- ARESST: BOB'S COMMENT ABOUT PENNER DEPARTURE OPPORTUNITY
- WHO'D OF THOUGHT I'D MISS IT, THE SEWAGE ISSUE
- AUDITOR GOOD FOR COUNCILS, PUBLIC
- MEET SEWAGE RULES OR ELSE, LODGES TOLD
- PUT THE LRT PLAN TO A REFERENDUM (sewage mention)
- THE 13 REASONS PORTLAND'S MORE LIVABLE (sewage mention)
- GORGE WATERWAY CLEANUP 17 SEPTEMBER
BOB'S COMMENT ABOUT PENNER DEPARTURE OPPORTUNITY
ARESST: Bob Wheaton gives permission to distribute his email below to ARESST News viewers. Bob refers to sending another 100-signature letter, but some recent ARESST members may not be aware of our 92-signature letter published in Times Colonist, 1 November 2007.
On Mon, Aug 22, 2011 at 12:53 PM, Bob Wheaton <firstname.lastname@example.org
For what it's worth, I think the departure of Penner from the cabinet table gives us a renewed opportunity to put public pressure on the government to force a triple bottom line analysis of the CRD plans as they now exist. I don't know what came of the last meeting with the minister, but we should have gone public with our request(s) shortly afterwards. Private meetings are fine, but it is public pressure that forces action in many cases.
Shortly after labour day would be an ideal opportunity to start a public campaign to force an answer to a simple question that everyone can understand (politicians, media, treatment supporters, general public etc.) and can easily be defended ... "what benefits has the CRD identified that will improve any of the environmental, social, or economic aspects of what we are doing now". Inform the minister and premier in advance that we are going public now, and that we will continue to demand answers until a study is commissioned (preferably by them).
This battle has been a political one from the outset. It remains political. It has had little or nothing to do with the facts. But if we can get people wondering and asking what the CRD has come up with to justify this project, someone will eventually have to do a study. If the province says they will not provide funding unless and until the answers show that the benefits make the investment worthwhile, then I suspect we will have won.
An open letter signed by 100 well-known citizens would once again have a major impact.
WHO'D OF THOUGHT I'D MISS IT, THE SEWAGE ISSUE
August 25, 2011
Wait a minute, I thought to myself, where the heck are we in the sewage treatment endeavor? Does anybody else feel unsettled that we haven’t been hearing a constant barrage of sewage debate like we have for so many years?
I called somebody at the Capital Regional Districts and asked what was up, if anything?
Waiting on money from senior government, they said.
The plan is done and approved by the Ministry as you probably remember: the plant goes at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt, sludge goes to the Heartland landfill via a pipe, holding tanks will go in Saanich not far from U-Vic. It’ll cost about $760-million and change.
But that seems like ancient history now. Why has nothing else happened?
My contact told me there was some apprehension around the halls of CRD HQ – would the new provincial government administration be as committed to sewage treatment as in the old Gordon Campbell days? The folks at the CRD even asked and heard back that yes, yes the province is still behind sewage treatment but they don’t want to talk about forking over any cash until the Harmonized Sales Tax referendum is done.
Ah. Well, that happens Friday this week.
I happened to chat with Minister Ida Chong afterwards. I asked if the province has been losing steam on the issue. Not at all, she says. But coordinating funding between the province, the feds and the municipalities is no easy task at the best of times and these have been wacky times: elections, leadership races, tax referendums, you name it.
As much as we complained about the never ending sewage treatment debate, after not hearing about for a while it just seemed weird. Like an old car that drives you crazy but you miss when it’s gone. Or something like that.
This is Ryan Price
AUDITOR GOOD FOR COUNCILS, PUBLIC
August 24, 2011
A municipal auditor general could have saved Victoria's politicians and taxpayers a lot of time, trouble and money during the great Blue Bridge debate, providing facts to head off a lot of debate, uncertainty and a forced referendum.
The office, if it existed today, could perhaps take on an independent review of LRT plans. It could examine any number of initiatives to consider whether costs were wellmanaged and the projects delivered the desired results in a cost-effective way.
A municipal auditor general could, in short, be a useful resource for citizens and elected representatives.
Premier Christy Clark promised to create the office during her leadership campaign. Now the government is moving ahead with the new office and facing opposition - or at least concerns - from some municipal leaders.
Other councillors and mayors are backing the idea.
There are three main concerns: The office could be costly; it could threaten local government autonomy; and financial reporting is already adequate. Some councillors also argue the real issue is providing adequate, appropriate revenue sources for hard-pressed municipal governments.
The potential benefits far outweigh those concerns. Municipalities do operate under measures designed to provide accountability and fiscal rigour. They aren't allowed to run deficits, and are required to provide audited financial statements.
Those provisions are not always adequate. Colwood Mayor Dave Saunders, for example, said last year the city had been working to clear up past financial irregularities, including a failure to collect $740,000 owed by a developer and a series of decisions that saw a $2-million reserve fund depleted. A review Saunders began when he was elected mayor in 2008 had already found poor financial controls and mismanagement. Yet municipal auditor KPMG had signed off on the financial reports for the years in question.
And even in the best cases, the financial statements set out spending in broad categories but do not offer any analysis of whether that money produced useful results.
Taxpayers and councillors can learn, for example, that protective services spending in Saanich - police and fire departments - increased 38 per cent between 2004 and 2010. They have no way of determining whether the extra spending made the community safer or other municipalities had found less expensive approaches.
Esquimalt councillors could benefit from an independent assessment of the cost-effectiveness of its approach to police and fire services. Sooke councillors could have an outside examination of the plan to extend the contract with the company operating its water treatment system.
A municipal auditor general could also look at issues affecting multiple municipalities. And the mandate of the office could be extended to cover school districts and other agencies delivering services with public money.
Much more work needs to be done - and information provided - before the office goes ahead. How would audits be initiated, and areas for review selected? How can municipalities be assured that the office is insulated from political influence, particularly in pursuing the agenda of the provincial government of the day? What role will citizens have in initiating audits?
And Clark could show leadership and consistency by bringing in needed improvements in accountability at the provincial level. The federal government, for example, has an independent budget officer to assess whether spending and revenue plans are reasonable. Ontario requires the auditor general to review pre-election budgets to determine if the assumptions are reasonable.
But in any case, a municipal auditor general carries the promise of greater accountability and more effective decision-making. It's a welcome initiative.
MEET SEWAGE RULES OR ELSE, LODGES TOLD
August 30, 2011
Environment Canada is not backing down from demands that floating fishing lodges along B.C.'s north and central coasts comply with stringent sewage treatment rules or face possible fines of up to $200,000 a day.
"Floating sport fishing lodges host thousands of clients each year and most lodges have no means of containing or treating sewage," said Marko Goluza, Environment Canada regional director of environmental enforcement.
Sewage is harmful to fish, Goluza said.
"Where there are ongoing violations, we are obliged to investigate," he said.
Goluza said he cannot comment on lodge owners' complaints that enforcement officers went through private email accounts, accompanied by RCMP officers, as there is a continuing investigation.
The latest initiative to bring lodges into compliance started in 2009 and each lodge is examined on a case-by-case basis. Of about 60 that have come under scrutiny, most now either have a system in place or are working toward compliance, Goluza said.
"Some of the systems that have been installed are composting toilets, holding tanks and treatment systems for the effluent," he said.
But lodge owners and a consultant say they do not know of one floating lodge that has been able to install a system that meets the stringent test being applied by Environment Canada.
"I don't know any that are complying with the test," said wastewater consultant John Rowse of J.
Rowse Strategic Consulting, a company hired by about 35 lodges in Rivers Inlet, north of Vancouver Island.
"We can do a lot, but in my experience, meeting that test is not reasonable given the technology available and the conditions under which they operate," Rowse said.
Most lodges operate for six to nine weeks a year and biological systems take four to six weeks to reach peak operation, he said.
"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out there may be a problem there," he said.
Composting toilets are not recognized by the province as suitable for businesses and would be smelly in the close quarters of the lodges, Rowse said.
They would also deal with only about 20 per cent of the waste-water flow as the majority comes from the shower, bathroom sink, laundry and kitchen.
Sewage from holding tanks would have to be pumped off and taken to a treatment plant, meaning a boat would be needed for pulling up to 20 tonnes of sewage across the ocean to a municipal treatment plant - many of which do very little treatment, meaning the sewage would then be pumped into the ocean, Rowse said.
Treatment systems need to be seeded with activated sludge, "and Transport Canada has problems with moving poop from place to place," Rowse said.
"It's getting more and more goofy."
Many Rivers Inlet lodge owners have operated for years on a provincial permit and say a meeting held last week with provincial officials was positive, but the bottom line is that Environment Canada overrides provincial permits.
"The focus of the concerns that the lodge owners raised at the meeting was the standard set by the federal government," said Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations spokeswoman Cheekwan Ho.
"Provincial staff listened to the concerns and are exploring options."
victoriatimescolonist/news/ capital_van_isl/story.html?id= b3490c0d-d89a-4bde-9fcd- 6e1764956cfe
ARESST: Excerpt from letter below: ...yes we most certainly need a sewage facility...
PUT THE LRT PLAN TO A REFERENDUM
September 02, 2011
Re: "Light-rail transit syndrome is contagious," Aug. 31.
Peter Shawn Taylor has eloquently captured the "Through the Looking Glass" nature of the one-way discussion about light-rail transit in Victoria.
I have lived in Victoria for 10 years, have watched my property taxes increase at a significant annual rate during that time and have seldom heard a word about cost containment from our elected municipal officials.
This nonsense about a billion-dollar LRT system to service, primarily, the Western Communities clearly seems to be a case of, as Taylor puts it, "city planners infected by light-rail transit syndrome." The average taxpayer is afflicted by something more basic - severe indigestion about the impact on already unreasonably high property taxes.
History tells us that costs for such projects are almost always underestimated and, as Taylor points out, drawing massive funds from provincial and federal troughs still leaves local taxpayers on the hook for potentially large cost overruns.
Yes, we probably need the bridge replaced, yes we most certainly need a sewage facility, but having made those decisions, surely it's time for a critical assessment of the affordability (not just the desirability) of a billion-dollar LRT system.
The fact that no other jurisdiction of our size in North America has such a system might be a reasonable place to start. Just what is it that we know that they don't? Perhaps a close look at the Edinburgh fiasco would be in order?
City hall needs to understand the level of opposition to this plan amongst taxpayers, so an early referendum is in order.
ARESST: Excerpt from article below: That sewage-treatment plant being debated when I first arrived here might actually happen one day, so you never know.
THE 13 REASONS PORTLAND'S MORE LIVABLE
September 02, 2011
Sure, I get the cliché about the grass always being greener somewhere else.
I was in a coffee-shop line in Portland waxing poetic about that fair city just this past weekend, in fact, while ahead of me a Portland couple enthused about a recent visit to Victoria. There you go.
Still, I wish we could be more like Portland. No city can get everything right, but Portland comes pretty close.
I gave up amalgamation as a column topic years ago, because there's just no point. It's not going to happen of its own accord in our region, and the province is never going to step in to force anything. So I've let it go.
But then I go to a place like Portland and get thinking about the possibilities.
In a region and climate not that much different from ours, Portland has created a friendly, vibrant city. Whether you're walking, cycling, using rapid transit or driving a car, it's an easy place to get around.
There's cheap food everywhere, courtesy of the city's many food carts. There's a Saturday market packed with local wares, and a huge waterfall fountain downtown that the locals treat like an urban swimming hole.
Portland has a distinct core, but it also has any number of walkable, food-and-drink-laden neighbourhoods nearby - each with an individual feel but still part of a whole. It's got homeless people and panhandlers, but nobody seems too worried in a city known for its sensible and humane homelessness initiatives.
Could we be that kind of city? Is that achievable in a region segmented into 13 separate municipalities?
Not that I've seen. But hey, I've only lived here 22 years. That sewage-treatment plant being debated when I first arrived here might actually happen one day, so you never know.
The south Island doesn't even feel like a region, really - we feel like 13 strikingly different places. Spend a few years here and you'll soon learn how very hard it is to introduce anything that extends across many municipal boundaries. Strong-minded neighbourhood associations add to the sense of living among individual enclaves, each focused on their own thing.
Many locals seem perfectly happy with the way things are, and would probably tell people like me to just go ahead and move to Portland if we like the place so much. People aren't exactly chafing for better regional governance, let alone a directly elected body like Portland has to handle all land-use planning.
But the incredulity is unmistakeable in the voices of people new to our region when they first find out that fewer than 350,000 people are governed by 13 mayors, councils and distinctly different bureaucracies. Then comes the frustration, after they realize how hard it is to make big things happen in a small region of small, inward-looking towns.
We like to talk about light rail transit for this region, something which Portland has done well. But think about how things would actually play out with an issue like that.
Think of the land-use hurdles. The politics. The conflicting interests and ideologies. Then multiply it by 13. Picture all those overheated public hearings. Imagine trying to secure agreement across 13 sets of taxpayers to pay for it all.
Well, maybe we could start with something simpler than LRT - more food carts, say. You can't walk far in Portland without bumping into a foodcart cluster, with everything from fried peach pies to po'boys and lavender milk shakes on offer until late into the night.
More cart pods like the little one in Cook Street Village would not only bring much happiness to aficionados like me, but add more jobs and buzz to commercial areas. They would draw people in.
But forming ourselves into 13 tiny towns has also made us a region of many, many rules. Portland's foodcart experience certainly isn't a freefor-all, but it doesn't much resemble the scrubbed-up, tightly regulated way we do things here. Could we ever loosen up enough to try?
We're a charming place in our own right, as those Portland residents noted. But we could be so much better. If we won't amalgamate, can we at least find more effective ways to reach past our municipal self-interest and get this region popping?
Until then, there's always Portland.
GORGE WATERWAY CLEANUP 17 SEPTEMBER
11TH Annual Gorge Waterway Cleanup has history of retrieving over 2 tons of debris as a result
of tremendous volunteer efforts and generous community sponsorship.
Phone Sandy at 250-388-5251 to get involved.