Tag Archives: Expenses

European Vacation for City Council? – North Van City News

Comment by Voices:  This posting by Kerry Morris is borrowed from the Bell’s North Van City News – we urge you to watch the Video from July 20 meeting at about the 30 minute mark: http://www.cnv.org/Your-Government/Council-Meetings/Council-Videos/2015-Council-Videos

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We’re reminded of the trip to California almost exactly 2 years ago – cost for 3 days in Sacramento at that time about $2300, imagine what Vienna could be. At that time it was Councillor Clark who said “better get the Sergeant at Arms” when threatened by the Mayor with removal https://nvcityvoices.wordpress.com/…/junket-debate-fans-cn…/.  We also note that Councillor Buchanan’s conference attendance costs in February alone were over $3,000.  

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European Vacation for City Council? – North Van City News.

By: Kerry Morris – July 22nd, 2015

vienna1For those of you that spent Monday night doing what all the normal people do, enjoying yet another unparalleled evening of perfect Vancouver weather, you probably weren’t aware that North Vancouver City, by a split 5/2 vote of council, approved travel for any number of councilors that wish to avail themselves of the opportunity, to attend an all-expense paid trip to Vienna, Austria.

Councillors Rod Clark and Pam Bookham opposed the Motion for financial reasons. Councillor Holly Back, who lives in the District, supported the rest of the ‘Slate’ by claiming this trip represents an incredible career development opportunity.

No one discussed the elephant in the room, that being that once in Europe on the public nickel, those members of council that choose to participate will loiter after the conference, and enjoy Vienna and possibly other neighbouring countries, provided the additional costs are paid for by each member of council. The heavy lifting of getting to Europe having already been borne by you, the taxpayer.

That’s right, in a year that has seen the City of North Vancouver implement the single largest increase in our property tax rate history, and we have just authorized as many as 7 members of council, travelling together on a ‘European Vacation’. Visions of National Lampoon’s movie ‘European Vacation’ dance in my head. And those visions surpass hilarious, and proceed directly to outrageous.

For a brief moment, let’s examine the similarities between the City of North Vancouver and Vienna, Austria. Size: we’re roughly 4.5 square miles, Vienna is 160.1 sq/mi. Ya, that’s not it. Population: we have a little over 52,000 residents, Vienna has 1.8 million. Nope, that’s not it either.

“In a 2005 study of 127 world cities, the Economist Intelligence Unit ranked…[Vienna]…’First’ (in a tie with Vancouver, Canada) for the world’s most livable cities…” That’s it, there just like us, except way bigger, flat in topography, much more dense in population, and way far away. Oh and did I mention, it’s really expensive to get to, and stay in Vienna. That’s right, this latest little shindig could cost City taxpayers a ‘Brinks’ truck full of money.

So naturally, the first question out of everyone’s mouth is: Whose gargantuan foolish idea was this? Well that’s where this little tale of woe takes an interesting twist.

The Motion was tabled within the Monday night council meeting agenda without a sponsor. That almost never happens. The Motion was moved by Councillor Craig Keating and then seconded by Mayor Darrell Mussatto. So, after a little confusion by the Mayor, councilor Clark was recognized and asked: Who submitted the Motion?

Mayor Mussatto and Ms. Karla Graham (the ‘Clerk’) put their heads together, had a quick whisper kibitz (we’ll never really know what they said), and then Ms. Graham announced the author of the Vienna Motion was councillor Linda Buchanan. For her part Buchanan looked sick for having been outed. The table tactics were obviously intended to camouflage the source of the Motion, but thanks to Clark’s keen eye on the bottom line, the game came unhinged.

Councillor Buchanan was asked by this author, in a direct email exchange early Tuesday morning, to explain why her Motion had not identified her as the author and sponsor, and why councillor Keating had been chosen to move the Motion, in a further attempt to hide the authorship. Attached is a full copy of my email:

My 8:11 AM email to councillor Buchanan was a little wordy, but it was impossible to miss the question. In reply however, Councillor Buchanan was more than evasive. The key portion of her email response is set out below:

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The rest of the Buchanan email spent its time talking about Councillor Bell’s trip to Bristol, England.vienna 3

I didn’t raise a question about Bristol England, I pointed out that unlike Buchanan, Bell held his head high and took point on his own motion. My question to Buchanan clearly asked why she had not followed the same time honoured principles as Bell. I wrote her back and asking that she answer the questions. But she has chosen, I believe against her better judgement, to refuse answer. The real issue deserving of discovery is why?

I think the answer lies in the very issue that began this piece. I think councillor Buchanan fears a backlash for being the author of such an expensive ‘European Vacation’ in the same year that the City has caused Residential Single Family (RS-1) homeowners to suffer as much as an 8.0% property tax increase (3.9% base, 3.3% transfer from condo’s, and a 0.8% transfer from business to RS-1). That’s in addition to a utility increase of 2.5%, and other rate increases such as no change to the ceiling on homeowner grants, to keep pace with market escalation brought about by a super-heated development environment, driving affordable housing options and our most vulnerable from their homes. Nope, this is not a good year to have your shingle tagged to an all-expense paid trip to Vienna, Austria. And councillor Buchanan knew it. Councillor Keating, as the president of the BC NDP, already hard at work rallying the troops for the upcoming Federal Election, will not be able to go to Vienna, as he admitted Monday night, but obviously agreed to take the hit for Buchanan. Camouflage? Subterfuge? Maybe. Or maybe we should all just be really offended that they think we’re so stupid that we won’t figure out what their doing and why.

Which brings me to the last bit of news. In his comments to council in support of the Vienna Motion, Mayor Mussatto took direct aim at Councillor Bookham, calling into question her motives and reasons for not supporting the Motion. He used her name, and clearly made out that councillor Bookham had an ulterior motive. I think he was right. It was clear to me that both she and Clark felt spending money on a trip to Vienna given the latest round of tax increases was a really bad idea, and a waste of taxpayer money. And for that decision I thank both of them.

I would remind the Mayor that he is responsible for compliance with the Council procedures bylaw, which he just pushed so hard to implement. In accordance with that new bylaw, his conduct was improper and he should be sanctioned. He has refused to answer why he broke the rules. Lest he forget, the next time he proceeds to rake someone over the coals for a failure to comply with those rules, he will first need to address his own conduct.