Long Time No Blog! Airport Processes – And Honouring Contracts – And a New Phone!

The ACRD’s Alternate Approval Process Starts for Alberni Airport Expansion

That’s a lot of A’s!

As you no doubt know, the ACRD is looking to upgrade the Airport by lengthening and widening the runway, adding a GPS route and adding lights.  You can read the justifications (business case) and full details for these expansions on their website.

Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 9.46.20 AMI personally support this expansion.  We have a corporation that is wanting and needing to expand their work at the facility and is already doing that work out of country.  We have an airport that, due to our weather, cannot operate most of the year with the facilities that it currently has.  The added runway, lights and GPS will mean more ability for flights to land and takeoff in more types of weather and to do so safely.

The ACRD has committed to borrowing up to $6 Million for the completion of the project.  Depending on whether the project receives grants from the Province or Federal Government it could be less than that amount.

Have your say on the Airport Borrowing

As of last week, the ACRD entered into the Alternate Approval Process in order to approve the borrowing of up to $6 million.  Personally, I would have voted to have a referendum as I have never really liked the AAP, especially when dealing with borrowing decisions, but this is a legitimate process.

If you are a resident of the City of Port Alberni, Beaver Creek, Sproat Lake, Beaufort or Cherry Creek and do not want this borrowing to take place then you can register your disapproval at the ACRD office by signing a Elector Response Form. The details are here. The form looks like this:

Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 9.59.33 AM

 

If 2,050 (10% of the total electors in the areas) or more valid elector responses are received by the deadline, the ACRD Board must obtain assent of the electors by way of referendum before proceeding with the bylaws. Forms must be completed and handed in by 4:30PM August 5th.

That Canal Beach Thing

So, Canal Beach is in the news again… and not just because I fell in on my first attempt at a paddle board.  (thank you Councillor Sauvé for the encouragement :P)

11412380_10155735520180204_7021791299187782115_nThe ACDC event was exceptional and a huge success.  However, it was also a bit of a launching point for the question of what to do with the lease with the Port Alberni Port Authority that is nearing its 1 year anniversary on July 1.  To my mind, the question was answered when the contract was written.

That 1 year mark is very important.  It marks the first milestone in the contract.  Here is that milestone:

If, during the first year of the Term of the Lease, the Tenant has not commenced industrial activity on the Land to the satisfaction of the Landlord, the Lease will be terminated upon 90 days written notice by the Landlord to the Tenant, and if the Tenant has not caused the commercial activity to commence during such notice period the Tenant shall return the Land to the Landlord in the condition required upon expiry or earlier termination of this Lease. For certainty, if the Tenant has subleased the Land or a substantial portion of the Land to Canadian Alberni Engineering Ltd. or other approved subtenant  (with the exception of any tenant already occupying a portion of the Land as of the reference date of this Lease), and that subtenant has submitted a satisfactory proposal to the Landlord for the operation of the site, the Landlord will consider this satisfactory commencement of industrial activity on the Land.

The “Landlord” of course is the City of Port Alberni, and the “Tenant” is the Port Alberni Port Authority.

While it is a bit of a mouthful, I find this milestone to be quite clear and concise.  If there is no new commercial/industrial activity approved by the City on the Lot A/B lands before July 1 then the Lease will be terminated after 90 days notice.

At the June 22nd council meeting I introduced, with the support of Councillor Minions, a notice of motion that will appear at the next meeting on July 13th that would authorize the City to give said 90 day notice as of July 15th.

I don’t believe the debate about whether Canal Beach should be expanded needs to enter into it right now.  This is a much simpler matter of adhering to the contract that both the City and Port Authority signed.  It is unfortunate that Canadian Alberni Engineering was not able to secure the contracts from the Federal Government.  However, this is precisely why the milestones were set in place in case that occurred. If we choose to ignore our own milestones and conditions then the City will lose a huge amount of credibility in both the public eye and in the eyes of anyone the City signs a contract with in future.

What do you think?

Should we expand the Airport?

Should we honour our contract?

Post a comment or send me an email or call me!

One more thing! Chris has a mobile phone!

It finally happened.  After 6 months it became quite clear that between VIU, the City, and home life, not having a cellphone just was not working.  So I broke down and got a cellphone.  Note that neither the City nor VIU outright pay for this phone, though VIU may pay for some of the purchase cost, we’ll see.

So now, in addition to stopping me on the street, or email, this blog, twitter, or Facebook, you can reach me or leave a voicemail anytime at: 250-731-7930

Please don’t phone my home number.  I’ll be redirecting any phone calls about the City from there to this new number.

I’m on vacation from VIU until August so I will be out and about in town a lot more.

Have a great week!  And I do hope to post more often.

 

 

 

Posted in Environment, Politics | 6 Comments

Gardens, Greenery…. and Gall. The Power of Community to Overcome Greed.

Grow a Garden, It’s Important. :)

This past Sunday I had the honour and privilege to cut the ribbon (it was even red!) at the Official opening for the Community Garden built by the Young Professionals of the Alberni Valley at 4th and Napier.

Thanks Kama Money for  the nice photo.

Thanks Kama Money for the nice photo.

It is a wonderful space and it has been put together by a who’s who of local businesses and dozens of volunteers all working together to create this important source of local food for citizens.  All of the two dozen plots are now spoken for and there is a wait list.

Long before there were grocery stores filled with fruits and vegetables from farms thousands of miles away, there were people all over the world living off the land and cultivating its bounty.

As the more negative effects of climate change start to take hold and put our centralized, industrialized food sytem under pressure, we will need more initiatives like these to get people back to the land and connected to their food.  IMG_4035

In the future, i believe we will be relying much more own ourselves and our neighbours, and I cannot think of a more wonderful future to live in.

Innovation, Technology.  Betterment of Self and Place.

859757_10152580361315204_1085488828_oIn the past few decades, we have had incredible advances in our understanding of nature, of technology, and of our human condition.  Here is a beautiful new ship docking in Alberni Harbour last year.  This ship represents jobs, opportunity, progress.  Doesn’t it?  Or does it represent log exports, recession, and environmental destruction? Decades ago our harbour ran black like coffee but now it is relatively clear.  These changes were made *with* industry as a partner and an innovator.  Proving, I believe that we truly can have our cake (jobs) and eat it too (without poisoning ourselves).  But at the same time we have seen other changes where economy has trumped the needs of both the natural world and the local community.

So what am I getting at?

Gall – def.: bold, impudent behavior.

Last Monday, the City held its regular by-invitation meeting with local forestry companies and others on issues affecting the watershed.  I was concerned, but not surprised, to hear at the meeting that logging in the McFarlane/Bainbridge lake catchment area continues.

But have you looked at Mt. Arrowsmith lately? IMG_5571-e1423707612327-1024x668 The City relies on the Bainbridge Lake water supply in the summer months in order to supplement water flow when Lizard Lake and China Creek start to get low.  Bainbridge is also our go-to source when China Creek gets too turbid in high-rainfall events in the winter months.  Island Health is currently studying the Bainbridge water supply to ensure that it is sufficiently and reliably clear so that the City of Port Alberni can continue to have a waiver from the very expensive ($$ Million) necessity of installing filtration on our water system.

The forest companies recognize the serious situation for our snowpack, but this sentiment from one of the companies shocked me.

“A lot of the risk are exaggerated as far as quality [turbidity]…. quantity more of an issue…

“Recognize that a fir tree will take 200 litres water… general science says: take away cover… to flush more water into surface water (to help reservoirs)… “

These are my notes of the meeting, so it’s just paraphrasing, but I think the message is pretty clear.  Yes, it is correct to a point (according to the science) that if we remove the tree cover, then more water is allowed to flush into the system more quickly.  But to use temporary reservoir filling during months with the least rainfall, as implicit justification for the high rate of forest harvest including old growth to the exclusion of the inevitable and scientifically proven turbidity, temperature and other risks associated with high rate forest harvesting, I found to be galling and somewhat insulting.  The flippancy actually made me angry.

Environment and Education, It’s not just a Left Wing/Anti-Business Thing.

Rachel_Notley_crop

Rachel Notley, leader of the Alberta NDP. Note: This is not an endorsement.

This Reuters article today relating to the NDP surge in historically Conservative Alberta contained this gem:  “Today Alberta is one of the youngest provinces and polls show younger and more diverse population is more likely to support left-wing causes such as environment and education and more critical of big business. The New Democratic Party still only got 10 percent of the votes in the 2012 vote, but an election of a Muslim politician as a mayor of Calgary in 2010 served as an early sign of the changing political landscape.

There is a fundamental problem with that paragraph.  It seems to imply that the young inherently care more about the environment and education (as well as diversity) and that the “old” and big business do not.   Is that true?  Is that how stark our society has become that each “side” is painted so negatively against the other?

I reject that.  Not because I do not see it play out sometimes, like perhaps last Monday, but because it must not be that way, and it is not that way for many good people and companies.  Big business, especially those majority owned by you and I through pension funds (relied upon by the not-so-young), need not stand in opposition to the environment and education.  That is why I posted my “Jobs vs. Green – False Choice” post during the campaign.

11206633_10153184788286251_5143007253263495987_oFor example, consider all of the companies that contributed to the Community Garden Project.  The City of Port Alberni contributed to the project too of course, by providing water hookups, land and other things.

Now imagine if a forest company’s name was on that list because instead of continuing to make excuses and delivering platitudes they promised to shift their private lands in the watershed into a forest-retention strategy that ensured the purest water to the garden and the whole community while also providing unparalleled recreational opportunities in combination with world-leading small patch or thinning forest practices  that created local milling and value-added jobs as well as alternative (food or cultural) forest resource development and wildlife habitat restoration.

Is the economy going to self-destruct and the oilsands shut down the day an NDP government takes power in Edmonton?  Doubtful.  Is the economy of the Alberni Valley going to go into the tank if logging is severely curtailed or stopped altogether in our watershed?  Also, doubtful.  We need to move past these dire assumptions and we need to demand private forest owners stop breaking their historic social contract obligations.  As Stephen Hume recently pointed out in the Vancouver Sun, the public is watching now and the costs of doing nothing can be sky high.

Just like a community garden can host fruits and vegetables of all types given the right conditions to grow and can counteract the increasingly negative effects of our industrialized and centralized food system, we have an incredible opportunity to build a community for all residents and all companies to live and thrive in.  But it is very hard to do if even a handful of players decide to ignore what is best for the community.

 

_______

 

Appendix – More from the Study –

Check out this “state-of-the-science synthesis of the effects of forest harvest activities on peak flows and channel morphology in western Oregon” done by Grant et al (200x – not sure when it was published) for the US Forest Service and Oregon State University if you want to see an excellent treatment of the effects of different types of harvesting on peak river flows.   It analyzes dozens of studies over the past 30 years.

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 11.02.35 AM

It shows that while different types of harvesting (at left) do indeed change the peak rates of water flow, the biggest changes actually come on the smallest scales.  Runoff changes the most from small rain events, and from smaller areas nearest the cuts, rather than from the biggest rain storms across an entire watershed.  In fact, it is other human endeavours that affect peak flow the most….  “the effects of dams on hydrologic regimes, including peak flows, can be several orders of magnitude greater, particularly where the dams are large and used for flood control (Grant, 1997). Urbanization similarly imposes much larger changes to peak flows than does forest harvest, although less than dams. “

 

 

Posted in Climate Change, Environment, Family, Politics | 2 Comments

Transport, Climate Committee, Strange LNG Answers and AVICC Conference

Here we go!

VIEA Intermodal Transportation Forum

On Tuesday March 31st I went down to Victoria with Councillor McLeman for the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance forum on Transportation.  This was a very exciting event.

You might be wondering what the VIEA is… well, I’m not entirely sure honestly.  But my understanding is that they are an organization that has brought together all of the Island’s municipal governments and business and transportation interests to create a united front from which to lobby the provincial government to invest more on our Island.  They have taken up the specific cause of furthering Intermodal Transportation on the Island.  Everything from airports to seaports to freight rail and commuter rail and walking and cycling, fast ferries and helicopters.

Here’s a good video that they made for the Forum last week.

The Forum on Tuesday was a place to meet lots of other people interested in transportation on the Island.  I am hopeful that a comprehensive transportation plan comes out of the effort.  What seems most clear is that in order for all of the things to happen that need to happen, there needs to be cooperation between communities and an effort to figure out what projects can benefit the most people and thus be the strongest to bring forward to senior government.  Keep your eye on this organization, I think it could be important.  Their next big conference is in the Fall.

First Food Security and Climate Change Committee meeting

On Thursday April 2nd, the Food Security and Climate Change Committee (FSCCC) met for the first time at City Hall.

It was just an introductory meeting and the main items were to select a chair, vice-chair and minute taker, go through the terms of reference and mechanics and expectations of the committee and generally just get to know everyone.

The committee members are Samantha (Sam) Brownlee (Chair), Chris Alemany (Vice-Chair), Guy Langlois (Secretary), Sandra Gentleman, John Mayba, Rosalind Chapman, Gary Swann, and Bob Haynes.

The agendas are posted on the FSCCC webpage on the City website before every meeting and the minutes should be posted there as well once they are approved by City Council at the following regular council meeting.  The webpage will also likely be used for other information sharing of reports and things generated by the City and Committee to do with Food Security and Climate Change.

The Committee will both be able to receive input and ideas for initiatives from the public or through its own membership and it will also serve as a place City Council can refer items for further study.  In all cases, the Committee will be expected to report to Council periodically with recommendations on ways to move Food Security and Climate Change issues forward in the City.

The official meeting schedule will be posted soon.  They will be held on the first Thursday of every month at 4:30PM at City Hall.  They are open to the public.

For next time, the Committee agreed to have each member bring 3 suggestions on projects or initiatives to work on.

Steelhead LNG questions – Don’t go looking for Jobs Tomorrow.

As anyone who has followed this blog will know I am more than a little skeptical of the Steelhead LNG project for a number of reasons.  There was a poll recently online at the AVTimes that indicated people wanted the LNG project to happen.  I presume this is because people see it as a big economic driver and indeed it is being sold that way.  But is that realistic?

proposed_facility1

Sarita Bay – The proposed location of the project.

Right after I got back from the VIEA  forum I drove back from Victoria and straight to the Barclay Hotel where Steelhead LNG was holding their first community open house.   There was plenty of information available on the project, it’s location, the potential for jobs and development, etc.  Much of the same information is on its website.

 

This week I found the National Energy Board (NEB) website that holds the public documents Steelhead is required to file in order to further their LNG terminal application.  Most recently (March 13th) Steelhead filed a response to some key questions from the NEB.  So what did the NEB ask?

First question from NEB:

Please provide the precise geographical information on the proposed points of exportation of the gas from Canada.

Answer from Steelhead:

The point of export of LNG from Canada will be at the outlet of the loading arm of proposed natural gas liquefaction terminals which are anticipated to be located in the Southern region of Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

This answer strikes me as a little… vague… especially to a question asking specifically for “precise geographical information”.   Perhaps this is precise enough for the NEB.  But it certainly seems strangle, especially when the company has long promoted the Sarita Bay location so publicly and specifically.

Third question from NEB: (you can see all of them by going to the pdf)

Request:

Please provide:

(a)  An explanation of the apparent deficit in 2045 between Navigant’s forecast of the surplus of Canadian production available for export of 2.7 Bcf/d and the request by the five Applicants to export up to 4.88 Bcf/d.

(b)  A Canadian production forecast to 2050.

(c)  An explanation of any deficit in 2050 between Navigant’s forecast of the surplus of Canadian production available for export and the request by the five Applicants to export up to 4.88 Bcf/d.

 

Their response is very very lengthy.  But I’d like to point out the serious issues this question raises.  First, and foremost, if one is to believe the public presentations, and the way the public is being engaged so heavily, one would think that this project was just around the corner.  Maybe 10 years away at latest?  It could be a huge job generator, it’s a huge plant, this all seems very good and many would be excited (other issues aside).

So why is the NEB talking about 2045 and 2050? That’s 30 and 35 years away!

Basically, the NEB has pointed out that 35 years down the road, when this project is supposed to be fully built, Steelhead is expecting to export over twice as much gas as all of the gas available for export in Canada.  And that is provided the NEBs own 30 year forecasts of production increases is correct…. which they most often are not.

Steelhead’s consultant, Navigant’s response boils down to an expectation that production from Canadian Shale gas will increase 20% faster than the base estimates.  

In Navigants words:

  1. The NEB’s comparison did not account for the fact that a modeled analysis of a “plus 20%” demand growth rate scenario would result in higher production levels driven by the increase in assumed demand.

So basically, Navigate and Steelhead are counting on massive expansion of Natural Gas production, and failure of other LNG Projects in BC and higher production than the NEB would expect, in order to ‘fill’ the full scale Steelhead project.Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 10.04.52 PM

 

Are the forecasts above a reasonable assumption to make given global carbon cutting goals to 2050?  Is Canadian Natural Gas production really going to rise uninterrupted at nearly 3% a year for the next 35 years? And would the first phases of the project be able to pay for the cost of putting in the infrastructure if it will be 35 years before the full vision of the project is realized?

Will we even still be using Natural Gas in a big way in 2050?

I remain very sceptical of this project, and these questions and their given answers really only make me more so.  I hope people do not pin all their hopes and dreams of jobs in this LNG project.  Even the Raven Coal project had direct access to the product (coal) it was going to ship.  At this point… Steelhead might not have access to all of the product it expects for 35 years.  That is a mighty long time to wait, and the world could very well move far along by then.

Headed off to the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities Conference Friday (the 10th).

On Friday most of Council and the Mayor will be attending the annual AVICC conference being held in Courtenay.

This conference is a place for all of the island and sunshine coast municipalities and regional districts to gather, attend workshops on various topics of interest, and pass resolutions in a collective way to try to influence government on issues of importance to the entire Island.

This is sort of a little brother to the Union of BC Municipalities conference that happens every Fall, and a still littler brother of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities that encompasses every community in the Country.

Basically, it’s a place to learn, and network.  I am very much looking forward to it.  They are starting on Friday with a rally in support of better BC Ferry service.

The official agenda starts at 1:45PM and it’s packed through 5:30PM.

Posted in Climate Change, Environment, Peak Oil, Politics | Comments Off on Transport, Climate Committee, Strange LNG Answers and AVICC Conference

Budget nearing End – More Public Hearings – Transportation Lobbying – Food Security and Climate Change Committee Thursday

I’m still working on making the updates here more frequent!  Still trying to work out a regular timing for these that captures the information I’d like to give you and produces it in a timely manner.  I’ve had some very nice comments from folks about the information provided so far, so I am encouraged and committed to figuring out something that works!

The Budget Process Winds Down

Last Monday, Council had what was supposed to be the final session to provide direction to staff on budgeting priorities.  We were presented with all of the results from the public input and worked through a handy-dandy spreadsheet.  Click the image below for a full PDF of it.  The totals might be a little different as it is an earlier version).

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City Manager’s Budget Item spreadsheet – blank cells are items Council did not adopt, $0 cells (you will see in the PDF) are items Council adopted but that do not affect the 2015 budget tax increase.

There was so much debate and discussion (which is a good thing!) that a 1.5hr meeting turned into a 2.5 hour meeting and we only got about 2/3 down the sheet.  Our last item before we adjourned was the decision to continue the commitment to volunteer groups in the Community that have been trying to move the historic mill stones from their current location on the Catalyst property to Victoria Quay.

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My main goal in the proceedings was to advocate for the implementation of seasonal (winter) bi-weekly garbage pickup until such time that we had the kitchen and yard waste program up and running.  That motion was defeated as council decided that with concerns around food scraps in the bins for two weeks and with kitchen and yard waste pickup hopefully coming next year, two changes in as many years would make it difficult for residents.  Fair enough!

Our final budget direction meeting will be today, Monday March 30th starting at 1:30PM.

The financial plan will then move through regular council readings on April 13th, it will be adopted on the 20th, and then the final tax rates for 2015 adopted on the 27th.

Check out lots more info including the survey results at the City’s Financial Plan 2015-2019 page.

More Public Hearings Monday Night

There will be another pubic hearing at 5:30PM on Monday night.  You can download the agendas from the City website.  The hearing will deal with three different rezoning requests at once:  a new CoOp Gas Station on 10th Avenue beside Tim Horton’s; the Westcoast Aquatic interpretive centre at Harbour Quay, and a subdivision of property on Ian Avenue.

I do not expect these hearings to be nearly as controversial as the hearing earlier in the month on the Westporte park and Rainbow Gardens.

About that Rainbow Gardens and Westport Issue

Part of the reason I didn’t post anything for a couple weeks was because I did not want to do anything that might contravene the workings of the Public Hearing process for the Rainbow Gardens application.  Public Hearings are arguably the most serious and important issues Council deals with and there are very strict rules on how they are conducted including a requirement for Councillors not to engage in any discussion or new information sharing with the public, proponent or staff between the end of a Public Hearing and discussion on the motion at the next public meeting of council.

That included potentially engaging in discussion on social media or here on the blog.

That also means I cannot and will not engage in any discussion on the CoOp, Westcoast Aquatic and Ian Avenue issues on this blog after the Hearing tonight and before the motion is considered next week.

That said, I wanted to give my reasons for how I personally voted on the rezoning and land swap deal in Westporte.

I will not speak for council as it is the Mayor’s job to do that and he has been on the radio and in the papers. But here is why I personally voted against the rezoning:

This was obviously the hardest decision our new
 council has made. At the beginning, it really seemed like a no-brainer to me. We have a huge need for seniors housing in town, that is a plain and undeniable fact. This proposal was to sell the community park adjacent to the facility to Rainbow Gardens so that they could then go to Island Health with a plan to expand their facility. Without land in hand, Rainbow Gardens could not approach Island Health. That’s just how it works. In return, for the residents of the area, the City would ensure the park stayed as a park for the undetermined amount of time it took for Rainbow Gardens to secure a commitment from Island Health by leasing the park for $1 from Rainbow Gardens and in the meantime set aside a portion of the large natural area nearby so that when Rainbow Gardens was ready, a new park could be built to replace the previous one.

It all seemed very easy and it all made sense.

The reason I voted no was for several reasons which grew over time and by themselves might not have convinced me to change my mind, but together were too much to ignore:

1) The plan submitted by Rainbow Gardens was quite incomplete.  At first I was under the impression that the drawings submitted were fairly close to what was envisioned, but after listening to the proponent at the hearing indicate they really had no concrete plan on how the new facility would work and what new services or beds would be created, it became clear that there was no concrete vision for what the expanded facility would actually look like. It was very preliminary, and for a project of this magnitude and consequence, it just wasn’t enough meat on the bones.

2) The offer from the City of the Park was equally not well flushed out. Were there other options in the area or on the Rainbow Gardens footprint that could work? Was the whole park actually needed?  There was no park design submitted from Parks and Rec for consideration and there were no cost estimates provided by the City except that it would definitely be more than the $160,000 Rainbow Gardens would be paying for the original park.

3) The park itself is unique in the City. I visited almost every community park in the City and the one in Westporte pretty much unique in its centrality in the neighbourhood and safe placement surrounded by homes. The Westporte development was specifically created with that park and it is a significant draw for new buyers.

4) The proposed new site for a park was heavy bush, marsh and ravine. It would be physically difficult (ie. expensive) to recreate the same park and it would have nowhere near the advantages in terms of safety and accessibility even though the area is beautiful.  There are a great many active parks in the City bordered by natural landscapes and wooded areas.  While I do not believe that those City parks are dangerous, there is no doubt that the unique design of the Westporte park centrally located within the neighbourhood made it very different and provide unique advantages from all other natural/active parks.

5) Rainbow Gardens was going to pay around $160,000 for the park. Because it was so far below the cost of a new park, the taxpayers of Port Alberni would be on the hook twice for the same park.  

6) There simply was not enough cooperation between Rainbow Gardens, the neighbouring community and City, to make the proposal. For it to be successful everyone needs to be invovled from the start.  That cooperation would have made, I think, for a much less controversial meeting.  I did get the sincere sense from residents that they wanted to work with Rainbow Gardens to find solutions and I believe that will be the best way forward.  

All of those factors combined meant that I simply could not support the proposal. I hope that all can come back with a new proposal that is more complete and that has a better plan for replacement of the neighbourhood park. I believe there are solutions that can work for both parties. I am hopeful that those will come forward in time. I am an advocate for both young and old. I do not see there being a fight between one and the other. We simply need to find solutions in cases like this that can reasonably accommodate both. That is where I hope we get, and soon, because we need seniors housing.

Hello Mr. Minister!

Last Wednesday, I got to shake the hand of BC Minister of Transport Todd Stone.  Here is me looking awkward.

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 8.34.15 AMI would like to make a motion that we buy Economic Development office Pat Deakin a new phone… I think he needs one with a slightly better camera. (:)) That is Zoran Knezevic, CEO of the Port Alberni Port Authority beside me.  Minister Stone is in the back speaking with the rest of our contingent.  This was at the Breakfast meeting where the Minister announced the new 10yr “BC On the Move” plan.

The plan did not include Port Alberni in particular as a priority.  Their main focus on the Island is Highway 1 from the Malahat into Victoria including the Colwood Crawl (the Ministry says this area is the worst traffic congestion in the province outside the Lower Mainland).  They are also focusing on Highway 4 west of Port Alberni to Tofino and Ucluelet.  There have already been a lot of good improvements to that stretch of highway and it sounds like that will continue to happen.

Even though we didn’t get top billing, Port Alberni did get some mentions.  There was a commitment to fund a major study into the feasibility of a Horne Lake connector highway from Coombs Country Candy at the bottom of the Hump to the Horne Lake intersection on Highway 19.  There was also an announcement of a fund to help small airports improve their facilities in order to attract more aerospace type industries.  This falls directly in line with the aspirations of our local airport to try and keep the Coulson Group at our airport and allow them to bring in their large C-130 firefighting aircraft for maintenance.

But what really stuck out for me was the public engagement feedback conducted during the study.  The most emphatic responses from the public on Vancouver Island came on the issue of transit and cycling infrastructure.

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More than 80% agree with more funding for cycling and transit!  I found this to be quite stunning in a survey spanning the entire Island and with over 2000 respondents. The ministry did heed this call and continued a cycling infrastructure program with new funding.  With our new Active Transportation Plan, the City of Port Alberni should now be better positioned to try to get some of that funding for bike lanes, trails and other active transport infrastructure.  The province will also be upgrading the fleet of BC Transit buses around the province which should include our buses in town.

My only slight disappointment in the plan was that there was absolutely no mention of the E&N / Island Corridor railway.  This remains a key infrastructure asset that has received no provincial or federal money and will not be able to be rehabilitated until it does.  The Minister did address the question on Wednesday but I fear the small amount they have already committed is only a bandaid.  The railway is our only potential zero-carbon solution for transportation on the Island for both people and freight on the East side as well as to and from Port Alberni.  It is an incredible tourism attraction waiting to be realized and could certainly help the commuter problems in Victoria.  There is so much potential there, it is a shame it continues to be ignored.

Food Security and Climate Change Committee coming and the Future of Energy!

On April 2nd the Food Security and Climate Change Committee will have its first meeting (at City Hall)!

It is a timely creation given the very sudden and widespread extreme weather events we are having of late, not the least of which being the historic drought in California.

This Committee will be charged with making recommendations to Council on how it can improve Food Security in the Valley and how it can mitigate (through GHG reductions) and adapt to climate change in the months, years, and decades ahead.

We have an excellent group of people on the Committee:  Rosalind Harper, Samantha Brownlee, Gary Swann, Guy Langlois, John Mayba, Sandra Gentleman, Bob Haynes and myself.  The meetings are open to the public (as are all committee and commission meetings) and Agendas and Minutes will be posted on the City website.

I have a ton of ideas on initiatives and things that the City can do to make a difference on these issues.

One slightly fun thing… considering it was Earth Hour this past Saturday.  I wonder how much money the City would save, and energy consumption it would reduce, if BC Hydro shut down the streetlights from 8:30PM to 9:30PM at the Earth Hour next year?  I bet we would improve our 1.6% reduction (#19 in the province!) this year.

But we do need more concrete and long lasting initiatives.  More community gardens, more education on use of and finding local food, incentives for people to reduce their energy consumption in their home and in their car, installing renewable energy infrastructure.  There are many things we could be doing and not only will much of it end up making people healthier and saving some money, they will also potentially put Port Alberni on the map as a forward thinking and vibrant place ready to tackle the big issues of the world head on.

It’s going to be *another* interesting ride!

Happy Monday all.

Posted in Climate Change, Environment, Politics | Comments Off on Budget nearing End – More Public Hearings – Transportation Lobbying – Food Security and Climate Change Committee Thursday

Budget Rants – Community Grants – Sewage Plants

Budget fun continues!

We had a great session last Wednesday night with the public where everyone was able to give their opinions on what they thought would be good projects for the City to do, or services to cut.  Some of the details presented were new to us as Councillors as well.  There were probably around 40 members of the public there and many good conversations were had.

I highly recommend going to the 2015-2019 Financial plan website! Download the presentation from Wednesday night. It details all of the options that were presented to the public.  Of course, if you have other initiatives you’d like to see happen or services you think can be streamlined, you can send those in too!

There is also an online survey!  Click here to fill it out!

I’m a numbers and graphs kinda guy… so one slide from the City Manager’s presentation stuck out for me.

This one is very interesting.  It shows very succinctly where the majority of the homes in Port Alberni are valued, and thus, what their average municipal rate is after all of the regional, school, and hospital things are removed.  This does not take into account home owner grants.

Graph showing how many houses pay what level of taxes across the City.

Graph showing how many houses pay what level of taxes, roughly, across the City.

A common complaint I hear is that folks who own homes that have been built new in the City pay a very large amount of taxes.  And indeed that is true!  However, those same people sometimes also say that this gives people no incentive to renovate or rebuild their homes.  While this is true to a point remember that the City has a fixed bill to pay.  So if the bars on the graph were shifted gradually to the left, then the amount collected from each of those higher priced homes could actually start to decrease because to get the same total amount of money you could charge less tax.

Right now,  the most numerous 4 brackets, the $100-150,000, $150-200, and $200-250, and $250-300 account for roughly $8.9 Million in tax revenue…. adding up all the rest is less than $3 Million.

So the current situation is (these are rough estimates, not exact numbers):

  • $100-150,000 — 1617 homes x $1190 average tax = $1,924,230
  • $150-200,000 — 2087 x $1611 = $3,362,157
  • $200-250,000 — 1159 x $2041 = $2,365,519
  • $250-300,000 — 496 x $2512 = $1,245,952
  • Total = 5359 homes produce $8,897,858 in taxes at 9.2555 tax rate.Lets say the average price of a home went from the current $189,000 to $220,000 and effectively pushed the distribution to the left on the chart… now numbers of homes in the top categories might be:
  • $100-150,000 — 1340 homes x $1190 average tax = $1,594,600
  • $150-200,000 — 1640 x $1611 = $2,642,040
  • $200-250,000 — 1640 x $2041 =  $3,347,240
  • $250-300,000 — 739 x $2512 = $1,856,368
  • Total = 5359 homes produce $9,440,248 at 9.2555 tax rate.

That shift in property assessments would increase revenues to the City by at least 6%… or, taken a different way, the same homes that generate $8.9 million in taxes now, could gather the same taxes with a 6% decrease of tax rates.

That is why, in my mind, efforts to improve the desirability of Port Alberni as a place to live are the most fruitful and provide a ‘multiplying effect’ when it comes to policy that would slow or reverse the ever increasing tax rates over time.

There has been a ton of information to absorb and there are a bunch more meetings.  Here’s a list of them, some times may change but this should be it:

Monday, March 9th
3:00 p.m.
Special Meeting
Budget – council review and direction

Monday, March 23rd
2:00 p.m.
Special Meeting
Budget – receipt of survey input/public input + Council direction

Monday, March 30th
3:00 p.m.
Special Meeting
Budget – final direction regarding budget – direction to staff to prepare Bylaw

Monday, April 13th
7:00 p.m.
Regular Meeting
Introduction of Five Year Financial Plan Bylaw (3 readings)

Monday, April 20th
TBA
Adoption of Five Year Financial Plan Bylaw
Introduction of Tax Rates Bylaw (3 readings)

Monday, April 27th
7:00 p.m.
Regular Meeting
Adoption of Tax Rates Bylaw

Community Grants

A couple more things to mention in this post.  It was a wonderful feeling to be able to say yes to the $1700 request for a grant ($1600 in-kind help and $100 cash) from the folks putting on a Pride BBQ among other events on July 26th this year.  When I was in high school in the mid-90s at ADSS there was an instance where a student was ridiculed for wearing a dress to school.  It made the news.  Here’s hoping that the event in July will help address those kinds of misunderstandings.  We are all one community of amazing and unique people.  It’s good to be able to celebrate that diversity at every chance and for every reason we can.  You can join the Facebook Event group here.

If you’re wondering, here are the other recipients of the City’s Community Investment Program last year.  The Pride BBQ applied late so aren’t in the list below.

The totals are the cash grant amounts.  Many of the groups listed below also received in-kind grants worth anywhere from a few dollars to a over $1000.

  • Alberni Community & late Women’s Services request Society $500
  • Alberni District Fall Fair $500
  • Alberni Valley Curling $500
  • Alberni Valley Track $700 Club
  • Art Matters Society $400
  • Art Rave Society $3,500
  • AV Lions Club $451
  • Bread of Life $1,500
  • Community Arts $4,000
    Council of the Alberni
    Valley
  • Literacy Alberni $1,000 Society
  • Navy League of Canada $875
  • PA Volunteer Income $670 Tax Program
  • Port Alberni Family Guidance Association ($1500 of Bus and Rec Passes)
  • Port Alberni Multicultural Society $423
  • Port Alberni Salmon Festival $3,000
  • Port Alberni Toy Run $765
  • Port Alberni Youth Centre $450.00
  • Royal Canadian Legion $1,300
  • Special Olympics BC ‐ Port Alberni $1,000
  • Port Alberni Friendship Center $1,725
  • Rotary Club of Port Alberni $50
  • TheAbbeyfieldHouses Alberni Valley Society ‐ Abbeyfield Port Alberni $1,100

 Sewage Plants!

I would be terribly negligent if I didn’t include a mention for the very interesting and important Wastewater Advisory Committee (WAC) I attended with other councillors last week that is working on our Liquid Waste Management Plan.

This committee has been hard at work finalizing plans for the design of our new sewage treatment plant that will be using the former lagoons formerly used by Catalyst.  This will be a huge improvement in the treatment of our water compared to what we are putting into our Inlet and Estuary right now.

The meeting centred specifically around the design of the outfall pipe that will take the settled water from the ponds into the Inlet.

 

The Catalyst ponds are the larger dark ponds in the centre to the left of the river.  The current city sewage pond is the lighter coloured pond at the top.

The Catalyst ponds are the larger dark ponds in the centre to the left of the river. The current city sewage pond is the lighter coloured pond at the top.

The current city pond (light coloured pond at top centre) simply allows the treated water to sluice over the edges of the pond and directly into the estuary and river.  Ya.  Gross.

The New plant will use the much larger (dark) ponds to do a better job of aerated and settling out the sewer sludge and it will then be pumped past the bottom of the picture into a location nearer the middle of the harbour.

At first read, that might sound worse, but actually because the sewage will be much much better treated than it is now, and it will be dispersed under pressure in the water (sort of like a firehose), it will be much better diluted into the water in general and will be carried out of the harbour by the current.

The meeting last week centred around how that pipe would look.   The Ministry of Environment requires these pipes to be more than 10m under the surface.  However, there are two big problems with having the pipe on the bottom of the harbour.

#1:  There is a fibre mat (woody debris from decades of forestry operations) down there that is effectively locking in decades worth of toxic emissions from the pulp mill.  (back when the Harbour was literally black like coffee… it’s not anymore thankfully).  The research done on that fibre mat and those toxins say the absolute best thing is to just not touch it or disturb it in any way for fear of releasing the toxins into the water column.  A big sewage pipe blasting out water might risk doing that.

#2:  Salmon like to be down as deep as they can where it is nice and cool as they return to spawn.  A sewage pipe could warm that area, and also the treated sewage could cause microbes to flourish that might rob the water in that area of its oxygen, making it unsuitable for fish to live.  Also, the water moves much more slowly deep down, so the sewage would not wash out with the river water.

So the meeting was focused on deciding whether the pipe outlet should be deep, or shallow (around 3m).  The decision was made for it to be shallow as that would be best for our area. Again, the sewage that would come out of the pipe will be orders of magnitude cleaner than what is being fed into the river and harbour now.  So while it might seem a little yucky… it’s actually light years of improvement over the current situation.  And in time, we can work on making that outflow cleaner and cleaner without having to worry that we are harming the fish or stirring up toxic industrial sludge.

And that… my friends… is my report for today.

Have a great week!  See you at Council or the Budget meetings on Monday!

Posted in Environment, Politics, The Good Life | Comments Off on Budget Rants – Community Grants – Sewage Plants