Agenda July 10th
Calendar to 20th

by Carolanne Reynolds, Editor

Glorious Canada Day weekend!  Trust you all enjoyed it and being here, a truly exceptional part of the globe.
Another powerful Bard opening night with Winter's Tale -- starts with Leontes's burst of rage, has surprising feminist remarks by Paulina, a strong character reminiscent of untamed Kate, includes the comic antics of Andrew Wheeler (Autolycus).
For your animal fix -- a bearcat?  see http://www.thisistrue.com/bearcat.html
This issue:
= MAIN ITEMS Ccl Mtg July 10th:
1783 Marine (enough parking being provided?); new adv cmte structure/function for implementation (great to intend to improve, but why no allowance for cmte/public input/feedback???); shoreline initiatives; 1572 Jefferson encroachment/creek; West Bay playground funding request; Cmte/Bd minutes; letters re $13m Hugo Ray Park, E-Comm cost, staff answers re Hugo Ray Park, Dundarave/Bellevue Traffic/Parking); THEN:
Calendar to 20th; E-Comm Boondoggle?; Editorial - Affordability/Density;  INFObits (1/Somme; 2/Trailhead Study; 3/Troilus and Cressida; 4/Bluffs); Ccl Agenda July 10; Financial Task Force Comments (1); Haiku; Quotation

=== CALENDAR to July 20th ======= === ONGOING at end =====

=== Saturday, July 8th
~ 6am - 4pm ~ Knee Knackering Run (Baden Powell Trail)
=== Saturday, July 8th & Sunday, July 9th
~ 10am - 5pm ~ North Shore Antiques Fair (WV Arena)
=== Sunday, July 9th
~ noon to 12:30 ~ Mayor's Report on Shaw; repeated at 4pm

=== Tuesday, July 11th
~ 4:30 - 6:30pm ~ FSTF -- the weekly Financial Task Force meetings are now on the DWV website!
~ 5 - 7pm ~ HAC [CANCELLED]
~ 6 - 8pm ~  Opening Reception for the Ferry Building Gallery's exhibition
INTERPRETATIONS: Mixed Media (July 11 to July 30); Artists' Talk on Saturday at 2pm
Artists: Niloofar Abedi, Sol Maya, Shahrokh Roland Khosravi, Elizabeth Leach, and Andrea Seraphim.
=== Friday, July 14th
~ 8pm ~ BARD ON THE BEACH - Opening of  Troilus and Cressida (details in INFObits, 4)
=== Saturday, July 15th
~ 7 - 9:30am ~ Bay Challenge Swim Race (Sandy Cove Beach)
~ 2pm ~ Artists' Talk (Ferry Building Gallery), see Opening July 11th
Parks Day at Lighthouse Park
Celebrate National Parks Day at WV's Lighthouse Park. Enjoy the special events taking place all day long, presented by WV Parks and the Lighthouse Park Preservation Society.
7:30 a.m. Beginners Bird Watching Walk, meet Marja de Jong Westman at upper kiosk in the parking lot.
11:00 a.m.- 2:00 p.m. Information Tents in the Parking Lot
*       Lighthouse Park Preservation Society
        *       Fisheries & Oceans Canada display about new fishing closure.
11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Forest Ecology Walk - See what makes this forest unique. Meet David Cook at the Information Tent.
12:00 - 4:00 p.m. Phyl Munday Nature House open, foot of Beacon Trail.
2:00 p.m. An illustrated talk by Jeff Marliave on Rockfish of WV's shoreline, their biology and their protection. Location: Sk'iwitsut Hut, foot of Beacon Trail.
4:00 p.m. Lighthouse Park Preservation Society Annual General Meeting, Sk'iwitsut Hut.
for more information, email or call 604-925-7138.

=== Tuesday, July 18th
~ 4:30 - 6:30pm ~ FSTF
=== Wednesday, July 19th
~ 5:30 - 7:00pm ~ FAC [usually cancelled, so check]
~ 7 - 9pm ~ Board of Variance (Council Chambers)
~ 7 - 9pm ~ Library Board (Peters Room - WV Library)
=== Thursday, July 20th
~ 5:30 - 7:30pm ~ N.S. Family Court & Youth Justice Comm. [CANCELLED]

-- Farmers' Markets, 11 - 3pm: Dundarave Saturdays, at Civic Site in Ambleside Sundays
-- Concerts by the Sea: every Sunday 7 - 9pm at Ambleside Pier 
NOTE: The Library is closed on Sundays during the summer.
REMEMBER: RoyalTea coming July 29th at Dundarave Park; ph 922 4400 for info and reservations.

=== E-Comm and WV Taxpayer $$$ ===
Bolding has been done by the Editor.  This letter is in Correspondence July 10 Ccl mtg but it is marked for information, not action.  It is our opinion that a response ought to be expected, and better still, the actions (I've bolded and underlined at end) recommended be taken by Council.  E-Comm's decision to use a 'proprietary' radio means we can be held to ransom b/c the company knows we are forced to buy it and have no choice.
Subject: ADRA Letter to Mayor & Council re E-Comm, 26 June 2006
   We write to express our concerns with the haste and lack of openness that appears to surround the rush to embrace E-Comm's radio system for the West Vancouver Police Department.
   The recommendation by the WV Police Board to recommend joining E-Comm was reached in camera so the public remains completely unaware of the alternatives that were (or were not) considered nor the process by which this unnecessarily expensive and questionable recommendation was reached. (As an aside our association takes exception to the dubious interpretation of the Police Act that was used to keep these discussions secret and has asked the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor-General to investigate.)
   From the limited information we have been able to obtain it appears that the E-Comm approach is flawed for several reasons:
- The UHF frequency used by E-Comm appears well-suited for Vancouver but wholly inappropriate for the challenging topography of West Vancouver. Use of such technology will require far more towers and repeater stations than a system more appropriate for our geography.
- The proprietary radios used by E-Comm are much more expensive than radios that adhere to standards and which are available from multiple sources. This premium for a sole-source supplier might be understandable if these radios had important features unavailable with others, but this is not the case. The additional cost is solely attributable to E-Comm's having made the wrong choice years ago, a choice they are now stuck with for another decade or two.
- The pricing model employed by E-Comm includes costs that have no direct relationship to the services West Vancouver needs but burdens our municipality with costs such as retiring E-Comm's building mortgage.
   We are also concerned that West Vancouver appears to be proceeding to engage a consultant with prior experience in migrating to E-Comm. While we have no reason to doubt this person's experience or expertise, we are reminded of the saying "to a person with a hammer, all problems look like nails". If this person's experience is in moving to E-Comm it would seem obvious the solution that will be recommended is likely to be moving to E-Comm.
   Our association urges in the strongest possible terms that Council:
undertake a study (using expert resources already available within the Police Department without the need to engage expensive outside consultants) of the costs, benefits, and disadvantages of a "made-in-West-Vancouver" approach using more appropriate standards-based VHF technology;
inform E-Comm that in order for West Vancouver to ensure the security of its residents and police force it is imperative that a mechanism for intercommunication between E-Comm and West Vancouver Police be developed, but that West Vancouver wishes to explore, for comparison purposes, an arrangement which enables intercommunication between West Vancouver's own VHF system and E-Comm's UHF system.
   E-Comm will initially refuse since such a proposal will leave little opportunity for E-Comm to pad their costs with debt-servicing costs unrelated to West Vancouver.
   It will be argued that West Vancouver Police must be part of E-Comm for our safety. This is based on the fallacy of the false dichotomy. The two options presented by E-Comm (sign-up for E-Comm's radio system or have no intercommunications) are not the only options available (although it is in E-Comm's interest to pretend that they are the only two).
  There is no technical reason why the WVPD and E-Comm cannot establish a radio cross-connect that would enable intercommunication between the two systems as required for tactical purposes without the need for WV to have and use E-Comm's expensive and unsuitable radios.
   West Vancouver must tell E-Comm that we wish to explore this possibility and that Council wishes to receive from E-Comm a proposal for the costs associated with such an interconnection (and *only* such costs as are related to such an interconnection). E-Comm will ask why West Vancouver should be treated differently from other municipalities.
   Council ought to respond that (a) the safety of West Vancouver will not be held to ransom so E-Comm can pick our pockets, and (b) we are not asking for something different for West Vancouver. E-Comm already offers different levels of service to different municipalities from full radio and dispatch services for Ambulance, Fire, and Police to radio services for individual departments only. We are only asking for a different level of service (police radio interconnect) that would be available to any municipality wishing to subscribe to E-Comm at that level. That E-Comm may not have offered such a level of service before is of no matter; we are asking that they develop such a service offering (for any interested municipality, not just West Vancouver).
   Your responsibility as Council is to look after both the fiscal and security needs of your constituents -- not to subsidise the City of Vancouver's radio system nor to protect relationships with the Province at the expense (literally and figuratively) of West Vancouver ratepayers.
We look forward to [the following actions by] Council:
(a) making public all of the information related to any recommendation to move to E-Comm;
(b) obtaining an objective study of the costs of an alternative approach tailored to West Vancouver's unique geography; and
(c) obtaining from E-Comm a proposal for the services West Vancouver needs (and not those E-Comm wishes to foist upon West Vancouver).
Yours truly,
George Pajari
ADRA Observer to the West Vancouver Police Board  (Letter sent with ADRA Board approval)
cc. West Vancouver Police Board

===  EDITORIAL: Affordability/Density ==============
This past week there have been articles in the Vancouver Sun about planners, density, and affordability.  Some will argue that planning is the main function of municipal govt.  Well, taxes are pretty high too, but can be lessened with more taxpayers.  Anyway, to the topic.  Countless surveys have indicated that WV residents prize their location (read geography and environment) and the character of their neighbourhood (and cmnty).  The OCP says there's a need for housing options.  Most do not realize that 40% of WV residents already live in multifamily dwellings.  I've pointed out many times that just increasing density in an area (to the applause of realtors/devprs with $ in their eyes -- and with little commercial, have been told that is the main business or occupation in WV), does not guarantee either that it will be "affordable" (definitions vary) or that it will be for WV residents.  If you build it, they will come -- and this is such a desirable place to live ppl from the rest of Canada and indeed the world are willing to pay a pretty penny to live here.  WVanners cd be left out again without special attention to the actual goal, not the first part that ignores the wishes of local residents.  Here are some thoughts written a few days ago.  Readers' comments are welcome.
In conversation...
As you'll recall I opined, affordability in WV is either subsidization (taxpayers will not be thrilled) or small units.  Front page of today's VSun (July 4) says the same thing.
Keep in mind however, that small units if same FAR can mean more ppl.
OTOH, downsizers, empty-nesters, widows, ppl who travel a lot, etc like them.
The OCP says ideally there shd be housing options and most will agree.
The big question is where.
Obviously density ideally has to be close to transportation, shopping, amenities, parks, recreation, and not some spotzoning incongruous, isolated, and out of character with the neighbourhood.
Anyone who expects affordability in WV shd look at moving into Shaughnessy, SW Marine Drive, Pt Grey Rd, IOW comparable areas.  Wd those residents be surprised to be told they must provide affordable housing? subsidized?  Will WV neighbourhoods want density?  What sort of process shd there be to find areas for increased density once you can get ppl to agree?
There are related issues, of course.
While it is reasonable to expect all parts of the GVRD to share in the burden of providing social services to some degree, is it the best use of taxpayers' money to subsidize housing to make a million-dollar condo in West Van affordable? or to use taxpayers' money for such housing assistance into an area where land costs 30% of what it does in West Vancouver (therefore more can be provided)?
We also have the problem --
that if we provide a wider range of housing choices (by increasing density or granting other concessions to developers) what is to stop people from outside of WV "outbidding" WV residents for these new housing choices thus leaving our existing residents still without housing choices? To what extent does WV owe an obligation to provide "affordable" housing choices to those who would like to move here but otherwise could not afford to do so?
In short, --
how much social engineering can the municipality accomplish and, given the principle of unintended consequences (of economic planning), what are the odds that throwing money or density at the problem will, in the end, actually benefit anyone in WV?
As I said, --
about five years ago at a public meeting at Gleneagles, if you build it, they will come.  That's why I suggested, if we are really serious about finding places for WV residents (and it's hard today to be exclusive given the law) and not just be sucked in by that siren song of developers and realtors who see devt with dollars dancing in their eyes (regardless of whose dollars), we shd set up a register so that residents and devprs can work together -- reserve a unit (giving sq ftg/size and price range) -- build to order, so to speak to try to make sure WVanners get at least first dibs.
More on this anon, no doubt.
Carolanne Reynolds  //  Editor, West Van Matters

===  INFObits ==============
= 1 =
90th Anniversary of the Battle of the Somme July 1st
about a million men died in the five months and the gain/loss/border changed 15km.
Premier Danny Williams referred to 800 Newfoundlanders fighting in the battle and at the end only 68  reported in.  Remarkably, some veterans are still alive, all over 100 years old.
= 2 =
Trailhead Surveys Underway This Summer
From June to September, 2006, the Mountain Bike Tourism Association (MBTA) will be conducting trailhead surveys on the North Shore, including West Vancouver.  They will be interviewing mountain bikers, and can be found occasionally in areas popular with mountain bikers in West Vancouver. This is a pilot project to assess the economic impact of 'mountain bike tourism'. The pilot is focused on the North Shore and the Sea to Sky corridor including Squamish and Whistler, with a view to go further afield to collect more data next year.  If you are wondering why people are standing on WV trails with handheld computers, asking questions of Mountain Bikers - that's what it's all about.  The Districts of WV and NV are cooperating with MBTA, and municipal participation in this survey is made possible by a $10,000 contribution from the North Shore Mountain Events Society. Other participants include Districts of Squamish [and] Whistler, and the Ministry of Tourism, Sport and the Arts.
For more information, email or call 604-925-7138.
= 3 =
Love and honour are won then lost in this rarely-staged tale of war and romance.
OPENING NIGHT: Friday, July 14 at 8pm
In short ...
Troilus and Cressida, Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival's fourth and final play of the 2006 season, begins July 12 in the Studio Stage tent. This rarely-staged epic romance is directed by veteran Bard actor David Mackay who has set the production during the American Civil War. The show runs Tuesdays through Sundays until September 21 under the tents in Vanier Park. Tickets: 604-739-0559 or www.bardonthebeach.org.
In Full ...
On July 12, Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival begins its run of Troilus and Cressida, Shakespeare's rarely-staged satire on love and war. Veteran Bard actor David Mackay makes his Bard on the Beach directorial debut with this production, which he has set in 1863 during the American Civil War. Troilus and Cressida runs in repertory with The Winter's Tale, Tuesdays through Sundays in the intimate 240-seat, open-ended Studio Stage tent in Vanier Park until Sept 21.
Troilus and Cressida
is a tale of great heroes 'weary of war', young love thwarted by military politics, and honour cast aside as a casualty of the fray. When the play begins, the long battle between Greece and Troy is at a stalemate. The young Trojan prince Troilus (Chad Hershler) is wooing beautiful Cressida (Jennifer Lines), aided by her meddling uncle Pandarus (Allan Gray). Meanwhile in the trenches, enthusiasm for the war is waning on both sides. The great Greek champion Achilles (Gerry Mackay) refuses to fight despite appeals by Commander Agamemnon (David Marr) and scorn from the scurrilous Thersites (Tom Pickett). The wise General Ulysses (Andrew Wheeler) tries to entice Achilles back to the field by arousing his jealousy towards fellow warrior Ajax (Martin Sims) whom he proclaims as the new Greek hero.
On the other side, the Trojan warrior Hector (Derek Metz) disputes the wisdom of even continuing the war merely to save Helen (Moya O'Connell), whom the Trojan prince Paris (Torrance Coombs) abducted from her Greek husband Menelaus (Christopher Weddell). Meanwhile, the young lovers Troilus and Cressida face the harsh realities of war when Cressida's father, who has defected to the Greek camp, forces her to join him in a prisoner exchange. The lovers part, exchanging vows of their eternal love and fidelity. But that night, the unhappy Troilus watches in secret as Cressida is seduced by the Grecian soldier Diomedes (Martin Sims). The next morning blood and anger boil in the final great battle where Hector is slain, fulfilling ominous predictions by his sister Cassandra (Anna Cummer) and his wife Andromache (Kerry Sandomirsky). War has taken its inevitable toll - honour is disgraced, love chastised and heroes ridiculed.
David Mackay's American Civil War staging has the Trojans as the Confederates and the Greeks as the Union soldiers. Mara Gottler dresses the war-weary armies in historically accurate uniforms while the women are in hoop skirts and the crisp printed cottons of the period.  Kevin McAllister's long thrust stage enables the two sides to confront each other in battle. Passions are enhanced by Itai Erdal's lighting design while Alessandro Juliani and Meg Roe's evocative soundscape incorporates music from the era. Nicolas Harrison's fight choreography features spectacular sword fights and includes authentic swords and muskets. Stage Manager Joanne P.B. Smith is assisted by Rebecca Craster (Assistant Stage Manager) and Noa Anatot (Apprentice Stage Manager).
Performance details for Troilus and Cressida are as follows:
= 4 =
Tidbits: Court refused to hear appeal; neighbourhoods complain re noise.  For those who check Sea to Sky Bulletins like clockwork the following note will be old news: http://www.seatoskyimprovements.ca/updates/2006/062906_Const_Bulletin.pdf
You can contact the Ministry of Transportation: info@seatoskyimprovements.ca , or you can phone them at 604-775-1104.  Kiewit has a memo with details regarding the 'latest' construction activity.
===  CCL MTG AGENDA 7pm July 10  ===

1.         CALL TO ORDER  /  2.         APPROVAL OF AGENDA
3.1       Ccl Mtg Minutes, June 19 / 3.2 Committee of the Whole and Special Regular Mtg Minutes, June 26
4.1      Development Permit Application No. 05-030 (1783 Marine Drive)
At the June 19, 2006 meeting, Council received the report dated June 9 from the Manager, Community Planning
RECOMMENDED:  THAT all written and verbal submissions ...be received.
If Council wishes a further staff report, then RECOMMENDED:
THAT Staff report back to Council regarding submissions received at the July 10, 2006 Council Meeting to allow Council to make a determination on DPA 05-030 (1783 Marine Drive).
OR RECOMMENDED: THAT the DPA, which would provide for a two-storey commercial building with 11 parking spaces, be approved.
     {enough parking?}
4.2      Council Advisory Committees 
            RECOMMENDED:  THAT the recommendations regarding Council Advisory Committees contained in the Chief Administrative Officer's July 05, 2006 report be approved for implementation September 01, 2006
{that's it?  take it or leave it?   why not circulate to the quasi-defunct or present/past adv cmtes for comment (they were consulted but haven't seen the final formula)? why not put out for public input?}
4.3      Foreshore Initiatives Update Report
1.         The update report dated June 20, 2006, from the Environmental Coordinator, re: "Foreshore Initiatives -Update Report" be received;
2.         The attached Action Plan and Working Protocol for 2006, 2007 and 2008 be received.
4.4      Proposed Work within a Covenant Area (1572 Jefferson) 
RECOMMENDED:  THAT encroachment into the covenant area described in Reference Plan 13848 in accordance with proposed Development Permit 06-022 for protection of the natural environment and creek, be approved.
 4.5       Request for Playground Funding at West Bay Elementary School 
            RECOMMENDED: THAT the upgrade of the school playground at West Bay School be approved for 2006 in the amount of $34,612.42, from existing Municipal infrastructure funds based on a one-time modification to existing policy allowing the contribution portion to exceed 33%.
 4.6       Youth Leadership Grant Recommendations
            RECOMMENDED: application for Swing and Sweets be approved in the amount of $140.00. * * * START OF CONSENT AGENDA ITEMS
5.1.1   Development Variance Permit Application No. 06-027 (8615 Lawrence Way)
RECOMMENDED:  THAT the report titled Development Variance Permit 06-027 (8615 Lawrence Way), dated June 26, 2006, which provides information on an application that would allow for renovations and additions to an existing home with a variance to waterfront yard, be received for consideration at the meeting of Council on Monday, July 24, 2006.
> Delegation Requests
6.1.1          Western Residents Association, June 30, 2006 re Request for Delegation on July 17 re Enhancement of the Gleneagles Golf Course Club House
                  Referred to the Municipal Clerk for delegation scheduling.
> Action Required
6.1.2          G. & R. Casement, August 28, 2006 regarding Hugo Ray Park $13 Million Dollar Proposed Expansion
                  Referred to Director of Parks & Community Services for consideration and response.
6.1.3         N. McLaren, June 27, 2006 regarding concerns at Capilano View Cemetery
                  Referred to Director of Parks & Community Services for consideration and response.
6.1.4         Mr. and Mrs. P. Boyle, June 27, regarding Hugo Ray Park $13m Proposed Expansion
                  Referred to Director of Parks & Community Services for consideration and response.
6.1.5         T. Thompson, June 20, 2006 regarding Noise Bylaw Infractions - Construction at 2142 Argyle
                  Referred to the Director of Administrative Services for consideration and response. (Attachments available for viewing in the Clerk's Department.)
6.1.6         The Owners, Strata Plan VR?93 (2135 Argyle Avenue), June 27, 2006 regarding Non-enforcement - Noise Control Bylaw exemption for 2142 Argyle Avenue
                  Referred to the Director of Administrative Services for consideration and response.
6.1.7         K. Glynn-Morris, Chair, The North Shore Family Court & Youth Justice Committee, June 15, 2006 regarding Funding for North Shore Youth Safehouse
                  Referred to Mayor and Council for consideration and response.
6.1.8         N. Coates, June 22, 2006 regarding Traffic Calming, Gordon Avenue, 21st and 22nd Streets - Cyclists
                  Referred to the Director of Engineering and Transportation for consideration and response.
6.1.9         D. & K. Powers, June 19, regarding concern for increased noise as a result of highway construction
                  Referred to the Director of Engineering and Transportation for consideration and response.
> No Action Required (receipt only)
6.1.10       Committee and Board Meeting Minutes
                  (a)       Board of Variance Minutes, April 19 and May 17, 2006
                  (b)       West Vancouver Memorial Library, May 17, 2006
                  (c)       Lower Caulfeild Advisory Committee, January 18 and April 25, 2006
                  (d)       West Vancouver Police Board, April 27, 2006
                  (e)       Heritage Advisory Committee, April 11 and May 9, 2006
6.1.11       M. Hunt, President, Union of British Columbia Municipalities, June 26, 2006 regarding 2006 West Nile Virus Risk Reduction Initiative Application
6.1.12       J. Wyckham, June 26, 2006 regarding proposed redevelopment of Hugo Ray Park
6.1.13       B. O'Neill, President, CUPE BC Division, June 23, regarding audit regarding Public/Private Partnerships
6.1.14       M. Hunt, President, Union of British Columbia Municipalities, June 22, 2006 regarding 2006 Emergency Planning Grant Application
6.1.15       G. Pajari, Ambleside & Dundarave Ratepayers' Association (ADRA), June 26, 2006 regarding E-Comm's Radio System and the West Vancouver Police Department
6.1.16       F. Dercole, Acting Director, North Shore Emergency Management Office, June 20, 2006 regarding 2004-2005 North Shore Neighbourhood Emergency Preparedness Program (NSNEPP) Status Report
6.1.17       F. Dercole, Acting Director, North Shore Emergency Management Office, June 20, 2006 North Shore Tsunami Grant Project
                              Attachments available for viewing in the Clerk's Department.
6.1.18       R. Hobson, Councillor, City of Kelowna, June 23, 2006 regarding UBCM Convention - Nomination for 2nd Vice President
6.1.19       W. R. Tracey, VE7QQ, North Shore Amateur Radio Club, June 23, 2006 regarding Field Day 2006
                              Previously distributed due to timing of event.
6.1.20       S. Burrows, Deputy Municipal Clerk, District of North Vancouver, June 13, 2006 regarding Request for Funding, North Shore Canada Day Fireworks 2006
6.1.21       D. Morrison, Heritage Services Curator, West Vancouver Museum, undated, regarding Afternoon Tea at Gertrude Lawson House
6.1.22       S. Hamel, Crystal Meth Task Force Strategies Society, undated regarding Press Release re Appointment of P. Defehr as Chairman
> Responses to Correspondence
6.1.23       K. Pike, Director of Parks & Community Services to S. Birnham and Neighbours, June 20, 2006, regarding Proposed Hugo Ray Park Playing Field Project
6.1.24       B. A. Dozzi, Manager, Roads and Transportation to M. Gonabady, June 26, 2006 regarding Dundarave Village Parking
6.1.25       B. A. Dozzi, Manager, Roads and Transportation to Resident/Business Owners 2300, 2400, 2500 Blocks Upper/Lower Bellevue and Marine Drive, June 26, 2006 regarding 2400 Block Upper Bellevue Parking Plan - Neighbourhood Meeting on July 5, 2006
> Responses to Questions in Question Period  --  None.
9.         ADJOURNMENT

Date: Sat, 08 Jul 2006 05:08:44 -0700
From: George Pajari  /  Subject: FSTF Commentary 1
   The recently formed West Vancouver Financial Sustainability Task Force has the potential, through its recommendations, to have a greater impact on the taxes WV residents pay and the services they receive than almost anything else that has transpired in the past decade. Where the Task Force (TF) will end up, and how it will get there, is not yet clear, but the conflicting forces pulling the TF in different directions will be interesting to observe as the summer unwinds towards the TF's reporting deadline.
   The genesis of the TF gives a good idea of these conflicting forces and is indicative of the direction that staff is interested the TF in taking.
   During the most recent budget process, a group of interested citizens formed the self-named Interested Taxpayers' Action Committee ("ITAC")  group to lobby for lower taxes. One of their suggestions (apart from zero tax increase) was to form a "Budget and Operational Efficiency Committee" to "identify and recommend ways and means to effect cost savings in DWV operations".  [Some of their comments and their budget submission have appeared in earlier issues of WVM.]
   Somewhat surprisingly (or so it appeared at the time), senior staff embraced this suggestion and brought to Council a recommendation to form the FSTF. Since most managers in most organisations (especially government) are more interested in solving financial problems by increasing the revenue side of the equation than addressing the expenditure side, this apparent support for a grassroots examination of the District's budget process was unexpected. The first clue to understanding what was happening was to see the difference in the names for the proposed committees: "Budget and Operational Efficiency" vs "Financial Sustainability".
   As the TF has been formed and started its work, staff's motivation in forming the TF has become obvious and the main debates facing the group are becoming clearer.
   From staff's perspective the primary problem with the budget process over the past couple of Councils has been the continuing divergence between the growth rates in revenue and expenditure. Past Councils have told staff that tax increases must be less than CPI but the underlying costs (especially labour) are increasing faster than CPI, and Council has done little if anything to rein in these costs. It doesn't take an MBA to realise that extrapolating these diverging growth curves into the future is unsustainable -- which leads to the name given the task force by staff.
   Past Councils have taken the easy approach of dictating a politically acceptable tax growth rate without doing anything on the expenditure side. Staff have been left to square the circle while not reducing service levels. While such magic can be made to work for short periods of time (by squeezing out fat, postponing maintenance and other expenditures), eventually the time comes to pay the piper. And that time is near.
   Staff realise this and, apparently having been unsuccessful in getting Councils to take responsibility for the unsustainable nature of their failure to budget responsibly, leapt upon David Marley's suggestion to have a citizens' task force then twisted it into something that might meet their ends.
   So the real purpose of the FSTF is to give Council the political cover to make the tough decisions that are needed to bring the revenue and expenditure curves back in line. While it is apparent from the first few meetings of the FSTF that staff would prefer that this problem be addressed on the revenue side, it may be that some token efforts to address expenditure issues will be permitted to end up in the final report. It is telling that most of the non-Council members of the TF have never been seen at a public budget meeting in the past, and the members who have were not among those calling for significant restraint to spending. Those names put forward by Council members for the TF who had a history of calling for a detailed examination of expenditures by the public were not appointed to the TF.
   So while at this point (after two unannounced meetings held in violation of the Community Charter and DWV's Procedure Bylaws and one formal meeting) it is too early to predict the trajectory of this group, it is clear that senior staff know that the continuing failure of Council to take the fiscal management of the District seriously will inevitably lead to crisis. Because staff has been unsuccessful in motivating Councils in the past, they have embraced the concept of a citizens' group both to provide additional pressure on Council to wake up to the looming crisis and to provide political cover for the difficult decisions that need to be made in the near future.
   At least two possible outcomes are obvious: one, a report that recognises that WV taxpayers are not an infinite source of largesse, takes a hard look at the unsustainable increases in costs (particularly labour), and gives Council tools to rein in the ever-spiralling costs. Or, a report that avoids the issue and provides Council with the recommendation to raise taxes that they can point to, to deflect political pressure ("The committee made us do it" they will bleat).
   Future reports will detail some the macro issues that the TF will be examining as well as round-by-round synopses on the struggle between those who would prefer to solve the problem by raising revenues (not necessarily but most likely with taxes) and those who would advise taking a serious run at the expenditure side of the ledger. Ratepayers will soon have to consider which they prefer, paying taxes at an ever increasing rate that rises faster than CPI or reducing somewhat the service levels that provide WV residents with the most generous (and expensive) services in the province.
   If WV taxpayers snore through this process as they typically have done during most major decisions in the past, one can guess the route Council will take. So it will be critical that as the recommendations take form, WV residents make it clear to Council how we want the problem resolved. Otherwise Council will point to the most recent citizen survey which shows 87% of us feel we are getting value for money and that citizens who would prefer to maintain services (read expenditures) and increase taxes outnumber by 2 to 1 those who want expenditures reduced. In short, snooze through this exercise and this year's tax increase of 3.5% (against a CPI increase of slightly more than 2%) will be but a fond and distant memory.

===  HAIKU  ===  politi-ku 2006 June 10  ===

                        people's ethics are
                                as important as
                                        type of government             
===   QUOTATION  ===
People, like sheep, tend to follow a leader -- occasionally in the right direction.