civic services and infrastructure. Transit is a provincial/federal responsibility for funding and the province should not be using either of these funding sources for transit. To do so is an unfair tax grab by the province. Continue reading

Petition: Save Queen Elizabeth Annex and Support Public Education in British Columbia

queen-elizabeth-school-annex-vsb(Updated with correction – meeting tonight is 7 pm.)

Queen Elizabeth Annex is on the list for possible closure (see summary report and full report, PDF). This would be very first French immersion school to close in Vancouver. Families are circulating an online petition (see below) to save that school and support public education.

Parents say there is no legitimate reason to close this school and that official numbers presented do not make sense. It is a full and thriving French immersion school, but happens to be sitting on four acres of land in Dunbar. There is some speculation that the ultimate reason for this school being on the list is that “someone” wants the part of the property to be liquidated for profits and development.

Here is what the Vancouver School Board officially says it might do with such lands:

Q: Will VSB sell schools?
A: No entire school properties will be sold. The Board has approved a motion to not sell entire school sites. This does not preclude long-term leases, land swaps or sales of portions of school properties.
(http://engage.vsb. bc.ca/faq/school-closures-faq/)

According to media, School District #39 trustees (Vancouver School Board) are set to examine detailed reports about possible school closures at a BOARD meeting at 7 pm today (September 26, 2016, at Tupper Secondary School, at 419 East 24th Ave, in the large gym. Apparently, agenda – Item VI – consideration of Cmtee II/III recommendations). There has been a lot of media coverage regarding the pressure from the provincial government for school boards to close schools, but for reference and links to reports, see our Sept. 13 post “Detailed reports on schools proposed for closure – now available from VSB.”

Anyone interested, please visit the link below for the petition.

PETITION: Save Queen Elizabeth Annex and Support Public Education in British Columbia
https://www.change.org/p/vancouver-school-board-save-queen-elizabeth-annex-and-support-public-education-in-british-columbia

The Trustees of the Vancouver School Board (VSB) will be meeting in the coming days to decide on closures of 11 public schools, including Queen Elizabeth Annex (QEA). We want to inform the VSB and the Provincial government that school closures are not an acceptable solution to massive underfunding of our public school system.

Please sign this Petition to save QEA and support public education in British Columbia.  Please forward to alumni, French immersion networks, and community.
Continue reading

City Hall rushes to clarify stance on natural gas, transition to renewable energy

Gregor RobertsonThe past couple days there has been somewhat of a media storm in response to an opinion piece by Jordan Bateman of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (“Taxpayers Will Shoulder Burden Of Vancouver Natural-Gas Ban,” The Province, 21-Sep-2016).

Excerpt: Lost in the hubbub over housing prices in the Lower Mainland this summer was the Vision-dominated city council rubber stamping its Renewable City Strategy, committing Vancouver to eliminating natural gas within city limits by 2050. Robertson wants a 70-per-cent cut in natural gas use by 2020, and 90 per cent gone within 10 years on new construction or renovations requiring a building permit. This will cost individual residents thousands of dollars — and was approved by Robertson and his council without any thought to the affordability crisis in Vancouver...
(Jordan Bateman, Canadian Taxpayers Federation)

Below we provide verbatim an information bulletin issued in response this morning (23-Sept) by the Corporate Communications office at City Hall, and at the bottom we provide a selection of other media coverage and related links. It seems the City could have done a better job of communicating the information initially, and that it is still a complicated story.

*************

Clarification of City’s position on natural gas: Long-term plans call for transition to more renewable energy forms, zero emissions buildings
(Information Bulletin from City Of Vancouver Corporate Communications, 23-Sept-2016)

The City of Vancouver is not banning the use of natural gas, despite claims to the contrary in a misinformed opinion piece in The Province newspaper.

Earlier this year, Vancouver City Council adopted the Zero Emissions Building Plan – an action plan that lays out a phased approach to combat and reduce carbon pollution in Vancouver. The plan establishes specific targets and actions to achieve zero emissions in all new buildings by 2030 i.e. the plan does not focus on retro-fitting buildings. Restaurants can continue to cook with natural gas and residents are not being asked to replace their gas appliances. Continue reading

City Council sends proposed “empty homes tax” out for public consultation

City HallOn its first session back from the summer hiatus, Vancouver City Council today discussed the topic item on the agenda: “Encouraging Homes for Renters: Emerging Approach on Empty Homes.Click here for the administrative report, and click here for the actual staff presentation. The Vancouver Sun has covered the story today: “Vancouver to launch public talks on empty homes tax” (by Matt Robinson). And below is the City’s media release, issued after the meeting.

 

Media release from City of Vancouver (20-Sept-2016)

Proposed Empty Homes Tax approved to go to public consultation: City staff to seek direction on exemptions and tax rate from Vancouver residents

Today City Council took next steps on a proposed new Empty Homes Tax to help relieve pressure on the rental housing market. City staff will now move forward with public consultation to provide homeowners with the opportunity to comment on the proposed tax. Continue reading

JARA Statement on REZONING – Joyce-Collingwood Station Precinct Plan and Related Rezonings (Public Hearing Tues, Sept 19)

jara-photo-17-sep-2016-joyce-collingwood-walkCaption: Taiko drummers leading the Community Celebration Walking Tour, part of the JARA organized Block Party held on September 17, 2016. The community mural by two Filipina artists, Aly d., Kim Villagante and youth reads, “home”.

INTRO: Joyce Area Residents Association (JARA) sent this statement to Vancouver Mayor and City Council on Sept. 19, in time for the Public Hearing starting 6 pm on Tuesday, Sept 20, 2016, for a major rezoning around this Skytrain station.* (Reprinted here with permission, but CityHallWatch added some bolding for emphasis. The statement raises concerns about loss of existing affordable housing, negative impacts on the community, unaddressed concerns about transportation/transit, and an unsatisfactory consultation process — asking Council to reject this rezoning and reconsider these key issues. CityHallWatch has added links and references at bottom.)

Dear Mayor and Vancouver City Council,

In response to the “REZONING: Joyce-Collingwood Station Precinct Plan and Related Rezonings”, the Joyce Area Residents Association (JARA) would like to offer our comments in opposition to the proposed rezonings in our neighbourhood.

You may recall a group of passionate community members, from youth to seniors, who came down to City Hall to offer comments on rushed development in our community in June this year. Rapid growth inherently conflicts with Vancouver’s goal to become the greenest city. We urge City Council to carefully consider the following before making a decision about the proposed mass rezoning.

High Renter Population/Current Affordability

The high renter population in the neighbourhood must be considered. As indicated in the plan, 46 percent of 6,300 home dwellings are rented by individuals and families. Many have chosen to stay as renting has always been a more affordable option. However, with the current state of growing unaffordability in the city, unprotected and displaced renters will be left with no other options for housing. Many renters are currently spending somewhere between 30 to 50 per cent of their income on rent. As a result, new development does not guarantee that current renters will be able to afford the units. There is an urgent need for more non-market rentals, especially in a neighbourhood with such high percentages of low-income, immigrant families and seniors.

Transit Convenience & Services

The City of Vancouver has already found that Renfrew-Collingwood area has a higher representation of low-income and immigrant residents compared to the city-wide average. In addition, the neighbourhood is also home to one of the highest proportions of seniors. Continue reading