I hope everyone had a restful and rewarding holiday season.
It has been a long time since I updated the blog, and I apologize for that. Suffice to say, with the training sessions, the first real council meeting, new meeting schedules, “official picture” sessions, coffees, dinners… and then work, and family. It all got a tad busy. But that’s OK, that’s how it’s supposed to be. My intention with this blog remains to have it be a regular place people can come to see what I’ve been doing on Council and what Council and the City is doing in general. And that’s what it’s going to be. So lets get started!
January Training, Meeting, Planning!
Predictably, I’ve taken to technology to help me keep my head on straight. You can see my calendar is pretty full this month, and that’s just the official stuff that has been scheduled so far. There will be more as the month goes on. We have our first Council meeting of the year on Monday (agenda here!) more on that below.
You’ll notice also on Monday we will be having a review of the Financial Statements with the City manager as we get ready to get into our Strategic Planning process (starting on the 19th!) and eventually Budgeting for 2015. The schedule for all of that, including the public meetings, is all in this week’s Agenda!
Next I’ll be attending the Advisory Planning Committee meeting on
Thursday the 15th at noon (just changed to) Thursday January 22nd. Those meetings *are* open to the public. They take place in the Committee room at City Hall (across the hall from Council Chambers). The December meeting was very interesting. There was talk about the new building that will replace the Somass on lower Argyle. It looks fantastic. There was also talk about a few derelict buildings that are on the City’s radar, seniors facilities and the state of the old ADSS lands.
We also have meetings scheduled with Tseshaht and Nuu-chah-nulth this month which will be very important and will hopefully set a very positive course for the next 4 years.
The biggest block of time on the Calendar though will be dedicated to the “Elected Officials Seminars” being put on by the Local Government Leadership Academy and hosted by the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities for all elected officials on the Island.
This, I am told, is going to delve into the work councillors and regional directors do between and in cooperation with communites in the area among other more general topics to do with leadership and the work of councillors. There are a number of really interesting speakers and different topics for attendees to take in. You can see the agenda here (or click the image). There is so much demand for it that there are two intakes. I believe most of council for Port Alberni is in the 1st seminar series which runs from Tuesday evening through Thursday.
And then the ongoing business….
That pretty much rounds out the schedule for January. At least for now. Last month at the ACRD Transportation Committee meeting I was tasked to gather data about our current Highway 4 between Port Alberni and Coombs. I’ll be providing that to the next Transportation Committee meeting next Friday. New word from the ministry on whether the Horne Lake Connector is happening will hopefully come soon. We had a good meeting with Ministry officials last month and expect more this month.
January 12 Agenda!
Note, when I go through the Agenda please understand this isn’t a final say, no decisions are pre-set here. As Councillor I am duty bound to keep an open mind and come to a conclusion at the table in the public meeting at City Council after all the information is out and open to the public. So the comments here are just ones of interest… conversation starters… for time and space I will not address every point in the Agenda and the ones I highlight should not be considered preferential. This is just meant as a way to get more information out there for you, the citizens of Port Alberni, to chew on. Hopefully by doing that, we will all contribute to the City’s work being a little more accessible and transparent.
The Agenda for Council on January 12th is packed full. I have contributed a number of motions to the agenda including one to do with our watershed, one on sign bylaws for future elections, one to investigate a wheelchair accessible street level pedestrian bridge across Rogers Creek and reintroducing the ban on pesticides in the City. Councillor Minions is also bringing forward a motion to considering banning smoking in public places in the City.
There are lots of other interesting topics in the Agenda as well now that I’ve gone through it all!
NDP MLA for Alberni-Pacific Rim Scott Fraser will be our first delegation of the New Year. I look forward to hearing from him and working with him in the future.
John Mayba will be presenting his proposal once again for construction of a Roger Creek pedestrian and cycling bridge.
And finally, the Maritime Heritage Society will be presenting to us their ongoing work.
From the Correspondence for Action:
The Alberni Curling club is wondering about using and/or upgrading the big sign on 10th Avenue for more community notices… and the Young Professionals would like to install a commemorative pillar on Kingsway and Argyle near the Train Station.
Informational Correspondence and Reports
There is an interesting letter from the BC Environmental Assessment agency about the Raven Coal mine proposal. It’s good that the City has a committee ready to go, (the Committee will be formally approved later in the meeting) when or if the company gets to the review period.
The City is still trying to get proper tax payment from UVic for the former Teleglobe property (that was fully taxable) that houses their Neptune project.
There is going to be some really great info about the Uchuklesaht building on Argyle (at right)! It looks really quite amazing!
The new Standing Advisory Committees on Food Security and Climate Change, Seniors issues, Youth issues, and McLean Mill are all being created this meeting. This is could be a big turning point for our City as we start to address all of these major and interwoven issues head on. Exciting times!
The new Website.
Have you checked out the new website yet? It looks quite beautiful, and I think it’s a big improvement over the past one. There are still some pretty major issues around viewing it from a mobile device, which I find quite concerning. But these things can be fixed in time and I am sure they will be. There is a ton of information on there now that was much more difficult or impossible to find on the old site. So it’s definitely a big improvement.
In Camera Work… Sssshhh.
And finally, there is a report being given by the City Clerk on changes to how the City releases information that was embargoed under in-camera work but has since been made public and is no longer needed to be in-camera.
In-camera (which basically means, not in public) meetings are always a bone of contention for citizens. I’ve long had problems with how the City and many other organizations use and sometimes abuse in-camera meetings.
There is actually a very small list of things that *must* be dealt with by City council privately. It is under Section 90 of the Community Charter.
There are only 4 times when a meeting *must* be closed.
- (2) A part of a council meeting must be closed to the public if the subject matter being considered relates to one or more of the following:
- (a) a request under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, if the council is designated as head of the local public body for the purposes of that Act in relation to the matter;
- (b) the consideration of information received and held in confidence relating to negotiations between the municipality and a provincial government or the federal government or both, or between a provincial government or the federal government or both and a third party;
- (c) a matter that is being investigated under the Ombudsperson Act of which the municipality has been notified under section 14 [Ombudsperson to notify authority] of that Act;
- (d) a matter that, under another enactment, is such that the public must be excluded from the meeting.
- (e) a review of a proposed final performance audit report for the purpose of providing comments to the auditor general on the proposed report under section 23 (2) of the Auditor General for Local Government Act.
The times when it *may* be closed is much longer… I won’t reproduce the list here, but deals with the often repeated ‘Land, Labour, and Legal” but the operative word in Section 90 (1) as opposed to (2) above, is the word *may*. That means it is up to the council to decide if the information should be withheld, even temporarily, from the public or not. It is a very important issue that has to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis because once you deal with the matter in public, it’s likely impossible to put the genie back in the bottle, so to speak.
I know both Staff and Council are thinking and working hard on this important issue of transparency and I’m sure it will keep coming up.