Thursday, 4 January 2018

Chamber of Doom

"Fifty-two local businesses signed a letter to city council asking to put a pin in its downtown revitalization plans until several issues, including parking congestion, panhandling, drug-use and graffiti, were addressed."

"Competing with online shopping and chain stores is made extra difficult, the letter said "if our customer (1) struggles to find parking, (2) is accosted for money by an aggressive panhandler, (3) trips over people sleeping on the sidewalk and then (4) walks through a cloud of marijuana smoke, all the while observing (5) the general decay of the ambience on their way to a store."

                     2017's top stories No. 6: Businesses decry downtown plans
                                               Tyler Harper - Nelson Star, Dec. 28, 2017

(6) "We are not indifferent to the plight of marginalized people."

A Letter to the Mayor, Council and Residents
can be found in the
May 5, 2017
Page 28  

Following are thoughts on the 6 salient points above. The rest of the letter goes on and on, with reasonable-us signees - in a roundabout way - blaming the City and customers for all that ails them in their downtown-world. Yet one must wonder how many of them actually read, digested and retained this. 
We've had most before in chunks, over time. 
Even though 52 may look impressive - a large number of familiar downtown-names are not listed. Neither is the origin of this proclamation - really - stated formally or referred to in the text.
So - even if Mayor, Council and Residents wanted to communicate: what's with this group?

1. Parking - A Human Right
Until all Railtown is turned into a parking-lot, or a parkade is built at Baker/Fall: Deal with it, drivers! There is parking - just not always exactly in front of where you want to go. That you find at the mall!

With shopping/parking often a twin-issue - a rhetorical question: Why doesn't the Nelson & District Chamber of Commerce (NDCC) once-and-for-all get out of its entitlement-mode and promote developing a doable model, instead of just whinge about this age-old fatburger inconvenience.

Parking-yoga at its CP Station? Parking Anonymous? A walk in the park?

2. Aggressive Discrimination
There is no aggressive panhandling! Never has been! Even non-aggressive panhandling - considering social iniquities province-wide - has been minimal and low-key.

The NDCC started this bit of fear-mongering with an initiative hatched by its top-tier decision-makers - not the general membership - promptly followed by Kevin Cormack, CAO, putting a panhandling-bylaw to Council. Without any factual documentation whatsoever from the NDCC/City substantiating a need.
Council rightly shelved such bylaw until - while not questioning its dubious origin and path.

This has never been about panhandling but the CAO's obsessive Euw!!! towards our unndesirables - who don't shop much either, wink-wink - to cleanse Nelson of them by any means.

3. Sidewalk Slumber
This is particularly creepy: A delightful shopping-experience could be marred by the happily spending shopper having to step over some undesirables guilty of not having any money for shopping - or food or shelter.

Nelson's haves (wanting more!) and have-nots (needing some!).

4. Blowing Smoke...
The rare whiff - from local desirables, too - but no "clouds". And not to forget - today's Nelson is totally based in quite recent, highly lucrative (trickled-down to the same 52) area dope-cultivation.
Marijuana has given this city whatever momentum it has. And clearly is in the process of losing, with no decisive grand vision to propel it forward.

Will the NDCC court marijuana dispensaries to become dues-paying members?

5. Ambient Decay
Are they talking Blade Runner here? Granted: downtown facades and awnings have needed painting and washing for years. But building-owners among the 52 are responsible for that. We are not going to rerun the '80s with all kinds of funny-money!

Signees even admit their own complacency by writing "Without exception every business and person listed below feels that we have let downtown incrementally decay in recent years." Like - thus far have attempted absolutely nothing towards improving the ambience of the area in which they do business. The ambience they are complaining about.

Hyperventilating in numbers now may make them feel good for a while. But ultimately: if everybody is responsible - nobody is responsible. The NDCC clearly is not ready to run the show.

There was an appropriate time for thoughtfully constructive input before the revitalization-plan was given more formal shape. 
Where were the intrepid 52 then?

6. We Love Street People! Really!
According to Points 2 - 5 it is obvious that they indeed "are not indifferent to the plight of marginalized people". To the point of largely blaming them elsewhere in this exhausting letter for downtown's "decay".

Now What - So What!
Businesses have reason to be worried about "online shopping and chain stores": thanks to their NDCC still waiting to see profit-margins magically upped, those including their customers' - fools they! - tax-dollars.

Most recent example: the NDCC's disinclination to decisively push downtown shop-owners into a concerted Xmas-cheer effort.
Even though for their own benefit!

None of these businesses are in the business of employing locals and paying taxes. They're in it to make money for themselves. The more successful they are - the more minimum-wage help they need, and the more taxes they pay.
That's how that works!

One hopes Council will remember the NDCC's here at best repetitious and at worst offensive posturing when it comes to next-time funding!

Shop Local?


Tom Thomson, NDCC

Deb Kozak, Mayor

City Council

Kevin Cormack, CAO

Pam Mierau, Development Services  

Friday, 29 December 2017


Hard is the journey,
Hard is the journey -
So many turns.

                Commemorative Chinatown Rock, Nelson
                Li Bai
                701 - 762 C.E.

The long and winding road
                Let It Be
                The Beatles
                1960 - 1970 C.E.

Collective-Connective Heritage

Wang DongLing
Andy Warhol

Astrid Heyerdahl, Director

Joy Barrett, CD Officer

Deb Kozak, Mayor

City Council   

Wednesday, 20 December 2017



"The Chinese Historical Wrongs Consultation Final Report recommended legacy initiatives to help British Columbians understand the impact of these historical wrongs and the achievements of Chinese Canadians.
It was recommended that historic places be inventoried, and from that a legacy initiative to formally recognize significant historic places under Section 18 of the Heritage Conservation Act has been developed. A public nomination process was held, and 138 nominations representing 77 places were received for consideration for recognition."

(One for Chinatown Nelson)

"... was to create a shortlist of places, organized by level of significance, to be put forward to the Minister responsible for Heritage..."

"The evaluation process followed a value-based model, ensuring that the evaluators reviewed the nominated places based on how they represent the overarching heritage values of the Chinese Canadian community of British Columbia. Evaluation was guided by the historical context statement and thematic framework that provided a summary of the history of the role of Chinese Canadians in the development of British Columbia."

"In total 19 historic places were selected to be recommended to Minister Thomson for formal recognition."
                                                              Heritage BC, 2 Apr, 2015

Particularly noteworthy is that the terms heritage and historic/historical are frequently applied here - while never in Nelson - in connection with the Chinese.

Out of 77 nominations of individual places 19 are accepted, and these 19 are listed in order of significance. Chinatown Nelson is ranked 4th.


"Following a thorough evaluation by sector and community experts, Chinatown Nelson was selected to receive provincial recognition.
Places chosen for formal recognition will be included on the B.C. Register of Historic Places, and will be put forward for inclusion on the Canadian Register of Historic Places."
          Richard Linzey
          Director - Heritage Branch
          Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Operations
          29 Jan, 2016

May 2017 - Chinatown Nelson is registered provincially and nationally. This includes a separately requested image of the Commemorative Chinatown Rock, Vernon/Hall.


2017 Heritage Award, City of Nelson
The City of Nelson will present an annual heritage award to an individual, group, or collective who has made an outstanding contribution towards the preservation and/or promotion of the City's cultural heritage.
The City's Heritage Working Group established this award to recognize and publicly appreciate individuals, groups, businesses, or other organizations who have demonstrated leadership in heritage restoration, renewal or promotion, and thereby acknowledge the contribution heritage makes to the City of Nelson's vitality, well-being, and identity.
The award comes with a $1000 honorarium, which will be presented at the Annual Reception on December 11th, 2017."
                                                          APPLICATION  FORM, 27 Sep, 2017

An application (of color) for this award is made based primarily on the official provincial/national recognition and subsequent registration of Chinatown Nelson, while also on the Commemorative Chinatown Rock, and an acclaimed radio program about Chinese on Kootenay Co-op Radio: where they came from and how, ending-up here - archived at Touchstones, the Rossland Historical Museum and Selkirk College, Castlegar reference library.

The award goes elsewhere.

"During the 2017 Council Gala Monday at the Prestige Inn, local historian Greg Scott was awarded (the) City of Nelson's annual Heritage Award or (sic) his dedicated work in the education, promotion and preservation of Nelson's local history."
"Greg Scott as (sic) an extremely worthy recipient of this award," says Heritage Working Group's Chair and Touchstones Museum Executive Director Astrid Heyerdahl. "His commitment to Nelson's heritage is invaluable, and we are lucky to have such a resident, dedicated to keeping Nelson's history alive."
                                         The Nelson Daily
                                         Contributor (as in Submitted), 12 Dec, 2017

There is lots more - gushed by one may guess whom? - certainly more than a press release.

Of interest here should be the Heyerdahl/Scott connect and her praise with benefits. She is the Chair - while also the executive director of Touchstones - of the group originating the Heritage Award concept and choosing the recipient; he is a Touchstones Board Member, closely involved with Touchstones in various roles for ages.

She praises "his commitment to Nelson's heritage" and "keeping Nelson's history alive" - the latter a bit rich (and ignorant?) - while Scott's focus over the years has pretty much been colonial. 

Nelson Colonial does as Nelson Colonial is. "Keeping Nelson's history alive" is not achieved by omitting parts of it; white-washing it is essentially racist.

In the same gush - to show the scope of possible local interest in Nelson's heritage aside from Scott's - the Heritage Working Group might at least have presented a list of all award-applicants/nominations and their criteria. 
But no - they and their attempted contributions don't actually figure. In this scheme of things.
And The Daily doesn't ask, not having written this paean.

With not-so-nice national discrimination, indigenous issues, human rights issues, xenophobia, immigrant issues, religious issues, racism - all folded into colonialism - popping-up more and more forcefully (again!) among nice Canadians: at long last - within a factual local socio-historical context - said Group could have made a statement of Nelson's all-inclusiveness, diversity embraced with this year's award. Could have! Also an indirect welcome for our today rapidly increasing number of citizens of color.


It will be interesting to watch Columbia Basin Trust's position on real-time heritage issues warts-and-all - entrenched since Day One - in its seemingly generous Heritage, Museum and Archive Grants
Surely eagerly prepared for by Touchstones/Heritage Working Group - already beating their collective P.R. drums above.

To be continued

Image Credits:
Lao XunKe

Astrid Heyerdahl, Director

Joy Barrett, Cultural Development Officer

Deb Kozak, Mayor

City Council  

Thursday, 14 December 2017


Xmas literally is THE big time for downtown-shops. And what with most attempting to sell stuff differing little from that of stores to their left and right in a very compact area: it would seem logical to show it off most advantageously i.e. for maximum profit.

Nelson's same old sad green-and-red-plastic-fantastic street-decorations and few colored bulbs never contributed to anyone's shopping-high. That ultimately being the (profit-)goal of it all. 
While having  potential customers finance such or similar new lighting and decor through their taxes is bizarre - without such lights, etc. these same people seem to find it impossible to psych themselves into stores. Go figure!

According to Mayor Kozak, on this topic in the Star, Dec 13, 2017, 
"... the City purchased lights for businesses downtown to decorate their buildings, ... but (most of them) are not plugging them in, and I don't know why."
Why doesn't she, with jazzing-up Baker at Xmas an issue every year! When were these lights handed out? Why didn't the City step on this ages ago? How about finally assessing what's going on light-wise with businesses and - if need be - kick some butt! Keeping in mind: downtown-businesses habitually are more inclined to take than give. 


For shopkeepers genuine festive emoting isn't part of it: that's just a come-on to get locals to spend much money on much stuff they wouldn't buy if it weren't for the pressure of the 12 Days of Christmas. When my true love gives-gives-gives to me-me-me! And vice versa. And everybody.
One would think that with e-shopping cutting into their business, shopkeepers would be eager to do whatever it takes to make up for that by promoting themselves any way possible.
Eh, Chamber of Commerce!

Like - in order to beat the competition - all shop-windows without exception should be spectacular. You don't achieve spectacular profits with sparse Walmart-inspired outdoor lighting/decorations. In larger cities anywhere stores will outdo each other with magical window-displays and store-fronts. A tradition. And people will go from store to store to ooh-and-aah. While in that swoon - allowing themselves to get lured inside.
There are official competitions in which onlookers judge windows and store-fronts to then choose the winner.

An event like this could become an annual Nelson thing, hello Nelson and Kootenay Lake Tourism! With serious local and tourist money to be made!


As already suggested in posts years ago: Xmas windows and store-fronts of individual businesses could be guided efforts comprising the Cultural Development Committee in all its manifestations, the Arts Council, Columbia Basin Trust and the Downtown Business Association. While mostly paid for by the owners.

According to Pam Mierau, Development Services, in the same Star item, the City has "... a general lighting plan for the downtown as well as a holiday lighting plan."
While it makes sense to  wait for these, one needs to be concerned with the possibility that the "holiday lighting plan" will be Xmas-specific: tax-payered and clearly only for the material benefit of downtown-merchants and 2 months tops per year.

Yet multi-purpose, year-around festive lighting would be good. Sooo - "holiday" meaning which or what? Victoria? Eid al Fitr? July 1? Chun Jie? Hanukkah?
Or only (glossed-over, crassly commercial) CHRISTmas!

Shopkeepers -
You want to make money-
You've got to spend money!

Image Credits:
Jun Ong, Penang/Malaysia

Pam Mierau, Development Services

Deb Kozak, Mayor


Colin Innes, Public Works

Tom Thomson, Chamber of Commerce

Dianna Ducs, Director  

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

City Hall Whodunnit

Request for Decision
Any issue - in-house or citizen-proposed - needing City Council's approval, is presented in a Committee of the Whole (COW) as a REQUEST FOR DECISION (here RFD).

An RFD is a standard document covering the issue itself and looking at its projected positive/negative impact, with substantiating documents attached.
Near the bottom is a Recommendation to Council - usually to pass the item as presented in the RFD. Who is doing the recommending is not clear but certainly would be interesting to know with in-house issues, frequently presented imprecisely. 

At the very bottom of an RFD are 2 signatures:
the one on the left with AUTHOR printed above and usually DEPUTY CORPORATE OFFICER below;
the one on the right with REVIEWED BY printed above and CITY MANAGER below.
No names printed though!

(This City Manager used to be called Chief Administrative Officer (CAO). What changed? Admittedly - City Manager does have a more being-in-charge-of-absolutely- everything-and-everyone punch.)

Anyway - unless one is familiar with those signature-scrawls belonging to personnel one is familiar with: they could be anybody's.

Expert authorship by a mid-level employee is doubtful, what with too wide a range of knowledge required. That and the author/deputy certainly not having enough time to gather all pertinent material to then write it up as well. One RFD of many and all with the same deadline.
Just as it is doubtful that the CAO will relinquish determination of what goes into an RFD to a Deputy and be satisfied with reviewing it. Only.

It is more likely that the CAO provides topic, key-points, fixes direction and goals; the Deputy Corporate Officer has droids do research and gives shape to the material as Writer, to ultimately have the RFD polished and approved by the CAO as Author.

Troubling: why names of the so-called author and so-called reviewer are not identified-printed as well, as is customary anywhere in official documents.

Back to this later.

RFD Presentation
Normally citizen-based issues are dealt with relatively easily in COWs, with their presentation narrowly focused and heavy on itemized single-need-based documentation. 
While in-house issues - affecting the community as a whole - like bylaws, plans/concepts and physical projects - should take more involvement from Councillors: deeply discovering purpose, use and flaws.

The following focuses on the latter - in-house issues. Well - flaws too.

In-House Issues
Although Councillors need to take responsibility for self-motivation with more convenient decision-making via RFDs only - they are not supported in this when Requests lack depth, detail, logic, defining documentation and - objectivity. Frequently several of them in one RFD, and that way actually authored and reviewed by whom?
If not cognizant of this Councillors then may - too often do - accept the RFD at face-value. Thus possibly nudged in a particular direction.
This can lead to issues being approved in general only. And once approved overall - any later specifics, changes by whom? are out of Council's hands. Like haphazard, open-ended Hall St 1&2; loads of money for nothing into the Cottonwood Market; the totally unsubstantiated attempt at a Panhandling Bylaw.

Request for Information
Wondering about the names of those seemingly responsible for having in-house issues put to Council - I connect with Frances Long, Director of Corporate Services, for clarification.

And that goes like this - quoted directly:

Oct 7, 2017
To: Frances Long
Subject: Request for Decision Signatures

Hi, Frances -
The "Author" of Requests for Decision for the Reg. Meeting, 10 Oct, 2017, is a "Deputy Corporate Officer" with a signature unknown to me - thus probably to at least most outsiders who read them.

Seeing that these documents are made available to the public: it is desirable - for the sake of transparency - to know who those signing are. Would you please -  as a matter of course - print their/all names together with the job title.

This is my 2nd request.

Thanks -
Claus Lao Schunke

While in the past messages to Long are replied to almost immediately - I don't receive a reply to #2 yet for almost one month:

Nov. 2, 2017
Re: Request for Decision Signatures

Good afternoon Claus;
I am sorry to inform you that we will not be changing our practise and printing the name of the person as well as the position on our Council reports. What is relevant in those reports, is the position, not the person that is holding that position. The responsibility for what was written in the report remains with the position no matter who the person is that holds the position. The signatures are required as an internal control to verify that the person signing is the person holding the position as stated in the report with the originally signed documents being retained as the City's permanent record.

Frances Long, CMC
Director of Corporate Services
City of Nelson


Here City Hall is replacing people with a fixed position/title through a signature-scrawl only. To the point of the City Manager's signature - when he is absent - replaced with that of the Chief Financial Officer. Who - then called City Manager by virtue of his signature above the printed position - in reality has nothing to do with any of it - even less issues at hand. REVIEWED BY - indeed!
The breathless tone of Long's reply makes me - more than before - wonder why she/they won't be transparent about an issue as ordinary and easily adjusted as this.

I also wonder at the style, form and content of this message - here quoted verbatim, including punctuation - totally different from Long's usual way of communicating electronically. 
Actually authored! by a deputy corporate officer (with atrocious writing-skills)?

What is to be avoided here? Who is doing the avoiding?


Nov 2, 2017
To: Frances Long
CC: Mayor Kozak
BCC: Council
Re: Request for Decision Signatures

Hi, Frances -
Thanks for your long-awaited clarification.
"What is relevant in those reports" to the public - seeing that Requests for Decision must be available publicly - is that the citizenry should know who is originating what. Which clearly goes beyond "relevant" for "internal control" only.
Obviously - the public - ostensibly served by City Hall - is deemed irrelevant here.

Transparency -
Claus Lao Schunke


Along those lines - FACT:
City employees are working under a non-disclosure rule - sensibly largely ignored - a gag-order, really.
Put in place when by whom, and why is it (still) there?


Image credit:
Caspar David Friedrich
+ image manipulations

Frances Long, Director - Corporate Services

Kevin Cormack, CAO

Deb Kozak, Mayor


Monday, 6 November 2017


A soldier's dual-function:
Kill/get killed.
You'd rather not -
Don't go!


Friday, 27 October 2017

Your (Affordable) Charming Little Hideaway

When lane houses come up on the agenda of the Committee of the Whole (COW), Oct 23, 2017, nobody but news media are left in the gallery. This after 2 going-on-and-on presentations about tree-management to a nearly full house.
So the audience possibly just has to get out of there.

Or hasn't come for lane houses.

As in: out-of-town trees get considerable space in the Star promptly after the COW - in-town lane houses of this same COW get no mention at all in the same report.

Seeing that they - and more secondary/basement suites - could be an at least partial solution to our collective housing-issues everybody has been on about incessantly, a lane house presentation is prominently featured in the Star just prior to the COW, as a warmer-upper.

                                                           Nelson considers laneway housing
                                                                                         Star, Oct 17, 2017


Poor Focus
When lane houses are given a superficial go-ahead some years ago, this is in tandem with legit basement suites. What pretty much then makes both non-issues is the bizarrely reasoned over-the-top water-rate increase for such suites, passed by the previous Council.

Fact: This water-rate increase makes many who have been considering a legit basement suite reconsider, while reinforcing the general image of City Hall as cash-grabbers.
Fact: This spilling over into the lane house concept.

While said rates have been adjusted in the meantime - though this never clearly communicated to the general public - lack of trust in City Hall processes: here - perceived as time-consuming byzantine, unfocused and expensive hoops to be jumped through for possible lane houses - largely have made both a no-go since.

As already mentioned in posts
Home Sweet Home (is not a condo) - 1/2/3
Dec 2016 - Jan 2017,
in order for City Hall to get traction with this now, both options need to be made real-time now-time attractive to possible converters/builders, with streamlined relevant processes - no matter how many concise new ones - and offered incentives: financial and bureaucratic.

Secondary/basement suites must continue to be focused on parallel to lane houses. Both addressing housing shortage and affordable housing on the municipal level.
Conditions permitting: a home-owner building a lane house should also be allowed to run a basement suite. Oddly - not allowed now! 

Anyway - to convince thus make this double-concept fly - there needs to be a definitively clear vision, a strong context - recorded in words and images - everybody: planners and public - then can look at and work towards together. Prior to!
Same vision - same future Nelson.

Not easily to be shed: the general public's strongly negative view of the City's Hall St stumble downhill. And those held responsible. A grudge-fest for a long time to come.
Unless City Hall can ramp up its credibility-rating quickly and substantially!

By/For Whom, Why, What?
A lane house - restricted by lot-size, privacy-issues, access and parking-needs - will be significantly smaller than the house out front. Somewhere between tiny house and lesser Better Home & Garden. Therefore cheaper. Therefore more affordable.

Random dust-ball spaces superseded by bright cost/efficiency/practicality-concerns.

Possibly piggy-backed by a property-owner and leased within an option-to-buy framework, after a substantial downpayment, followed by monthly cheques.
Possibly built separately on a sliver of backyard sold outright.
Attracting singles, working couples, retirees with fewer current/future plans/needs.
A starter-home.
Paring down.
A nest.

The target-market would be similarly focused for rentals of basement suites.

Size Matters
Pam Mierau, Nelson Planning & Development Manager - the driving energy behind lane houses - envisions possibly 3 pre-approved designs. Conceivably they will be based on available funds and/or for certain numbers of people to live in them.
Pre-approved designs would cut down dramatically on paperwork necessary for such projects. And costs. 

Outside, looking in: simplified, locked-in processes would also mean City Hall can't follow its usual just-making-stuff-up-on-the-fly pattern. The prime example of that: Hall St (again!) all the way down. Splash!

The planned design-competition must not be limited to local architects. Considering: Nelson Commons is boring and already entering its next phase: Kelowna stodge. And the ultimately rejected Flying Nun Cottonwood Market design was without any practical merit as a basic market-shelter.

Lane houses will need expert know-how in ingenious use of condensed spaces. Except for possibly Tiny Houses folks: Nelson simply doesn't have what it takes to make this happen.


Module Design
The way to go may be prefabricated - ideally flat-packed - modules: minimizing overall costs, assembly-time, size. These modules added to with other modules clicked-in to increase the number of volumes horizontally/vertically. They also may incorporate parking.

In effect - owners would still be participating in the overall design - from basic to expanded. Later to be prettified at leisure. Pink flamingos, gnomes, Santa on the roof - you name it!
Sort-of like a base-unit with apps!

Here designers must be those focused on this kind of housing specifically - with a proven track-record of appealing houses larger inside than out. And manufacturing-capability.
The 3 blog-posts above show some examples and their designers/manufacturers.

Transformative Concept
As a whole this lane-house concept will need way-out-there imagination and willing cooperation towards a common goal by several City Hall departments concurrently - including a proactive nudge-nudge Council - in meticulous planning and timely lateral execution.

Run by whom? will be interesting to watch.

Image Credits:
Richard Woods, Folkestone

Pam Mierau, Nelson Planning & Development Manager

Deb Kozak, Nelson Mayor

City Council

Kevin Cormack, Nelson CAO

Colin Innes, Nelson Public Works Director