North Van City Voices presentation to CNV Council, 17 Sept 2012
Good evening Mayor and Councillors. My name is Fred Dawkins, I reside at … Street in the City of North Vancouver, and I’m speaking tonight as a member and representative of North Van City Voices. North Van City Voices is a new and growing assembly of City residents who are concerned about the direction in which City Hall is taking our community and are working together in order to encourage decisions made in the best interests of residents.
Tonight we’d first like to follow up our delegation of May 28 when we asked Council “to include in the OCP revision process all major projects and not exempt them as you currently seem determined to do. To proceed with these projects before the OCP review and before we have a density bonusing policy in place would be irresponsible. The financial stakes for the city are enormous.”
At that meeting, several Councillors seemed to support this concept. As you know a Council workshop is now scheduled for October 29 to discuss density bonuses, community amenity contributions and density transfers. This will be followed by a community forum tentatively scheduled for November. We anticipate that after these events a strong, transparent and credible policy will be developed for Council’s approval. We ask that until this process is completed there be no further amenity contribution or density bonus or density transfer decisions on currently pending projects. To continue to have behind-the-scenes discussions with developers without that policy in place is not in the public interest.
The second issue we wish to bring forward is the continuing concern over political donations to municipal election candidates by developers and civic unions.
Journalist Dan Rather in an interview the other day said the biggest story of the current US federal election would be campaign donations – as he put it, “Who gives what money to whom expecting what for it?”
We believe Councillors should recuse themselves from voting on any proposal involving parties from whom they have received financial contributions.
According to a recent study published by iPolitics only 10% of Canadians trust politicians — that is just 2% more than trust bloggers and far less than trust journalists, lawyers, union leaders and oil companies! Does this concern you? We believe it should.
The city’s Task Force on Public Involvement asked why only 17% of our eligible voters took part in the 2008 election. Very often when WE speak to people about this, their answer is “I don’t trust them. So I don’t vote.”
So – how do you earn public trust? One major way is to avoid even the appearance of conflict of interest. That means either not accepting campaign funding from developers and unions who will be hoping for your vote on their building projects or contracts – or if you DO accept campaign funding, by recusing yourself from voting when your benefactors’ projects come before council.
Lastly we’d like to talk about cost savings. The current rate of tax increases is not sustainable and we believe there are savings to be had. Other municipalities are taking an aggressive approach to reducing costs and keeping public sector wages down. Recently both Penticton and Whistler have made significant reductions in wage costs by reducing both union and management positions after conducting organizational structure reviews. We believe that there may be some opportunity in the City and we would suggest that with the announcement on August 10th of the retirement of the Fire Chief and other personnel, this is the time to discuss merger of the three NorthShore fire departments.
It has been widely reported that both the District of North Vancouver and West Vancouver are keen to discuss a merger of services. Our research about North Vancouver’s fire services back to 1907 shows that consolidation of City and District fire services was first discussed at Council in 1924; that Council recommended joint operation (City and District) in 1960; and that there was a referendum in 1974. Yet the two departments have remained separate.
There have been two reports in the past two years on potential shared services, one commissioned by the District and one jointly sponsored by all three municipalities, known as the Dugal Smith report. A West Van Council report in Feb 2011 (“Fire Services Review”) referenced the Dugal Smith report. The “goals” portion of that report stated: “At the request of the City of North Vancouver amalgamation or consolidation of departments was excluded from the project.” Why?
The District study alone suggested savings in the area of $3.6 million annually from reductions in management positions, overtime, capital costs for trucks and consolidation of specialty or support services. The NS News in February quoted a District spokesperson that “there is not unanimous consent amongst the three NorthShore municipalities to consider fire services consolidation.” It has been reported that the District is in favour, and the Mayor of West Vancouver has been quoted as saying: “If we had one central command, one chief and one bureaucracy for the NorthShore, all the firefighters would be trained under the same training department. It makes so much sense that nobody can speak against it.”
By the process of elimination, it must be the City not in favour. How can the City not support such a common-sense and practical joint operation? Especially given the recent retirements in the Fire Department. When we have asked previously, we have been told “we already share services.” Yes, on some level we do – but there is opportunity for much more. The City’s fire department wage budget alone is $7 million. The total fire budget on the NorthShore is approximately $37 million, five fire halls in the District, four in West Van and one in the City.
It would seem to us that there is no need for another study of what could be the results – but a meeting to discuss the way forward should happen immediately. We assume that the retired personnel have not yet been replaced, so now is the time.
In summary, North Van City Voices is working towards good governance. We need much more transparency and openness. We want decisions made in the best interests of residents.
1. We ask that you not bring forward projects that involve community amenities, density bonuses or density transfers until there is a policy in place.
2. We ask that you not vote on projects for which you received campaign donations.
3. We ask that you consolidate fire services with our neighbouring municipalities with one central command, one chief and one bureaucracy.
Thank you for your time.